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Shekinah Magazine

Shekinah Magazine

The Ordination of Women: YES

WITH HEATED convictions, evangelicals dogmatically dismount at different levels from the precipitous ladder ascending to sexual equality in the ministry. If our inconsistencies were not so tragic they would at times be humorous.

We permit women to teach Sunday school but not mixed adult classes. We commission women to administer mission compounds and ordain them to minister to the distant lost, but they are barred from church boards and ministry at home. Their testimonies or "sermonettes" are acceptable if the pastor pronounces the benediction. With determined religious fervor we withstand the "women's libbers" and entrench ourselves firmly in our literal biblical bases (man was created first: Paul tells women to be silent: etc.).

Or we throw all caution – and biblical conviction – to the wind and conclude the Bible to be antiquated and uninspired or Paul to be chauvinistic and inconsistent. and we write our own rules at the expense of scriptural authority.

As one firmly committed to the Bible as the inerrant Word of God and who turns to it as the only infallible rule of faith and practice, I must ultimately settle all such issues on the basis of "What saith the Lord?" in

(Continued below...)

Copyrighted by Christianity Today

February 20, 1981

Used by Permission

Cover Page  SHEKINAH/October-December/1982     Vol. 3, No. 4

Holy Scripture. When our conclusions on this issue are drawn from Bible rather than church tradition (which we respect, but do not treat as the final authority), we discover that women have full equality with men in church functions.

Equal in Creation

Certainly nothing in either Creation narrative (Gen. 1 and 2) suggests anything less than male and female equality. Both genders equally are created in the image of God (". . . in the image of God created he him, male and female he created them" Gen. 1:27 [all Scripture quotations are NIV unless otherwise specified]). Similarly, the mandate to "be fruitful and increase. . . fill the earth . . . subdue ... rule over . . ., (Gen. 1:28) was given jointly to both sexes. Eve was not told some of these leadership functions were limited to Adam.

In the second Creation account, God promises to make a "helper suitable" for Adam (Gen. 2:18-20). Some have seen this Hebrew word, yezer, as reflecting subservience. In fact, the term had no such connotation, for it is even used of God toward us. The psalmist speaks of him as being "an ever present help in trouble" (Ps. 46:11). Nor does Adam view Eve as something less than himself; His exclamation, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh" (Gen. 2:23) is an exclamation of equality and completeness – "This is part of me; now I'm all here!"

Equal in the Fall

Many hold that women deserve to be limited in the   ministry because Eve was the first to yield to sin and then caused Adam to sin. In the account of the fall (Gen. 3) the Tempter tempts Eve who in turn tempts Adam to sin. Does that sequence of temptation make Eve guiltier than Adam? The Bible does not emphasize Eve's causing the transgression of the whole female race: it placesthe blame squarely on Adam for the sin of both genders. 1 Corinthians 15:22 states, "For as in Adam all die. So     in Christ all will be made alive," and Romans 5 explains death as caused by the trespass of "the one man" (vv. 16-19).

"Agreed," some respond. "but don't forget 1 Timothy 2:14; 'And Adam was not the one deceived: it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.' " Even Calvin argues that since woman had seduced man from God's commandment" it was only fitting that she be "deprived of all her freedom and placed under the yoke."

But wait: that is not at all Paul's point. This passage is so crucial we shall later exegete it more thoroughly: but his point here is not that Eve's sin was greater than Adam's. In fact, Adam's was worse because he sinned with his eyes wide open, without being deceived! Eve's fault, on the contrary, was less serious because she was deceived and only acted in ignorance.

Some argue that God directly decreed women's submission to male and church authority as a result of the Fall. They cite Genesis 3:16: "To the woman he said. I

will greatly increase your pains in childbearing: with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband,. and he will rule over you." Larry Christenson has even written that woman was created subordinate; the decree only increased her subordination. Yet Genesis presents this not as a decree of what ought to be but a curse because of sin. It is a description of what would happen. Man, now in a sinful, fallen state, has found it convenient to use his superior strength to dominate the physically weaker sex.

