Much debate is made in the church today about the role of women. This debate is nothing new, however, there is a new push, especially in the evangelical circles, for the long standing patriarchal structures to finally be dismantled. Many Bible believing, Spirit-filled men and women find themselves on different sides of this debate. I don’t feel that this is an issue of salvation or anything to break fellowship in the Spirit over, but it is a huge issue for many women, and men as well. So even if you are not personally struggling with this issue of being limited, I want to encourage you to care enough to read through these points and keep an open mind. Worldwide, the teaching that has come forth from, what I believe, has been a misunderstanding and misapplication of a few verses, has wreaked and continues to wreak great havoc on women. It is not God’s heart that women be limited in ministry roles within the church. Remember, it is the same Father, same Jesus, and same Holy Spirit for both men and women.
The thing is, it’s one of those issues that is “only an issue if it’s an issue”. What do I mean by that? I mean that if you, or for men, a daughter or wife, are not being called to leadership as a woman, then these verses which appear to limit women (and are being used by many to do just that) are not an “issue” to you. You are fine to just go with the “mainstream” teaching that seems to say women are equal in value but not in function in God’s kingdom. However, if you are called to leadership within the body and you know God has given you giftings consistent with leadership then these passages become a big issue.
Many years ago, as a woman called to leadership in the Body, I needed to know that I have legitimate ground to stand on. I could clearly see God’s heart for women throughout the Bible. I could clearly see how He used women in leadership positions. So while many people are content to not delve deeper, I was not. I needed to study the scripture, in its original context, and follow the heart of God toward women as it is revealed through Father, Son and Spirit.
Whenever I teach out of the Bible, I encourage those listening to always look for God’s heart and God’s will as they read. After all, the Bible is a collection of many different types of writing, all inspired by the Holy Spirit, but written by many different authors, in many different places at many different times. The common thread through it all is God. As we read the Bible, we read it to know God and His plan for us and His heart toward us.
So as we begin to look at God’s heart toward women, we have the benefit of being able to read about how God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit felt about and interacted with women.
The very first interaction took place in Genesis Ch. 1:26-29. We see that God created mankind in His image. The text clarifies that both male and female were created in the image of God. We also see that God speaks to both male and female and blesses both male and female. We hear God’s heart and plan for them is that they would “be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, subdue it, take dominion”. There are no extra instructions of privileges given to the male. There are no restrictions placed on the female. Though they are different in gender, God’s heart and mandate for them is entirely the same.
Then, sin enters the picture. Consequences are given. And God’s original plan gets twisted by sinful people. It’s important to realize that while there were consequences for their sin, God’s heart toward them never changed. This is why after what seems like forever, God sent Jesus to the world. We all know the reason…”because God so loved the world”. This is proof that God’s original heart and plan was still in tact even if the world had miserably failed in carrying it out.
We now can shift our study to see how Jesus treated women. Does His heart line up with Father God’s heart or does it contradict it? Keep in mind that Jesus never sinned. He walked on Earth as man but He was and is God. While on Earth, He kept in perfect step with the heart of God. The best way for us to see the heart of God…the same God who spoke to the man and woman in Genesis 1…is to see Jesus. To see how He acted, to see what He did, to see what He didn’t do, and to listen to what He said.
Let’s look at how Jesus treated women. For time sake, I’m assuming most of you will be familiar with these, but if not, I’ve listed at least one reference next to each example. (note: there are plenty more scriptures than I’ve listed to support these)
Jesus spoke to women directly. (John 11 Martha after Lazarus’ death, John 4:7-26, woman at the well)
Jesus healed women. (Matthew 7:14-15, Peter’s mother in law with fever)
Jesus let women learn and hear His teachings. (Luke 10:38-42, Mary and Martha speak and listen to Jesus)
Jesus allowed women to speak to Him and he listened and responded. (Matthew 15:21-28, faith of a Canaanite woman)
Jesus allowed women to touch him. (Matthew 9:20-22, woman with the issue of blood)
Jesus defended women. (John 8:1-11, woman accused of adultery brought to be stoned)
Jesus included women in his parables. (Luke 15: 8-10, woman and lost coin)
Jesus chose and trusted a woman to be the first witness of His resurrection. (John 20:10-18)
Jesus sent a woman to be the first evangelist/carrier/messenger of the Gospel message.(John 20:17)
It’s important to mention that most or all of these things were considered “wrong” and went radically against the accepted culture of the religious people. Jesus had no problem speaking to women and allowing them also to speak. He wasn't afraid to touch them and He allowed them to sit and learn. He was displaying the full heart of God and His actions were 100% consistent with the character of God. (Side note: This is important to remember when looking at some of the epistles that Paul wrote. We want to make sure that we keep the heart of God in tact as we evaluate the words that are written. If we have to choose, we want to make sure that our interpretation of what Paul is saying is consistent with the character of God and not the character of the Pharisees and their church culture.)
Before Jesus left the earth, he let His disciples know that He would send them a helper, one who was just like Him, who would comfort them, counsel them, and empower them. This, of course, was the Holy Spirit. They were instructed by Jesus to wait in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit came upon them. Sure enough, while men and women were gathered in an upper room, the Holy Spirit was poured out upon them all. We can read all about it in Acts 2. At one point, and may I just add that this is one of my favorite parts, Peter gets up and starts declaring “This is what the prophet Joel wrote about! That God will pour out His Spirit on all people! That His sons and daughters shall prophesy! On my male servants, and my female servants, I will pour out my Spirit.” Clearly, the only reason he would say this is if it was indeed happening.
We know that it is the same Holy Spirit that is poured out on and indwells both male and female believers. We also see in 1 Corinthians 12 that this same Holy Spirit gives spiritual gifts to those who believe. Verse 11 tells us, “All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.” So the gifts are given as God determines, not how mankind determines or thinks sounds fair or right. There is no indication of any limited version of the Holy Spirit given to women. There is also no evidence of any limitation on the gifts given to women. The Holy Spirit is not influenced by gender.
Looking back, we can see how all three persons of the triune God, interact and relate equally to male and female. God the Father, Creator God, made both male and female in His image and gave them the exact same mandate. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died and rose again, to fully pay the penalty of sin and bring eternal life to both men and women. Holy Sprit, the Spirit of God, indwells and empowers everyone equally regardless of their gender. In no way, is God limiting women or limiting their role in His Kingdom. It’s time for the Church to follow God’s lead.