TWO HEADS OR ONE?

If the work of the Gospel is hindered because women are not allowed to answer the Holy Spirit’s call to a particular ministry, does this not grieve the Holy Spirit? Is this not sinful? The announcement of Galatians 3:28, “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,” defines race, culture and gender as equal in Christ for the promotion of wholeness (holiness) to his people.

     I believe nothing new comes to us except by the will of God to either change our minds or solidify our positions. Attitudes change slowly. Slavery was supported by scripture, so too, race segregation by the “mark of Cain.” And throughout the centuries many were persecuted who adhered to the experience of Pentecost, today known as the “baptism of the Holy Spirit.” Those committed Christians who did the rejecting and persecuting of what was often called, “the second experience,” believed themselves to be absolutely correct on scriptural grounds. Historically, too often, anyone who challenges or presents a deviation from the accepted traditional teaching, even if that traditional interpretation is incorrect, is rejected along with the teaching. Unfortunately, there are still bastions of church resistance to full equality in Christ. Fortunately, the Holy Spirit has never been limited by man’s preconceived ideas. Christ-like character and God’s call to serve at all levels in his kingdom does not come in shades of pink and blue.
 
     In the early church, ministry included everyone. All were led equally by the Holy Spirit for the edification of the whole body. There were no professionals called clergy in ministry. There was no such title as “lay minister” - or any separation between the pew and the podium. There were no pews or podiums, only house churches where people gathered to sing, pray, prophesy, teach, love and support each other. Early in the third century, Emperor Constantine institutionalized the church, making Christianity the state religion of Rome. By then, the culture of Rome and the acceptance of ancient traditions of male rulership inside and outside the home were firmly established in the church. For centuries after Constantine, there was no leadership ministry equally open to women as to men. To be sure, in the Roman Catholic church women who felt called to the religious life could enter convents and become nuns, yet they had to receive the sacraments from male priests, who alone, the church believed, could model Jesus and the Apostles.
 
     The equality of men and women through and by the cross into salvation, thereby heaven, and all that salvation brings to the believer undergirds the absolute truth that God is no respecter of persons, hence gender. Even though it would seem quite clear from scripture that a woman is equal to a man in preaching and teaching the Gospel, there are those who will not be persuaded by the truth.    This I know for a fact, having been the receiver of a shouting declaration from a man that I was “a false prophet and should be stoned for teaching false doctrine” because I was the pastor of a missionary church in Indiantown, Florida (1985-1986). In my twenty years as pastor of Rejoice! Christian Church, I have had visitors leave as soon as I started preaching and teaching.
 
     In ministry, I have received many slights, slurs, jokes, and overt, covert rejection of my calling and spiritual gifts from church male hierarchy and some females. But also, from a few brothers and many sisters in ministry, I have received encouragement, support and opportunities to use my gifts to operate under the anointing of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit has opened many doors for me to walk through. What God opens, no one can shut.
 
     Through more than forty years of ministry in different locations, I have invited anyone to ask me any biblical or spiritual question. On numerous occasions the question of a woman’s role in marriage and church leadership would come up. Once a very argumentative man, who had a fair knowledge of scripture, challenged my position as a pastor and teacher. After much back and forth dialogue, I asked him, “Do you believe women are to be silent in the church and are not to teach men?” Yes, he believed so. I then directed him to 1 Corinthians 8 and Romans 14:15-20 where Paul discussed the importance of faith and conscience. There, Paul states one brother can cause another to “stumble” into sin by eating certain foods and meat dedicated to idols. Because, “to him who thinks anything to be unclean, it is unclean” and “whatever is not of faith is sin.” Paul stated the principle that whatever we believe, even though it is not sin for others, because we believe it is sinful, it becomes sin for us. Since the brother who had come in believing a woman could not teach a man, and if she did, she was usurping authority from that man - him being one - I then asked him, “Is it not sin for you to come in and ask me questions? You are doing what you believe the scriptures tell you not to do. If you learn anything from me, knowing you are going against your conscience by believing you are not to be taught by a woman, aren’t you afraid I’ve usurped your authority?” He had no answers and left. 
 
     Today, women make up more than half of God’s army. Visit any modern church and check the attendance. Women outnumber men. Throughout church history the Spirit of the Lord continually called out women to preach the Gospel and to minister with all the gifts of the Spirit by the power of God. The challenge is the same today as it was in the past. Will women who are called to preach and teach answer with a firm, courageous “yes” in spite of the too often non-acceptance of their calling from many in the church?
 
