by Jay Atkinson

"And God said, `Let us make man in our image, after our likeness and let them have dominion... God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him, male and female created He them." The word man in these verses includes male and female. This is confirmed by the word them, so he and his in this sense are both male and female. Male and female as mankind together were created in the image of God.

In Jesus' own day it was being debated in the schools whether women had a soul at all. In regard to women, Jesus' own approach and initiative came as a revolutionary surprise to the people of His time.

In first century, women were held in low regard. Men would thank God that they were not female and many of the men would not speak openly to a woman, especially if her character was in question. Plato taught that women are the same kind as men. In general he thought that they tended to be inferior, yet are in many things superior to many men. They may be musical, philosophical, skillful in healing disease, able executives, he therefore taught that girls should receive the same education and training. At that time, most teaching was "male-centered," Jesus' first disciples> were men and all of the ministers and apostles and elders and bishops mentioned in the New Testament were men. This was not due to the teaching of Jesus, but to the milieu in which the early church developed. It was a world in which women were in an inferior religious, economic and social position. This fact, of course, has vast implications with regard to the position of women in the New Testament. The idea of progressive revelation and liberation theology supports the fact that women are to be liberated and empowered to a much more responsible level of ministration than what was practiced in the Old or New Testaments.

Jews had specific terms to describe girls, depending on the age. Until the age of eleven years and one day they were called a child. From eleven years and one day to twelve and a half years, she was a young daughter and from then on she was a woman. The ages were important to determine when the girl was of a marriageable age. Jewish civil law tried by numerous regulations to protect widows from harsh wrongs, and if Jesus condemned religious leaders, using their influence to "prey upon the property of widows," so did the best of the scribes: "He who robs widows and orphans is as though he robbed God Himself." The women closest to Him were last at the cross and first at the tomb on Easter morning." Jesus did not believe that the restoration of women to their proper and equal place in society was to wait until a coming future age. Instead, he welcomed them as companions and disciples in his new community, He ministered to their needs and spoke openly to them and involved them in His work. Jesus approached the woman of Samaria at the well and told her that He was the Christ - that was a first. Jesus befriended Mary Magdalene who was considered an immoral woman and stayed at the house of His friends Mary and Martha.

Paul appears to be anti-women because of the cultural taboos of the time. Women are to be subject to the authority of the husband as Jesus is head of the church but in other ways, women are man's equal and in many ways superior. Women are not to be silent in the church, they are to be encouraged to speak and prophesy. We are not under the letter but under the spirit. Those that teach that women should be subject to the authority and leadership of men in the church have elevated themselves as lords and by doing so usurp the authority of Christ. Women are co-heirs and co-laborers.

To explain the words of Paul in the New Testament regarding women, we only need to go to the original Greek and understand the difference between the word used for women and the word used for wives. Surprise, it is the same word. When the translations were done into English, the word women was used when the context was for wives and everyone since has been blaming Paul for being anti-woman.

As far as women in the ministry, this is what Paul has to say about it:

1 Corinthians 11:3-15: But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God. Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head. But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven. For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered. For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man. For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man. For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels. Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord. For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God. Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered? Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering. But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.

1 Timothy 2:11-15: Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.

Peter tells me in my Bible that God is no respecter of persons, he may have been talking of nationality but it applies to sex as well. Paul also teaches in Galatians 3:26-28: "For you are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus." Can we really believe that women are not included in what Paul is teaching here? Neither male nor female seems clear to me but inconsistent with the traditional role of our understanding of what Paul taught about women. If there is to be governorship in the church, then Jesus is governing over the minds and hearts of His followers and uses us to be the examples of His life here on earth today. He does this through men and women.

The New Testament had women prophets. It is taught that a woman is not supposed to have authority over the man but the real issue of women in the church today is that of God's authority. Man is not to have the authority either unless it is through the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ and he is walking in the spirit. If a woman prophesies to a man, that it is the spiritual authority of Jesus that is behind the voice and this is not taking authority over a man in any way. Paul of course, would allow a woman to prophesy but it is taught that Paul would not allow her to speak or teach in the church. We all know that all the apostles in the New Testament were men but this is now and that does not decide the issue.