Equal in Christ

Many current books amply illustrate how our Lord consistently broke societal taboos relating to women. But of greater controversy is Paul's teaching on women's position "in Christ." Although this seems patently obvious in Galatians 3:28. Paul, on superficial reading, then seems to contradict himself in other portions (1 Cor. 11; Eph. 5; 1 Tim. 2, etc.). A more careful analysis, however, shows that all of Paul's teaching is consistent with the rest of Scripture.

In Galatians 3:26-28 Paul reminds us that we have all been baptized into Christ and there is no longer "Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female"; for we are "all one in Christ Jesus." Paul is speaking of three different dominant-submissive categories, all of which have been nullified by our being baptized into and clothed with Christ. The baptized Greek, clothed with the all-sufficiency of Christ, is as much a son of God as is the previously preferred Jew. Similarly, the emancipated slave of early America, once clothed with Christ. met all qualifications for any church office – contrary to the convictions of many church teachers of that era. Any dissection of this passage that offers less to women than other categories would suggest a prejudiced exegesis. The passage goes on to affirm the purpose of Christ's coming: "to redeem those under the law [Greek, slave, female that we [all] might receive the full rights of sons" (v. 5).

The emphasis on women "in Christ" is also crucial to an understanding of l Corinthians 11:3-12. For brevity, I must avoid the temptation to explore the "head covering" principle in this passage. It will suffice to observe that women are permitted to pray or prophesy as long as they meet the cultural expectation of covering, showing they have the authority to do so. The reason for the covering seems to be spelled out in verses 8-10: woman came from man and was created for man. Yet Paul makes very clear that he does not mean that women are in any sense inferior. Immediately he adds: "In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman."' In other words, Paul is saying, "The first fact, that woman found her source in man, parallels the second fact that every man since (or, possibly, the man – Christ) has found his source in woman." (See also 1 Tim. 2:15, to be discussed later).

Once again in Ephesians 5:22-24, woman's position in Christ is emphasized. This is one of Paul's five, "hupotasso" passages, so named because of the Greek word used in each instance, translated, "submit" or

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"submission." It is also used in 1 Corinthians 14:34, Colossians 3:18, 1 Timothy 2:11, and Titus 2:5. Although a full study of male/female roles would require a careful exegesis of all these passages, the present point of importance centers on the phrase "as to the Lord. " It is clear that Paul was not the first to tell women to submit to men: Jewish women had been taught submission for centuries. Paul, ever careful not to upset the delicate cultural fabric of his day, encouraged women to continue to submit. What is new is how they are to submit: as to the Lord.

Equal at Pentecost

In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy" (Acts 2:17-18).

There is no record of women speaking in tongues on the day of Pentecost – in fact, there is no record of women being present. Yet it is plain that as Peter quotes the prophet Joel on this occasion (Joel 2:28-29) he is admitting the possibility of spiritual messages by women. The term "last days" is never limited to Pentecost, but refers to all this present age. A "prophet" need not be a foreteller of future events, but is "a person gifted for the exposition of divine truth" (Harper's Greek Lexicon). Ever since the Holy Spirit first came, he has been at liberty to impart his gifts to each person "just as he determines" (1 Cor. 12:11). Pentecost represents a divine sanction for prophetic ministry by women every bit as much as by men.

Equal in Society

"Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him . . . Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect . . .,Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands . . . Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives' ' (1 Peter 2:13-14, 18; 3:1, 7).

Peter makes an interesting point about the position of women. He argues that we as Christians should submit ourselves to every man-made institution, and goes onto list several of those authorities "instituted among men" – kings, governors, masters. Then in 1 Peter 3:1 he states that in the same way wives should submit to their husbands, because – it is implied – female submission is "instituted among men."

In other words, Christians are expected to operate within the parameters placed around them by society. If slavery is an unchangeable part of the society, then servants are expected to obey their masters – until slavery is no longer "instituted among men." As we earnestly seek a true biblical role for woman, God forbid that we withhold any gift He desires her to exercise for even one day longer than society requires!

Equal in Ministry

Even those who believe certain ministries must be restricted to men cannot help but notice that Paul is any-

thing but chauvinistic toward women. Paul refers to Junia as "outstanding among the apostles" (Rom. 16:7). Of the 29 people Paul greets in Romans 16, many are women he addresses by name, contrary to Jewish custom: Phoebe, Tryphaena, Tryphosa, Julia, Mary. He entrusted his letter to Rome to Phoebe, a task many of our churches would delegate only to men.

