☩ To Lead or Not To Lead?
WOMEN IN MINISTRY, particularly the role of shepherding the flock, remains to be one of the most unrelenting and heated controversies in the Church. The difficulty in our present day arises out of the fact that it has almost become the accepted norm; the ever increasing subtle influence of feminism goes beyond justification to the ‘Christianisation’ of it. But is it not the trend of how the Church compromises – adopting the world’s methods after undergoing a ‘ceremony of purification’ for its use and assets?
In considering such a sensitive issue in the light of Scripture, it is imperative to suspend all our insubordinately-biased and preconceived notions – a mentality that reflects nothing of the Spirit of Christ but that of the world (with all its prideful, bitter and divisive contentions) – in order to arrive at a clear understanding that is biblically governed, balanced and Spirit led. An unwillingness to do so is to reject God’s standards revealed through Scripture in preference of embracing culture as our guide and authority.
‘Women being silent’ in the church is a very weak and imbalanced angle of the argument used to put forth in prohibiting women asserting spiritual authority over a man, and is therefore ridiculous to insinuate that what Paul meant was for women to refrain from communicating in the body of Christ; women, as well as men, were at liberty to speak in tongues, interpret and prophecy (1 Corinthians 11:5). So where exactly was Paul coming from? The bedrock and pillar of Paul’s reasoning is grounded in the knowledge of Adam having been formed prior to Eve, referring back to the beginning of God’s creational order: “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor” (1Timothy 2:12-14). The ‘culture issue’ is superseded and transcended where Scripture affirmatively stands throughout the duration of creation up until Christ’s Second Advent Who will renew all things. Secondly, “Eve was deceived” as Paul states. Thirdly – Romans 5 is where Paul refers to Adam – not Eve – as being head of the human race; Christ (the Second Adam) now being the Federal Head of all who are created (regenerate) in Him. Fourthly – Husbands are the head of wives as Ephesians 5:23 states, and fifthly – as Paul was referring to male headship in the home, it is without dispute that 1Timothy 3:2-7 and Titus 1:6-9 confirms the establishment of the husband of one wife – not the wife of one husband – and the continual reference to he in context of church leadership.
Paul was not a male chauvinist or bound by culture, as many are inclined to believe; he went beyond that (culture) by highlighting the role and order of creation as God intended. It’s undeniably clear that the function of men and women today – in the secular and spiritual – have been reversed; men are no longer men and women no longer women – that is the epitome of a pluralistic-secular society riddled with a plethora of immoral bias and orientation, and many churches are no different the way in which they compromise by conforming to the world’s mold. The wrong emphasis within many denominations today (or over the last 50 years) leans heavily on adapting to culture, struggling to become relevant to society while neglecting her primary calling – over and above the Great Commission – conforming to the image of Jesus Christ; that is what really makes the church dynamically relevant to society’s desperate need – not succumbing and conforming to the world’s pressure.
Pentecostal churches being notorious for recognising both gender ministers, were one of the first denominations (at the least a movement that has excelled in ordaining female ministers more than any other) to initiate the role of women pastors. John MacArthur commented on the assumption that because there is ‘success’ within such movements therefore it must be right – “But, from the standpoint of historic Pentecostalism, most of those groups go back to sort of a common source, where women were very high profile, and it’s been sort of a historic thing. Once you get in the flow of that and you see that women have ministry and it seems that people get saved under their preaching and good things happen and so forth…and experience is your compelling issue; then, experience will dictate continuity to that.” You notice the last part of what he said there: “experience will dictate continuity to that.” And he’s right (in pointing out the error) – many make the experience the rule rather than what God has revealed and made plain through Scripture which is the solid ground of authority. The amount of folks I have conversed with who hold very persuasive arguments, and the testimonies I have heard of and read ‘seem’ to qualify and authenticate that such women have been called of God. No matter how eloquent and articulate women pastors communicate, that is of no true essence and reason to validate and confirm as divine ordination; and I use the word ‘divine’ intentionally as many women are ordained by the will of man alone. MacArthur is right: “…from a biblical standpoint, there is no tolerance in Scripture for women leaders in the church, apart from women leading other women – older women teaching younger women and leading their children and so forth…Therefore, although women are spiritual equals with men and the ministry of women is essential to the body of Christ, women are excluded from leadership over men in the church”
“I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man…for Adam was formed first, then Eve” (1 Timothy 2:12-13).