The authority of a husband and wife situation can be seen as a different question of authority. It is a valid teaching that if a man and a woman is truly one flesh that a woman can share in the calling of her husband. And conversely, if the man is still in his sins and does not submit to the authority of the Lord, then it could change the relationship of the submissiveness of the woman. If she must make a choice, which would be the righteous authority that she must submit? What of the unsaved husband that never comes to church, is she still forbidden to speak?

All authority belongs to God. In that He shares it with us, it is distributed between male and female and rights should still be equal even if the distribution is not. As to women usurping authority over men, I would not want to, as a man, usurp authority over other men either. In Corinthians, I do believe that Paul was talking about wives there rather than all women.

Remember that Paul in many ways was still Saul at heart, he was proud of the fact that he was a Pharisee. Not wrong mind you, this was first century Christianity that came out of that culture. This is the way that Pharisees did things, they meticulously obeyed the law and would stone those who broke it. I challenge anyone that believes that the New Testament be obeyed to the letter and women should be silent in the church to cut off your hand if it has ever caused you to sin, same with your eye, pluck it out, if not, you are going to hell. While you are at it, hold everything that you have in common with others in the church, give all your possessions to the poor, live day to day without planning for tomorrow, lend money to all who ask you for it, never store any treasure in your house, wait, if you own your house, you need to sell it, Jesus had no place to lay His head, why should you.

Jesus was more strict than the Pharisees and it takes saints like Francis of Assisi to measure up. The New Testament also teaches that where Jesus is, there is liberty but how many Pharisees of today teach that being liberal toward others is demonic? Christian freedom was taught to us in the early church but not much today. The Bible has been used to defend sexism, slavery, start more wars and defend free for all capitalism and imperialism to the point where Christianity can be only spoken of in derision. Jesus wants to liberate women from the conservative, repressive Pharisees of today yet it is the Christian church that opposed women's liberation from the start. Who I would rather see empowered in this group are the true "able" ministers as in 2 Corinthians 3:6 "Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life." That includes the women that have been called to it by the Lord and I would rather accept a woman's calling than argue with God.

Only Jesus should have the authority in the church and to those that He lives His life through, He shares His leadership with the servants and ministers of the church that are led of His Spirit. Man has taken the authority without His Spirit to develop the pecking order that Jesus has come so strongly against with the doctrine of the Nicolaitans. Church "leaders" are so far off in this question as to come against female prophets as well in prophesying to man because of the authority involved. If there are woman apostles, I would not want to have so legalistic and rigid of a system that I would already be prejudiced against someone that God has sent.

God made women, He did not make homosexuals. God uses women in the church, not homosexuals, in spiritual power anyway. Men and women were created by God, not so, homosexuals. To equate the two together is being unfair in human rights issues. It is true that the feminist movement caused a rift in the economic structure and caused much of the break-up of the family. But this concerns women in the market place not women in the ministry. When women became so financially independent that they no longer needed their husbands, rampant divorce followed. I see that as the fault of greedy people that caused the inflation and increased housing costs and boredom and materialism that forced women out of the home and in the working world. The process caused millions of single men to be unemployed and displaced resulting in much of the homeless problem that we have today. I don't know what this has to do with affirmative action though. Women and minorities did not cause affirmative action laws to be passed, discrimination did, they only responded to it. If God is not a respecter of persons, then neither should we be. The Spirit of God is poured out upon all of us, not just men. Maybe that is the promise given to Joel in these last days of the spirit upon all flesh. Maybe this is the new thing, the new song that we are singing. I hope so.

[Genesis 1:26-27, John 4, 09, 60, 311, 315, 347, 355, 304, 415, Women in ministry was a topic of the latter rain discussion list.]

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