     In the past there were those few who did say, “Yes.” Church history records some of their names and stories: Perpetua, Irene, Thecla, the female apostle of Georgia in Nino, Marcella of Rome, and Paula (347-404 AD) of whom an early church father, Jerome, wrote about her teaching: “She would by no means rest content but would force me by fresh questions to point out to her which of many different solutions seemed to me the most probable.”
 
     In the 1700's John Wesley and George Whitefield sparked a revival in which women flourished in ministry. As John Wesley stated, “God uses women in the conversion of sinners. Who am I that I should withstand God.” In America, the battle for women to fulfill their destinies in Christ has become easier because there were those who went before us: the Grimke sisters in 1838 in Boston; Antoinette Brown, the first woman in America to be ordained in 1853; Aimee Semple McPherson in Oakland, California; Phoebe Palmer in 1867; Hannah Whitall Smith in 1875; Maria Woodworth-Etter at Azuza Street in the early 1900's; Kathryn Kuhlman in 1923 to name a few. Now, more and more women are able to take their God given rightful place in ministry.
 
     At present, however, there are still too many churches who take certain verses out of context to limit women to narrow places of service. They have not examined their second-class gender interpretation of scriptures because some believe they must defend themselves against social, militant, aggressive feminism. In addition, a gender balanced history of the church is not taught.
 
     The scripture of Joel 2:28-29, “And it shall come about after this, that I will pour out My spirit upon all mankind; and your sons and your daughters will prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men will see visions; And even on the male and femaleservants I will pour out My spirit in those days” [emphasis mine] was fulfilled by the pouring out of the Holy Spirit on one hundred and twenty persons in the upper room at Pentecost, (Acts 1:13,15; 2:1-13). God is an equal opportunity giver.
 
     Some argue there are gender role distinctions based on spiritual differences in sin, gifts and service. Some have said these spiritual differences are based on God creating woman out of man, therefore, she is second in placement. But is second a lesser or unequal place?   In the Tri-unity of God, does Christ’s position as second mean less in stature or power? (1 Corinthians 11:3). While Christ is placed in the second of the Tri-unity, he is not placed in a subordinate, lesser position and is therefore, equally, fully God. So too, the woman who was created second to man is fully, equally responsible to seek, serve, live and be accountable to God.
 
     After The Fall, God’s judgment fell equally on both Adam and Eve. Eve was deceived, but Adam chose to deliberately sin - eyes wide open. God gave his commandment, “not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil,” directly to the man, (Genesis 2:15-17). Scripture does not blame the entrance of sin into the world on Eve, but on Adam, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned...,” (Romans 5:12). The curse of Adam and Eve has been changed into blessing(s) because God’s promise to send a Savior in Genesis was fulfilled through Mary. Through her would come the mighty one, the Messiah to crush the head of the serpent, “And behold you will conceive in your womb, and bear a son, and you shall name Him, Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David... His kingdom will have no end,” (Luke 1:31-33). In Christ the curse of the law has been lifted for men and women, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us...,” (Galatians 3:13).
 
     The issue of sex rather than identity in Christ leads to confusion about the male and female roles and to the using of gifting ministries to the church and community. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus,” states both men and women equal in the judgment of redemption as well as in service (oneness) in Christ, (Galatians 3:28),
  
Whenever believing women begin to move, to act upon the assumption of full Christian service by doing what they are called to do, what they can do, what they wish to do, rather than be told what they are allowed to do, then certain accusations arise:
 
***She will lose her femininity if she steps outside her role (determined by ?).   But what is femininity? Is it a “that,” that can be lost? No woman should fear the loss of having a female nature which has been given to her by God. Different cultures may dictate what are feminine mannerisms, speech, dress and behaviors, but these are learned responses. God chose the physical reproductive cycle to be placed in a women. Basic femininity comes from the way God made the female body - it is permanent.
 
***When a woman moves outside her place of submission to man, she will disrupt order and destroy society.  If a woman is allowed equal pay, equal education, equal job opportunities and an equal voice in the church, someone in the hierarchy will have to make room. Many sincere and loving Christians believe there is a “divine, mandated order of command” from male down to female. Chains of command are deemed to be necessary. This is a rigid system in which every member is predetermined to function in a role from which one cannot move. Rigid systems stunt spiritual and personal growth.
 