It has been argued that Paul's injunction to women to keep silent in churches (1 Cor. 14:34-36) would prevent them from exercising the preaching gifts. However, he has already agreed that they can pray and prophesy publicly (1 Cor. 11:5). It is unreasonable to think he would contradict himself just a few sentences later. Rather, as in the other instructions in this same epistle, he directs his remark ad hoc to the specific situation in Corinth. In chapter 14 he admonishes the women to be quiet, not because it is wrong for women to speak out loud in a public service. (He has just told them that they may pray aloud and speak in a public worship service so long as they act modestly). His purpose here is to remind them that "God is not a God of disorder but of peace" (14:33), and that in the services "everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way" (14:40).

If anything, the passage reaffirms that Corinthian women knew they were now equal to their husbands before Christ and had every right to speak out in church (11:50). But they were misusing their newfound freedom by disrupting the services to get answers to their questions, and it was because of the disorder they were creating that Paul gives his counsel. Therefore, in the light of the situation at Corinth, he requires two things of them: first, they are to remain silent while in church and save their many questions to ask their better informed husbands at home; Paul's command not to speak in no way limits their previous license to pray or prophesy under normal circumstances. Second, Paul tells them to be in submission – not to their husbands, for the context does not suggest it here – but to the church body. Paul requests the same submission of the entire gathered church body at Ephesus: "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ" (Eph. 5:2 1).

1 Timothy 2:11-12 presents a similar situation, and the apostle prescribes a similar remedy. "A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent." Corinthian women were speaking so as to create disorder in the worship service. In Ephesus, women who were uninstructed in the faith were leading the church into false doctrine.

In verse 11 most people wrongly assume that Paul's emphasis is on silence and submission. Actually, Paul is emphatically commanding that women be taught (manthaneto is imperative). The quietness and "full submission" (again, to the church body or teacher) is what any teacher would ask of his pupils. Verse 12 is not stated imperatively; rather Paul returns to the indicative mood in the present tense. A legitimate rendering of 1 Timothy 11-12 thus would be: "I command that women learn [be taught] in quietness and full submission [to the teaching authority]" (v. 11). "I am [presently] not permitting a woman to teach and she is not to exert evil influence over a man" (v. 12).

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Equal in the Diaconate

One could wish that the office of deacon (diakonos) had been carefully spelled out in the New Testament. The closest semblance to a job description appears in 1 Timothy 3:1-13, which initially seems to limit the office to men with marginal reference to their wives. Most commentators however, exegete 1 Timothy 3:11 to refer to female deacons (technically not "deaconesses," for it is a neutral term, like "teachers"). The absence of the article and the use of gunaikas may favor "women" over "wives"; F. F. Bruce suggests that " 'their wives' (KJV, NEB) is probably to be rendered 'women' (RSV), that is, 'women-deacons.' "

Only one N.T. woman is spoken of as a deacon, but the passage is significant. In Romans 16:1, Paul says, "I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church in Cenchrea." Paul uses the word diakonos, a masculine term with no article. Every other time it is used in the N.T., the KJV translates it either "deacon" (3 times) or "minister" (18 times). Only here is "servant" used. Whether it is necessary to confer the title "deacon" on Phoebe, one must concede that the burden of proof is on those who would translate the word "servant" in this passage while rendering it deacon or minister in every other passage.

Equal in Ruling

One is hard pressed to discover N.T. passages portraying women in ruling rules. Yet even at the risk of reading too much into the passage, we must once again observe Phoebe. Most significant in Romans 16:1-2 is not that Paul refers to her as a diakonos, but as a prostatis pollon – which, if it were addressed to a man, would probably be translated "ruler of many."

