What is it that most women want, but few find, in their relationship with men? Equal opportunity and pay in the work place? Dignity in the home? Who would ever guess that the answer might be male spiritual leadership?
Nowhere are there more critical issues at stake. The stability of homes, the sacredness of marriage and the sad plight of a society floundering in moral decay, to name a few. “Church” has become something people do rather than what they are. Leadership in the church is more and more a reflection of human society rather that holy scripture.
When God said, “Let us make man” (Gen. 1:26-27) he used a special word. Not ish, the Hebrew word for man, or male (Gen. 2:23), but adam, the generic word for humankind which became the proper name Adam. Neither was superior to the other. Both were made on equal ground in the image of God. In God’s plan each would have different places to fill (Gen. 2:18; 3:16).
A principle that runs from Genesis to Revelation is that of male spiritual leadership. God revealed himself as Father, not Mother. In creation it was Adam first, then Eve. God selected patriarchs to lead their families in devotion to him. God chose Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to found the nation of Israel. God set up the sons of Jacob to build the twelve tribes of Israel. God made great leaders of Moses, Joshua and Caleb. The prophets and judges were men, with the exceptions of Huldah and Deborah. The priesthood was all male. Jesus selected twelve apostles, but no apostlettes despite the fact that he honored women like no one else of his day. God’s design for his church involves overseers and deacons, but ministry is the job of all (Rom. 16:1; Eph. 6:21). Women provided for Jesus and the twelve while they preached (Lk. 8:3). Paul complimented those women who labored with him in the gospel (Phil. 4:1-3).
Why should I, or anyone, advocate a subordinate role for women in the public or mixed assemblies of the church today? It’s the “kiss of death” for social acceptance these days. The idea of submission irritates us and makes us feel inferior, but we all must do it (Eph. 5:21).
If I say that women cannot be elders, deacons, preachers, lead prayer or be teachers in mixed assemblies, is that being restrictive where I have no right? Is it for me to say which way we go with this? Who calls the shots anyway?
1. God Created Two Forms of Man With Different Roles (Gen. 5:1-2; 2:18-25). God created two forms of man – male and female (Gen. 5:2). He blessed them alike. He named them man. They were, however, different. Woman was the helper of man – women know that men need help! (Gen. 2:18). Family leadership fell to Adam, but he failed in his role (Gen. 3:6). Being first created put him into the leadership role at home. Eve was created second, but not second class!
2. First Created and First Born – Is There Something to it? Adam being first created paralleled the firstborn situation that follows. The birthright, or right of inheritance came to the first born son of a family (Deut. 21:15-17). Consequently, family responsibility belonged to the firstborn son. The ultimate firstborn was Jesus (Lk. 2:7; Col. 1:15). Perhaps that is the reason that the “first created” is described by Paul “the head of the wife” just as Christ, “the first born from the dead” is the head of the church (Eph. 5:22-23).
3. Male Spiritual Leadership Was God’s Plan. The trail is not difficult to follow. Adam in the garden of Eden (Gen. 3:16). The firstborn sons of the Patriarchal age – not all were good! (1 Sam. 8:2-3). The Levites took the place of the firstborn (Num. 3:12). Men were required to attend three main feasts each year (Deut. 16:16). Without that requirement it is wondered just how many Jewish males would have bothered to attend the feasts. If modern church attendance statistics have any parallel in ancient times, far more women than men would have attended the annual feasts had they been permitted to do so.
Today, theological elites approach Jesus thinking that he was counter-cultural, and that by following his lead we will change things. And yet Jesus was preparing us for what would happen in the church when it became a reality.
And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams;
even on my male servants and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy (Acts 2:17-18).
We stand at the mountain top of Acts 2 and see two significant events. First, God’s Spirit poured out upon “all flesh” – Jew and Gentile! Second, men and women would prophecy. Philip had four daughters who did so (Acts 21:9). Of interest, Philip (not his daughters) was one of the seven servants selected to assist the apostles in Acts 6:1-4. Male spiritual leadership was God’s idea, not an antiquated viewpoint of religious conservatives who wish to keep women limited in spiritual activity!
4. The Churches (1 Tim. 2). Paul followed what was the practice in all the congregations at that time. His directions about the silence of women at Corinth was the same procedure followed and taught in “all the churches of the saints” (1 Cor. 14:33-34).
The setting of 1 Timothy 2 is public worship. In that domain public prayer is restricted to men (Vs. 8). Women are asked not to dress ostentatiously (Vss. 9-10). Teaching practices were the same as addressed in 1 Corinthians 14:33. The reasons given by Paul are simply the man’s priority in creation and woman’s primacy in the fall (Vss. 13-14).
Why would any congregation choose to follow this arrangement that some find so utterly restrictive today? For the simple reason that, as we have seen, God gave the male the role of spiritual leadership in the home and in the churches. The woman was given the roles of bringing children into and guiding the home. That reality is not demeaning to women and should not be interpreted as such. Anyone who insists to the contrary is agenda driven.
No one is suggesting that women are left without service in the church. We focus so much attention on women’s role in worship that we tend to forget the bigger picture. Women want to serve, but some are stepping out into Biblically unauthorized roles. We forget that there are many things women can and should do in the church! Look again at the New Testament!
- Women gave financially (Exo. 35:25-26; Mk. 12:41-44; 14:3-9).
- Women supported Jesus with their resources (Mk. 15:40-41; Lk. 8:1-3).
- Women prayed (Acts 12:11-16 16:13; 1 Tim. 5:5).
- Women trained their children (2 Tim. 1:5; 3:14-15).
- Women served in spiritual ways (Acts 9:36, 39; 18:26; Rom. 16:1-3, 6, 12, 13, 15; Phil. 4:2-3). Some women in the church were active (not passive) in spreading the gospel. They worked with Paul, and he worked with them. This would never have happened if he were of the mind of some of our brethren.
- Women led others to Christ. The woman at Jacob’s well brought a whole village to Christ (Jn. 4:28-30). Women may be able to win husbands to Christ without nagging them to death! (1 Pet. 3:1-2).
- Look at the women who minister in areas more effectively than some men, i.e., Sister’s in Service. During our shelter-in-place practice, since the Covid-19 pandemic began, these ladies have been calling and checking on every member of the Mabelvale congregation.
Men are called to be spiritual leaders, but the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world. Despite the efforts of some elderships and school boards to change it, male spiritual leadership is still God’s plan. The parts that men and women fill in the church resemble our singing. Male voices provide the tonal foundation for the higher, more melodious female voices. Both male and female voices are harmonious, and lift praises to God!