***She will be vulnerable to society and its abuses without male protection - the man being bigger, stronger, wiser.  Since she is the weaker sex, she needs the guidance and leadership of a man. Books, TV media, magazines, movies and culture present the view that a woman is not complete unless she has a man to protect her from the outside world. Little girls are led to believe that someday their prince will come, and when he does, if she pleases him in every way, they will live happily ever after. Some Christian authors present the view that without having a man as a covering or protector, a woman is incomplete; and if a woman does not understand her ordered place in the family, society will disintegrate. Of course the problem is, this cultural view places her in a male dominated, autocratic system from which she cannot escape, nor change for the better.
 
***A woman who disagrees with the traditional and only possible interpretation of scripture is denying the inspired Word of God.  A woman must neither doubt nor challenge what the church has deemed the proper role for a woman is in service to God. To do so is to disobey church male authority - that covering of protection that every Christian woman must have. Of course, scripture interpretation leaves room for human error; commentators do not agree on many passages. In actual practice most of the verses about women in Paul’s letters to Timothy and to the church at Corinth are interpreted by male pastors, teachers, and writers with denominational perspectives and unexamined prior attitudes from generational teaching.
  
The following are my replies to statements I have heard over the years in my ministry.
 
Women are not allowed to preach in the church.
     The Jewish, Middle Eastern and some Gentile cultures had very strict mores about an honorable woman’s dress and manners. Like the Middle East today (particularly Muslem-Arabic and some strict Israeli religious sects), a woman in Jesus’ time had to cover her head and body, had to lower her eyes when being approached on the street by a man not a relative (the same for the man), could not cut or shave her body hair, could not use cosmetics and wear gold jewelry, and absolutely could not walk down the street alone. To behave or dress like a Roman-Greek woman was to declare herself a morally loose person or worst, a prostitute. A Jewish woman who was accused of prostitution or adultery could be stoned to death. Many women came into the Corinthian church because of the appeal of the Gospel without knowing how to dress and behave in church.
 
     Into this interesting mix of cultures, in 1 Corinthians 11:3-16, Paul gives instruction to women when they publicly pray and prophecy how not to offend those who are in attendance. The issue is not can women publicly pray and preach alongside men in a service, but whether or not their outward appearance is in keeping with the accepted customs of Jewish-Middle Eastern culture. Nowhere does Paul say, it is unholy or displeasing to God for women to have their head uncovered. In fact, Paul does not say any of his instructions on behavior, dress and food come from God.
 
     “And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy...and upon my bondslaves, both men and women, ....and they shall prophesy,” (Acts 2:17-18 [emphasis mine]). It does not take a Bible student a long time if he or she has a concordance and a Bible dictionary such as Vine’s and other such helpful study tools in order to conclude the gift of preaching is given to women as well as men. “Prophesy” translated from the Greek and Hebrew into English gives the following meanings: “the speaking forth of the mind and counsel of God; the forth telling of the will of God whether with reference to the past, the present, or the future; speaking to edify, to comfort, and to encourage believers; speaking to convict of sin and constrain to worship; speaking to effect unbelievers to salvation,” (W.E. Vine; An Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words).
 
In the Bible women are not allowed to be priests.
     Aaron was chosen as the first High Priest in Exodus 28:1. From Aaron’s line descendants in the Levitical priesthood continued to the time of Jesus, (Luke 1:5; 10:32). However, Christ did not come from Aaron’s line, but from the order of Melchizedek, a non-inherited, eternal line, (Genesis 14:18; Hebrews 7:11-17). However, if gender misinterpretations are to be used, then it could be argued that because Jesus Christ was born into the line of Judah by Mary, only women can be priests, (Hebrews 7:14). Also, since the church is the bride of Christ, feminine to him, only women should function as priests, (Revelation 21:9, John 3:29). Of course, I would never agree to such convoluted, mistaken interpretations.
 
     When Jesus walked this earth, he was a Rabbi teacher. He became ourHigh Priest after his crucifixion and resurrection. Our Lord Jesus Christ became our High Priest when the veil in the temple was torn from top to bottom allowing his believers to enter the Holy of Holies, (Matthew 27:50-52; Mark 15: 38-41; Luke 23:45; Hebrews 10:19-22).  
    
     If Jesus called only men to be priests and heads, then his prayer in John 17 and the Great Commission must be cut from every woman’s Bible. In fact, if women are not included in the priesthood of the believer, then there is no salvation for women.
 