Of course, Paul was not denying women the call to teach, or in fact that they could teach effectively but so long as it remained in the realm from woman to woman and children. Some may contend through the following scriptures in disputing to the contrary: Acts 1:12–14; 9:36–42; 16:13–15; 17:1–4, 10–12; 18:1–2, 18, 24–28; Romans 16; 1 Corinthians 16:19; 2 Timothy 1:5; 4:19. The fact that Paul greatly valued the work of women who worked alongside him for the furtherance of the Gospel, does not entail he appointed female elders or pastors. He saw and valued the order of God’s creation.
Another aspect to consider is the fact that only certain males of theocratic Israel were designated for the office of priests and kings in the Old Testament. This was not man’s choosing or prerogative but God’s sovereign will and order. Deborah as a leader (Judges 4 and 5) was clearly an exception to the rule. There was no woman with an ongoing prophetic ministry. Isaiah 3:12 indicates that God allowed women to rule as a manifestation of His judgment on a sinning nation. Moreover, in the new era and inauguration of the New Testament Church, why did Jesus only appoint male apostles – especially when considering Mary, whom Jesus first appeared to after His resurrection? Above all women, she would have been the perfect candidate. In addition, no woman wrote any of the books in the Old Testament or the gospels and epistles in the New Testament.
Are we then to say that God was lenient with culture back then, and that eventually such gender ‘classifications’ and ‘divisions’ would phase out as the body of Christ matured? Of course not!
Joel’s prophecy commenced its fulfilment – as Peter himself referred to – on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:16), which speaks of a new era of the Holy Spirit being poured out in depths unknown to any previous age. This was the age when Paul stated, “…the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 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 were baptised 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. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise” (Galatians 3:22-29). That section, ‘no male and female’ is a favourable reference of contention used in defence of both genders called to the office of elder and pastor. But why were there no women (in the era of the early Church) appointed to lead and pastor churches since men and women were deemed equal in Christ? History reveals that all the way through the New Testament epoch there was no such thing as women shepherding any church whatsoever. The feminist movement (originating around the middle part of the 19th century) played a significant part in triggering off women usurping the office of elders and pastors.
I have observed over the years, while personally knowing women who claim to have been ordained of God for the role of pastor, a prominent domineering trait held in common by all, which is not a balanced authoritativeness but rather a close resemblance to that of Jezebel; question their calling from a exegetical biblical standpoint and watch their demeanour change from being very gentle to becoming very defensive and aggressive. I have yet to meet one who is of a quiet (gentle) disposition – that’s not to say that there aren’t any out there, but I seriously doubt it.
This is not to downplay and degrade women who are equally able and complimentary in their ways to men; men and women are wired differently, but each operating in their given supporting role that brings balance to the body of Christ, so much so that man is never meant to function without her, and vice-versa. Needless to say, as many are fully aware, numerous women have been subject to inhumane treatment of all kinds that find no absolute warrant in Scripture. Numerous men have grossly misunderstood the Scriptures, wresting them for their own abusive gain to overpower and shamefully domineer women. Nowhere does Scripture condone harsh and derogatory treatment of women, which is prevalent in many world religions and cults, contemptuously relating to women as an ‘object’ to be used at their (male) convenience; viewed as 2nd class citizens (below men), having their own rights stripped of them. Christians of varied denominations are not excused from the sin of treating woman as the ‘underdog’, who are expected to submissively obey or ‘face the consequences’. Many husbands who profess faith in Christ are quick to forget Paul’s exhortation in Ephesians 5:25-29: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her, that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that He might present the Church to Himself in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes it and cherishes it, just as Christ does the Church, because we are members of His body.” MacArthur eloquently stated how Jesus Himself treated women that countered a male chauvinistic mentality, while still distinguishing God’s original order of creation from a culture bias: “In Jesus’ treatment of women, He raised their station of life and He showed them compassion and respect in a way they had never known. This demonstrated their equality. At the same time, however, Jesus still did not exalt women to a place of leadership over men.”