The verb, proistemi. occurs eight times in the N.T. and usually connotes governing or ruling. In Romans 12:8, Paul states that if one's gift is "leadership, let him govern diligently." In I Thessalonians 5:12, Paul mentions those "who are over you in the Lord." Twice Paul tells Timothy that an elder should manage (KJV "rule,") his family well (1 Tim. 3:4-5) and sets the same requirements for deacons in verse 12. Finally, he recommends double honor for those elders "who direct the affairs of the church well" (1 Tim. 5:17). In the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Reike concludes his article on Proistemi: "In I Timothy again, where the verb and especially the participle occur repeatedly, the idea of guiding and caring are both present. . . . In all these instances, however. the verb has in the N.T. the primary sense of both 'to lead' and 'to care for' . . ."

Yet when this same word in feminine form is used of Phoebe it is translated "a great help" (Rom. 16:2). Indeed, the variety of English renderings may indicate the biased reluctance of translators to admit what Paul wished to say – " succourer" (KJV), "helper" (NASB). "assistant" (Berkeley), "good friend" (Good News, NEB), "given protection" (Williams). But Paul presented her as "leader," "governor," or "manager."

Look again at 1 Timothy 2:1 1-15. This greatly misunderstood passage is imbedded in a context of five sec-

tions dealing with false teaching. Consequently these words to women fall in a context (historically as well as literally) of rampantly deceptive and maliciously clever false teaching. The immediate context also is usually misinterpreted. As noted earlier, "be taught" is the imperative, and the focus of the passage is on the danger of misconstrued and ill-informed Christians taking the lead in teaching and guiding the church. Verses 11 and 12, therefore, deal with the importance of adequate preparation, and the need to guard against an excessive dependence upon emotional wiles of uninstructed women in influencing the church for false doctrine.

Verse 13 directs us to an illustration from the story of the first man and his new bride. The Greek gar, for, is not causative but explanatory and illustrative – so, as we can see in the creation story, new and ignorant believers are easily led astray and, if allowed to teach others, will also lead them astray. Eve's fault, quite to the point of Paul's instruction to the women of Ephesus, was that she should not have taught Adam because she was in ignorance, being deceived herself. Hence, careful and extended instruction in quietness and submission to the teaching authority is essential for anyone (and any woman) who would teach.

The word often translated "have authority over" (v. 13) reinforces what we have just noted. The word is translated by such terms as murder, perpetrate, author, master, domineer, or hold absolute sway over. The word was considered vulgar and almost invariably was used in a bad sense. Thus Berkeley Mickelsen writes, "It is found in contexts and used of those who are authors or originators of evil action. It is found in unsavory sexual contexts. So the translation have authority over is really far too polite. Here a woman is not to be teaching or using the wrong kind of emotional or sexual pressure over a man to dominate him."

The force of this entire passage cannot rightly be applied to women as women but to women as ignorant and uninstructed people employing unworthy means to influence the church. By contrast it ought to be applied to the frequent practice, directly proscribed in Scripture, of exalting novices to dominant roles in the church, with disastrous results for the entire body.

Finally, observe one more facet of 1 Timothy 2:12. Some interpreters, basing their view wholly on the King James Version, take the verse to mean that teaching a man and having authority over a man are linked together, and are both wrong for women. But the structure of the verse does not imply that the teaching is limited to men. The literal Greek sentence structure would be something like this: "But to teach, a woman I do not permit; nor to exercise authority of [over] a man but to be in silence. "

In the context to which the apostle addresses himself, teaching of any kind is no more acceptable for a woman than having authority over a man. If one is wrong, they both are wrong! It is more rationalization than exegesis to excuse present practice by limiting the prohibition to teaching at public assemblies of the church or where men are present.

If expediency permits us to let a woman exercise the

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gift of teaching, we can do no less than let her exercise the gift of ruling. In both cases she is merely exercising the authority of her gifts, not her sex. However, if on the grounds of this verse she cannot exercise authority over men, then let us at once remove every female teacher from our departments, recall every female mis-

sionary, and denounce books written by women. But such is not the meaning of this verse when it is interpreted in context.

Therefore, in faithfulness to the teaching of the whole Scripture, let us permit women to exercise both teaching and authority to the fullest extent of their gifts without unbiblical restrictions based on sex.

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Articles and letters printed in SHEKINAH do not necessarily reflect the views or beliefs of the Staff. The SHEKINAH is simply a sounding-board and explores all sides and all angles, leaving the reader to choose, with the aid of the Spirit, that which is truth.

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