     Thankfully, Jesus Christ, our High Priest has made usall to be priests and to be of his royal family, (1 Peter 2:9; Ephesians 1:3-12; chapter 2; Hebrews, chapters seven and eight; Revelation 1:5,6). Therefore, women are priests, are royal and have anointed authority in Christ. Women have the right in Christ to function as priests in ministry to their families, to the church and to the community.
 
     Actually, in the Old Testament God spoke to the people through the prophets, not the priests. Miriam (Exodus 15:20; Micah 6:4), Deborah (Judges 4 and 5), Huldah (2 Kings 22:14-20; 2 Chronicles 34:11-33), Noadiah (Nehemiah 6:14), the wife of Isaiah (Isaiah 8:3) were prophets. Judges 2:16 states, “the Lord raised up judges, who saved them” which clearly applies to Deborah and Huldah.
 
Jesus chose only men as the twelve apostles.
     God chose Twelve Tribes of Israel to inherit the promised land, (Numbers 26). Those tribes, headed by a male (sons of Israel) disobeyed God, did not conquer what was promised to them, split the Kingdom by rejecting the Law and by being faithless to worship the Almighty. Therefore, the promises of God could only be fulfilled by the coming Messiah, a Savior who was born in Bethlehem, Jesus Christ. In order for the fulfillment of God’s promises to be brought into completion, “I did not come to abolish, but fulfill...,” (Matthew 5:17-18), it was mandatory for Jesus to choose twelve men representing the Twelve Tribes of Israel. God’s promise was made to the male heads of each tribe, (Genesis 48:4; 49:1-28; Luke 22:29,30). Christ could choose no more, no less than twelve men. Because of the finished work of Christ, the Twelve Tribes of Israel are represented in heaven as well, (Matthew 19:28; Revelation 21). In Jesus Christ is the consummation of the promised Messiah to Israel. And in the present church age of grace, he is symbolic of the promised land.
 
     In choosing the twelve men, consider they are all Jews. One is a betrayer. One is a denier. Nine run away, and only one remains near, (John 19:26). If the assumption is: because Jesus’ choice of men excludes women from leadership in ministry, why not also assume male ministers must be Jews and do everything else the twelve did?
 
     There was no trace of “office” for anyone during the ministry of Jesus. If anyone had a church “office” distinction, the first honor goes to women: the Samaritan woman who proclaimed Christ as Savior-Messiah to men, (John 4:27-42); Mary the mother of James, Salome, Johanna, and Mary Magdalene; - evangelists, who announced Christ’s resurrection to men, (Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:1; Luke 24:10; John 20:1-2). He commissioned all his followers into ministry. 
 
 
Junia, a female apostle.
     “Greet Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellow prisoners, who are outstanding among the apostles...,” (Romans 16:7). Six are women out of twenty four in Paul’s greeting to the church, verses 5-11. Paul says that Andronicus and Junia were apostles before he was. This would take them back to the time of Stephen’s stoning or possibly earlier. This could make female Junia a Christian before Paul.
 
     Junia is a kinsmen and a fellow prisoner. Some translators insert, “they are men of note” in verse 7, but the correct translation is, “they are of note.” In the Greek, “men” is absent.
 
     No instances of Junia as a man’s name have surfaced to date in Greek literature, while at least three instances of Junia as a woman’s name have appeared in the Greek. Junia was a common female Latin name, and since this was Paul’s letter to Rome, it would be expected for him to use Latin names.
 
     The early church fathers, such as John Chrysostom noted, “Oh, how great is the devotion of this woman that she should be counted worthy of the appellation of apostle!” The earliest commentators, Origen of Alexandria (185-253AD), Jerome, Hatto of Vercelli (924-961AD), Theophylact, and Peter Abelard (1079-1142AD) all accepted Junia as a female apostle, until Aegidus of Rome in the twelfth century.   
 
     Some commentators and church historians consider Andronicus and Junia a married couple, (The Bible Knowledge Commentary, John F. Walvoord, Roy B. Zuck, Editors; Victor Books). 
 
     According to Biblical Affirmations of Women, author Leonard Swidler suggests reading, Women Priests: A Catholic Commentary on the Vatican Declaration, “...for a totally convincing scholarly analysis which argues that Junia was a woman apostle. It is odd that it is only in more modern times that Christian writers have strained to make Junia into a male name; misogynism apparently still persists.”
 
