Women in the Church: Role of women in church (body of Christ)
Article by Dr. William Zook and Monique Zook, ministers at FLAME International Ministries.
I continue to receive inquiries about the acceptable roles for women in the church. Within the churches I’ve worked in, the churches I’ve visited and the churches I’ve read about (during 40 years of working with churches around the world) there’s probably no more volatile and debated subject than the role of women in the church. And, I know I will not persuade those reading this one way or another. So, let me first state my position. Then if you disagree, you can save yourself time by simply hitting the delete key.
There is no position within the church that a woman cannot and should not hold.
The home is a different story. I’m not going to teach on submission or our roles in the family. In the home the husband is ordained to lead (although the reality is often different). In the church there is no difference in man or woman.
Within the body of Christ we know that Galatians 3:23-29 But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. For ye 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 ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.
Of course the author of this statement to the Galatians, Apostle Paul, is at the center of this centuries old debate. When he said this, he seemed in agreement with the teachings of God Himself.
Genesis 2:18-25 And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him. And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.
We see that God originated man and woman as one. He brought woman forth from man as a "help meet," not a servant. So, they become two. But Adam recognized that the two would once again become one (equal) before the Lord. God signifies their unity, oneness and equality with their nakedness. There were obvious physical differences but no spiritual differences.
Later we see this in the story of Deborah and Barak
Judges 4:4-5 And Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, she judged Israel at that time. And she dwelt under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in mount Ephraim: and the children of Israel came up to her for judgment.
Deborah was chosen by God to lead the nation as prophetess and judge. She was the recognized spiritual leader. Barak was the physical leader of the army. Yet, Barak knew he could not lead the nation’s forces without his submission to Deborah.
Later still God speaks through his prophet discussing the spiritual role of women.
Joel 2:28-29 And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.
Do you suppose God would pour out His spirit equally on men and women, and equally call and choose them to prophesy to the church, but only allow men to speak within the church? Is that what Paul believed? Paul said . . .
1Corinthians 12:4-7 Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.
Now, Paul told those guys in Galatia that there was neither male or female, so when he says the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man, he includes women. Right? That agrees with what God spoke through the Prophet Joel. So, if Paul agrees with God’s statement, do you think he would disagree with God by only allowing men to speak within the church? I don’t think so.
Yet, Paul says . . .
1Corinthians 14:34-35 Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.
1Timothy 2:11-12 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.
Did Paul change his mind? Does he now disagree with God? Or is he like so many men who say, "it’s okay with me if a woman is a pastor, just so it’s not my church she pastors." What would Paul say about Deborah? If Paul believes that way, why does he obviously consider Priscilla and Phoebe to be church leaders?
Paul’s teachings come to us through letters he wrote to early churches organized under his leadership. Not everything he wrote in those letters is for the church universal. Some things were meant for specific churches. Why does he write to the Galatian church of the equality within the church of all believers, if he truly believes women should not hold equal status with men? He wouldn’t, for he also writes that God is not a god of confusion.
He sets limits to the role of women in the church at Corinth, not in Galatia or Thessalonica or Rome. Why? There was a problem in the church at Corinth and in the city itself. The pagan’s worshiped the goddess Diana, and the church was full of converted pagans. So, Paul saw a church struggling with the effects of the world. Converts were bringing their habits, their beliefs, their actions, their dress code into the church. It was rapidly becoming a worldly church. He put a stop to it by relegating women to silent subservience in the church.
So, where does that leave us? Women have every right and freedom to serve in any capacity in the church. If God calls and chooses a woman to pastor a church, who can stand against that? I won’t!
Article by William Zook and Monique Zook, ministers at FLAME International Ministries. Dr. William Zook is the author of The Will of God (and, or, versus) The Will of Man.