Without question, countless of women throughout history to the present day are known to have held exceptional intellectual aptitude and high profile communication skills (among many other notable attributes) – written and spoken – that surpass not just a few males. Their leadership proficiency has reached extraordinary levels, having made their mark as exemplary school teachers, lecturers, employers, political leaders and queens. However, Scripture is emphatically clear that God has designated spiritual shepherding, under the Headship of Christ, to man.
The old famous truth still bears weight: “Behind every great man is a great woman.” Exemplars such as Sarah Edwards, Susannah Spurgeon, Bethan Lloyd-Jones, and Martha Ravenhill were such the kind of women that having been without their companionship, none of the leaders would have encountered the degree of eternal impact through their ministry in the church. That is not to detract from the anointing and empowerment of the Holy Spirit, Who enables the efficacy of preaching the Word, but through marriage God has ordained woman to be man’s helper (1 Corinthians 11:8-9) – not to be taken for granted or to be used as a ‘means to an end’, but that rather without her, man is incomplete to fulfil the role God has created him to be and do (Genesis 2:18); both male and female are indissolubly linked that neither are complete without each other – both are equals that compliment one another in unity.
As the church has compromised in advocating and endorsing the vocation of women pastors, my shared concern is that such approvals will only widen the gulf of liberalism. Should we be surprised that homosexuality is condoned, encouraged and even embarked upon as equal to God’s original way of creation between man and woman as the church (in general) continues to divert from fundamentalism – not to mention that lesbian and gay pastors are now welcomed to lead the flock, who in turn marry people of the same gender? My point is, where will all this go, because the essence of liberalism is the greater form of tyranny when measured against conservative fundamentalism (if we are to include the notion that many look upon the latter as ‘opposing’ freedom, not realising that it’s function is a deterrent against lawlessness). Because so few these days earnestly contend for the faith in God’s way, the stage gives way to liberalism that inevitably embraces antinomianism. It is a gradual wearing down that opens the way to lawlessness. Subsequent to extensive research, Matt Slick rightly affirmed, “We see that denominations that hold to women pastors later overwhelmingly come to support abortion, homosexuality, and deny the inerrancy of scripture.” This may sound ridiculous and a little off track in context to the main subject, but we shouldn’t be at all surprised (only because it can be expected with the way things are heading) if in a few years we find the church – not the secular realm that already approves of it – integrating a permissive law for human sexual rights with animals. After all, who would have believed that the Church of England (C of E) would amalgamate with Islam, forming Chrislam? Ecumenically, the C of E openly compromised with the Roman Catholic Church from the early 1960’s onwards, so is it any wonder why currently the shift is so deplorably enormous? Sadly but true, this also applies to popular mainstream evangelicalism that continues to weaken and waver in its doctrine as unity is prioritised at the expense of truth.
Is it mere presumption to assert that as Eve was deceived, Satan has once again succeeded in masquerading the same manoeuvres to ensure that the route having been taken to ordain women into pastoral ministry is really ‘okay’ (“Did God insinuate that women cannot lead men spiritually”- carrying the same connotation as, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not…’?”) – that no harm is done – so long as they are preaching the ‘truth’ and ‘success’ follows? For what will that ‘truth’ be but another gospel that dethrones God (in one’s understanding) and exalts man (or woman!), and what kind of ‘success’ will that be that so many wrongly equate with God’s approval and blessing?