     In his book, Paul, Women, and Wives: Marriage and Women’s Ministry in the Letters of Paul, Craig Keener writes, “Those who favor the view that Junia was not a female apostle do so because of their prior assumption that women could not be apostles, not because of any evidence in the text.”
 
Women are to be in silence.
     In 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, Paul declares women should besilent (hesuchia, also translated as harmony, peace, conformity, agreement) in the church. The dictionary definition of silent, silence is: “absence of sound or noise; making no utterance,” (Merriam Webster’s Deluxe Dictionary). However, Paul could not mean complete silence because in three chapters earlier he has men and women praying and prophesying in public. He could not possibly mean silent, since elsewhere in scripture, both Old and New Testament, worshiping aloud, speaking, praying and singing were mandated by God as pleasing to him. Paul was addressing disruptive behavior. Women might have been interrupting the teaching with questions. Men were better educated in the scriptures at that time. Either way, be they wives or unmarried women, Paul is talking about keeping order during the service. Nothing indicates this silence, or as some translations read, quiet, is to be permanent or universal. The Law Paul mentions is Judiac-Mosaic, Talmud, and Mishnah. In Galatians 2:11-21, Paul argues against Peter for circumcision being a requirement for Christians. There, and throughout many passages of scripture, Paul agrees there is no law for those who are in Christ.
 
Women are not permitted to teach.
     In English it would seem as if Paul is stating a timeless injunction. But the Greek verb is present active indicative, meaning, “I am not presently permitting a woman to teach.” If Paul can permanently prevent women from teaching men, he would have to deny the following: the Holy Spirit fell on women at Pentecost; in the temple the prophetess Anna preached and recognized the baby Jesus as the Messiah, (Luke 2:36-38); Jesus was taught by his mother, Mary; Jesus used Mary and Martha as examples to teach his disciples what was the “good part,” (Luke 10:38-42); Jesus used Mary and Martha to teach his disciples and us what faith in him could do by raising Lazarus, (John 11:1-44); Priscilla taught Apollos, (Acts 18:26). He would have to erase what he had written about his female “co-workers,” for instance, Phoebe and Persis - two examples of women who had house churches, (Romans 16:1,12).
 
Women are not to have authority over men.
     Even though some Biblical scholars interested in reviewing early manuscripts will agree that verses 11 and 12 in 1 Timothy 2 were added by an early scribe paraphrasing ancient texts in the margin, a Christian will still read a similar phrase in other versions: “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man,” (NAS).
 
     The Greek word, authentian, translated as “authority over” is used only once in verse 11 anddoes not appear anywhere else in New Testament scriptures. Around the time the New Testament was written the common meaning of authentian was, “to be, or claim to be the author or the originator of something.” Timothy was in Ephesus, a world center for paganism and Jewish Gnosticism. The Gnostics taught Eve was the illuminator of mankind because she was the first to receive knowledge from the serpent and that she was the originator of man. Paul presents his argument against this false teaching.
 
Women are not to be deacons, elders, or pastors. Women are not to hold “offices.”
     There is no feminine equivalent of the Greek diakonos, servant. Men and women are diakonos. Women were co-workers with men in spreading the Gospel: Prisca, Claudia, Rufus’ mother, Mary, Tryphaena and Tryphosa, Eudia, Syntche, Phoebe (ruler-prostatis), Lydia, Nympha, Tabitha, Dorcas, Chloe, Julia, and others not named. Some reported directly to Paul. Others taught men, like Prisca (Priscilla) named first (five times) with her husband Aquila. Many were women prophets: Anna, Elizabeth, Jesus’ mother Mary, Philip’s daughters, and in the Old Testament: Miriam, Deborah, Huldah, Isaiah’s wife and many wise women.
 
     In 1 Timothy, Paul addresses women deacons (3:11), men deacons (3:8-13), widows as church officers (5:9-10), men presbyters (4:14), and women presbyters (5:2). “Older women” should be more accurately translated, “female elders.” This designation of the Greek, presbyteros, as elder-priest is mentioned by Paul as Timothy was being “ordained” into leadership by the laying on of hands of the presbytery, (4:14). If a woman is called a presbyter, why could she not also have been included to lay hands on Timothy (5:2)?
 
