Women in the Church
by Joseph Franks
In the first century, it was customary for Jewish men to daily recount their various blessings before the Lord. According to rabbinic tradition, pious men were to lift up their hands and give thanks in the following manner, “Lord, I thank you I am not a heathen; I thank you I am not illiterate; I thank you I am not a woman.” Sadly, in that day, the testimonies of women were not allowed in public trials. Women were not given the same legal rights in their marriages. Ladies were required to worship separately from men. Some Hebrew scholars even went so far as to say it was better to burn the Torah than to find a copy of it in the hands of a woman. This was the appraisal and treatment of women found in Israel — the people of God. It was even worse for those who found themselves apart from God’s Law and church and only a part of the pagan Greco-Roman culture.
However, Jesus was the great liberator of women. He elevated his mother and certain female friends during his earthly ministry. He elevated his mother and his female friends while dying on the cross. Following his death, burial, and ascension, Jesus elevated his mother and all his female disciples through his Apostles and their inspired declarations. Clearly, with the coming of Jesus, this was a new day, a new era, a new dispensation, or a New Covenant.
Paul, the converted and enlightened Jewish Rabbi, expressed this truth well:
But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. (Galatians 3:25-29)
Christ was the male groom who was the Head of his church.
Christ founded his church upon the work of twelve male Apostles.
When looking for ministerial help in the book of Acts, the Holy Spirit led the church to seek out seven more men.
Paul would have families led by patriarchs.
He would have churches led by tender male elders who were husbands of one wife.
However, the cultural and religious concept of keeping women silent, subdued, in the tent, in the kitchen, and out of public ministry, that had come to an end with the coming of Jesus Christ. In Christ’s church, everyone was a son. Everyone was to be treated like a male heir. There was no spiritual distinction whatsoever between those who were Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female.
So as we have seen, Jesus elevated women in ministry in his life, in his death, and in his victorious reign as the Head of the Church. However, he also elevated Mary and her female friends before his birth — while he was yet in the womb. As one opens the Gospel of Luke, one cannot leave the first chapter without noticing the astounding and honorable presentation of women. All the great men of society (political, ecclesiastical, cultural) are bypassed. The one man who is not kept in the dark — Zechariah — proves to be faithless at the start. Contrarily, great faith is exhibited by a middle school girl and an very old matriarch. Luke begins his Gospel with oblivious men, faithless men, and angel-visited, faith-filled ladies upon whom the Holy Spirit falls. Zechariah, the man of God, is muted. The inspired Luke gives great attention to the inspired, prophetic, poems and teaching delivered by two ladies — Elizabeth and Mary.
So what is my point? What is my charge? Where am I going with this? Please hear me out.
May we follow Christ’s teaching, through his Apostles, and set-up men to lead as elders in his church. Men are not more godly. Men are not sharper. Men are not more intelligent. Men are not more skilled. No, men are merely the gender selected by Christ to bear the ultimate responsibility of serving and shepherding his flock. So let us honor Christ by submitting to his directions in organizing his ecclesiastical family.
That being said, may the elders in Christ’s church, and all those who are members in Christ’s church, understand the example of Jesus and the exclamation of Paul — there is no spiritual distinction to be made between men and women. May we rightly understand there is no gift-list for men with a separate gift-list for women. May we see that both genders are given gifts in Scripture of tongues, prophesy, interpretation, discernment, counseling, teaching, serving, administering, deaconing, worship-leading, and the like. Therefore, men and women should seek their gifts, test their gifts, use their gifts, and improve their gifts. The church, that only utilizes gifts given to men, that church is horribly harming herself. Such a church is dysfunctional as parts of the body go underutilized. No individual with their Spirit-given gifts is unnecessary. No gifted man or woman is discretionary. Honorable elders, following the leadership of Jesus, are to equip all the saints to use their gifts for the glory of God and the edification of the saints. This includes those of the female variety.
Therefore women, get out of the kitchen! Go ahead, get out of the house! And what ought you to do? Get busy in the church for we need you desperately. Christ has given you gifts for our edification and improvement. The same Spirit that fell upon Elizabeth and Mary dwells in you. Jesus has removed the barriers of the Old Covenant Law and antiquated male-chauvinistic tradition. Come to church and use your Christ-honoring, Spirit-given, Church-edifying gifts.
And men, while we led, let us get ready to be blessed like Zechariah. While he sat there, in his muted position of leadership, great benefit was done to his soul and his family as Saint John, Saint Elizabeth, and Saint Mary ministered. When all was said and done, he would arise again and take up his post, but he and the world would be eternally grateful for the Spirit-filled worship led by the baby, the middle school girl, and the aged matriarch.