     There are historical records in the early fifth century of widows being “ordained” into a wide range of pastoral duties. In third century Syriac and ancient Latin manuscripts, virgins and widows ministered by praying, teaching, by the laying on of hands, by the administration of the sacraments, and extreme unction (sacrament to the dying). In the fourth century in the East, bishops were charged to ordain female deacons. Nowhere in New Testament scripture is a Christian identified as a single priest (hiereus), but he or she is called a presbyter (presbyteros), and as noted earlier, is a part of a royal family, a holy priesthood of believers.
  
Jesus lived in cross cultural societies - Jewish, Roman, Greek, Oriental.  However, within the mix of societal customs, dress, ideas, manners and civil behavior, the definitive underlying principle was the ownership of women by men. Boys were preferred over girls. From childhood to adulthood, a female was under Roman patria protestas, the father’s right of life or death over her. With marriage this right was passed onto her husband. In the eyes of Jewish culture a woman was a thing. She was a possession of her father and then her husband. Using Deuteronomy 24:1, a Jewish man could divorce his wife by making a simple statement of his dissatisfaction with her in front of two male witnesses. The phrase, if she found no favor in his eyes, meant he could divorce her for a woman he liked better. According to the law he could divorce her if she spoiled his dinner. Under the law a husband could demand the death penalty for his wife for her infidelity. But a wife could not do the same for her husband.
 
     Considering Jewish culture and rabbinical teaching, it is amazing that Mary did not seek from any man permission to have Jesus, (Matthew 1:18-21; Luke 1:26-38). She did not say to the angel Gabriel, “Please wait. I have to check with Joseph (father, brother, uncle, priest, rabbi) before I can say, ‘be it done to me according to your word.’”
 
     Into this same religious, cultural setting came Jesus who insisted on the elimination of divorce and polygamy; who allowed women to sit at his feet as students, a position in Jewish culture only men (boys) could take; who used parables with female images and activities; who used a woman looking for a lost coin to describe God looking for a sinner; who pictured himself as a hen who would gather chicks under her wings; who honored a woman for her gift of perfume in a culture where women were not allowed to physically touch a man not their husbands. And more amazing yet, he allowed her to pour it over his head, the place where prophets anointed kings and priests, (1 Samuel 10:1;16:13; Exodus 29:7; Matthew 26:6-12; Mark 14:3-8; John 12:1-8). Wherever Jesus refers to women in over 633 verses, almost none are negative. Jesus was and is the embodiment of the Emancipation Proclamation not only to men but to women as well.
 
The Old Testament pictured Israel as God’s unfaithful, unbelieving wife who would eventually be restored,(Hosea 2:2,14-23; 3:16; Isaiah 54:5). No serious student of the Old Testament would misconstrue this to mean that wives would automatically lead husbands into unbelief and apostasy. However, church fathers, such as St. Augustine of Hippo, Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, Calvin, and others, believed Eve led Adam into sin. And since all women came from Eve, no husband was to submit to his wife, because like Adam he could be deceived by her into disobeying God. Unfortunately, too many ministers today believe this as well, insisting a wife must be in submission to her husband for her to be in right order. 
 
     I have been told, “Every woman must have a Godly male in authority over her.” But does Paul agree with this idea? No! For in 1 Corinthians 7:32-35, Paul suggests that a woman should remain unmarried in order for her to be “concerned about the things of the Lord” instead of “how she may please her husband.”
 
     Upon introducing myself as a pastor, I have often been asked, “Who is your covering?”
     “The Holy Spirit” is always my answer.
 
     In Genesis 2:24, God’s command, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and cling to his wife and they shall become one flesh.” After the Fall, the evil effects of sin bring pain to the woman in childbirth and a desire to turn to the man, (Genesis 3:16-19). If you agree the effects of punishment are still to be observed, then women are disobedient to God if they receive medical treatment during child birth and men must be obedient to God as well in controlling and treating women as sinful creatures. In addition men must forever till the soil in sweat and misery. Does this make sense? Of course not!
 
     In 1 Peter 3:1-7, “Sarah obeyed Abraham calling him lord.” A more accurate translation of “lord” is “sir,” a designation of respect not servitude. In Genesis 18:12, Sarah laughs at herself and her “lord” of being capable of “pleasure and childbearing.” In Genesis 16:2 and 21:12, Abraham is said to have “listened to and obeyed” Sarah because God told him to. God is on the side of right, not imposed gender obedience. Abraham was not adverse to obeying Sarah, but both were in submission and self-sacrifice to each other.
 
     The Greek, kephale, (head) does not mean boss, chief executive officer, or ruler. Its meaning is “origin” or “source” - like an acorn is the beginning of a mighty oak tree. Christ is the (head) source of life, salvation and blessing to his church. In 1 Timothy 2:15, Paul knows a woman cannot be saved (preserved) by childbearing, since no baby but Christ could become a perfect sacrifice offered for her sins. Nor is Paul proposing that single, childless women cannot be saved. Women are saved by accepting what Christ did on the cross for them - nothing else.
 
     In Ephesians 5:24, Paul writes, “wives ought to be subject to their own husbands in everything.” Is everything absolutely EVERYTHING ? Is Paul saying, her husband is lord over THE Lord? Of course not! If any wife believes she must obey her husband in EVERYTHING then she is breaking the first commandment of God, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your soul, and all your mind and serve Him only,” (Exodus 20:3-6; Deuteronomy 5:6-10; Matthew 4:10; 22:35-40).
 
     In Colossians 2:19, Paul describes Christ as the kephale of life, health and strength for his body. He is the “source,” the beginning for all direction and movement for every Christian. Paul’s intention of kephale cannot be rulership, because in order for him to present a wife-submission to husband-ruler relationship he would have to eliminate other scriptures of Christ being Lord of all, Savior of the body, Prophet to the church, and eternal High Priest. So why do people persist in believing “head” means giving orders instead of meaning “source” as life-giving? If a woman takes Christ as her life-source, and then gives her husband or any man an equally ruling life-source position over her, she is a body with two heads. (Please think about this! If any believer has two spiritual heads, then he or she has a god before God - a definite breaking of the first commandment, “You shall have no other gods before Me,” (Exodus 20:3).
 
     It is assumed in Ephesians 5:21, that husband and wife have given themselves to Christ and to each other in mutual submission. Since Christ is the head of the church, then the relationship of the husband to the wife is self-giving, nurturing and supporting love rather than autocratic rule. Jesus used himself as an example in washing the feet of his disciples, (John 13:13-17). As disciples in Christ, husband and wife are called to wash each other’s feet. Although the marriage relationship will end in death, they are continually, eternally brother and sister in Christ, (Matthew 22:23-30; Mark 12:18-27; Luke 20:27-40). This is the life-giving example of Christ’s headship in all our relationships, (Ephesians 5:21). For Christ is the head of the body, both in the plural and in the singular, (Ephesians 5:23, 24).
 
     In verse 22 of Ephesians 5, the word submit, hupotasso, is not in the original language. It literally says, “wives, to your husbands” with no command at all. The only command in the passage is back in verse 18, “be filled with the Spirit.” Correctly understanding this passage, the grammar continues to indicate mutual submission. Ephesians 5:25-33 is explicit in that the husband’s love for his wife is to be modeled after Christ for the church, and in doing so he loves her as he really loves himself. The husband is admonished by Paul five times to love his wife, while she is called only to respect her husband. The complete text emphasis in verses 22 through 33 is on the husband’s self-sacrificing love to his wife.
 
     The Greek word used for man and for husband is the same word aner. And the Greek gyne is the same for wife and woman. Look at the scripture in 1 Corinthians 11:3, “the man is the head of the woman.” I have heard this scripture preached out of context many times. If Paul is presenting this idea as absolute, then it follows any man can tell any woman how to wear her hair, how to dress, how to pray, how to sing, etcetera, ad nauseum. The text cannot mean every man stands in the same relationship to every woman as Christ does to every man. Christ is the head of the woman exactly as Christ is the source (head) of the man, or a woman can never be in the body of Christ without a man. She who is joined to the Lord is joined by one Spirit, (1 Corinthians 6:17). Christ is the Spiritual head of the woman just as he is the Spiritual head of the man.
 
     From the beginning God’s intention is mutual, equal submission between men and women in marriage and in the church. Christ’s sacrifice and servanthood sets the lifestyle example for all Christians. Marriage not only can exist without rulers, male or female, it thrives without it!
 
But what about disagreement? Who decides then?
     The process of decision making is the same between equals in any endeavor. First, the person who is the most affected should carry the most weight. Second, the person most informed about the decision should carry the most weight. Third, the person most gifted or best qualified should carry the most weight. Fourth, decisions do not have to be made in haste. Prayer, discussion and waiting on God to signal whether or not a choice is favorable is the best course. When love and selflessness are the motivating factors in a marriage, both are set free to be who they are in Christ. A partnership marriage based on mutual respect, care and deep friendship will endure the storms of life. When two are equal, they can truly become one.
 
 Where are the women fulfilling their call to be deacons in some churches? They functioned in Paul’s churches. Where are the women leading in preaching, teaching, prayer and prophecy? They did so in Paul’s churches.
 
     Today, women are doctors, lawyers, senators, ambassadors, authors, CEOs and heads of states and nations. Women are multi-tasking and decision-making by working inside and outside the home. So why would a woman join a church when she is better able to use her education, experience, profession, and freedom to publicly express what she knows when she is constrained to do so in a church? Because in spite of sometimes present hindrances, she desires to serve Christ in any capacity she is allowed. Her heart is one of self-sacrifice for the benefit of others and to give glory to the God she loves.
 
     But someone might yet say, “Ordination is different. It is for men only.” Well, the exercise of ordination today is far afield from its original intent in scripture where there was no clergy-laity distinction. Jesus says in John 15:15,16, “No longer do I call you slaves for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He may give it to you.”
 
The world struggles for freedom and healing. The church is to go into the world as salt andlight to offer hope and redemption. Scriptures do not stand as an obstruction for women to answer the call to apostolic, prophetic, pastoral, and missionary leadership (diakonos, presbyteros) in the church. Women are free in Christ. He alone is their Spiritual head. One body with one head.
 
 
Sisters, I have prophetic word for you! You can receive the anointing given by the Holy Spirit through the Word of God. With a strong voice of commitment say, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to preach good news to the oppressed, and to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are down trodden, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord,” (Luke 4:18-19). Do not let those who have built a whole doctrine and practice on the misunderstandings and misinterpretations of certain scriptures keep you from fulfilling the call of God on your life. A woman’s place is anywhere the Lord leads.
                                Let us pray:
Heavenly Father,
     Forgive us for our discriminations and our unloving behaviors toward brothers and sisters of:
   different colors,
      different nations,
         different gender,
different personalities,
   different ages,
      different backgrounds,
         different points of view,
different political ideas,
   different economics,
      different education,
         different talents,
            different worship styles,
   different Holy Spirit
                                          giftings from ourselves.
 
     Help us to love as you loved. Teach us to bend our knees to wash the feet of the one next to us. Forgive us for grieving the Holy Spirit because of known or unknown ignorance. Surface our unconscious prejudices in order for us to willingly seek change in our thinking and behavior. Teach us by your Spirit to welcome your refining fire into our hearts. Convict us daily that we need your Spirit to guide and direct us in all our relationships in our homes, workplaces, and community. Bring us into the unity you desired for us as your disciples in John 17.
        In Jesus name. Amen.
 
     Growing up in the church, I believed a woman’s place was to submit to my husband in everything and to serve others under the supervision of a male minister.  Not until 1976 when the Holy Spirit healed and delivered me to work for Him did I begin to understand the scriptures about the calling of women into ministry. (Please read my personal testimony: O, For a Thousand Tongues.) Through much inner struggle to fulfill my destiny in Christ, I studied the scriptures like a Berean (Acts 17:11) and prayed much in order to unlearn what the organized, denominational church had taught me about a woman’s place in ministry. My desire to teach women to act in obedience to use their giftings and to bring them into the confidence to step out in faith into leadership, plus the accumulation of many years of research and experience in ministry, prompted me to preach for many years what I have written here. If this booklet will confirm to one woman what the Holy Spirit has been speaking in her heart to obey Him, I will most joyously be blessed even if we never meet this side of heaven.
 
                                                                  For further reading:
 
     10 Lies the Church Tells Women,
J. Lee Grady; Published by Charisma House; www.charismahouse.com, 2000.
     Good News for Women,
Rebecca Merrill Groothuis; Published by Baker Books; Grand Rapids, MI, 1997.
 
 
 Lover's Eyes
 
The Bride eyes not her garment,
 but her dear Bridegroom's face.
I will not look for glory,
   but seek my King of Grace,
Not at the crown He gives me,
 but on His pierced hand.
He lifts the veil of promise,
 to take me by the hand.
I've waited for this moment,
 when all would be complete.
And now the wedding supper
   with milk and honey sweet.
He brings me to His chamber
 and there at last I rest,
And sing the songs that lovers
 can only sing when blessed.
 
 
Andrea MacVicar 7/10/99