Judges Series #6 Life Cycles
“How God Feels About Women”
In our study of the book of Judges we encountered a deviation from the norm in Judaism that warrants a closer look. We encountered a woman prophet who was also a judge. Deborah drew high respect from the people. God used Deborah to bring about deliverance and keep a godly focus among this renegade people for 40 years.
I will begin our journey today with a brief summary of attitudes toward women at points in history including the church. Next we will try to summarize God’s attitudes or thinking toward women by examining the Biblical record. We will try to wrestle with some specific New Testament passages that some have used to bar women from certain responsibilities and ministries in the church. Finally, I will try to draw some principles that may be applied to women’s ministries today.
HISTORICAL ATTITUDES TOWARD WOMEN
Authors have expended a great deal of ink dedicated to the issue of the role of women throughout history. Debaters have argued both ends and the middle of the debate from no essential role to superiority over men. I think the Bible has done more for the liberation and appreciation of the role of women in society as well as ministry than people give credit.
Of course, those who marginalize women claim the Bible as their source book but their methods are highly suspect. Jesus massively raised the view of women above the views of His day. Generally, Judaism practiced an extremely low view of women. Lepers, Gentiles, and women were considered outcasts by many Jewish people, especially the Pharisees.
A daily morning prayer of the Pharisees lifted praise to God, “I give thanks that I am a man and not a woman, a Jew and not a Gentile, a free-man and not a slave.”
Although there was a minimal participation in public life, in the role of the family, women enjoyed a much more elevated consideration. In early Greek times, men granted women somewhat higher respect than women of other ancient pagan societies. Nevertheless, women remained under the authority and control of their husbands both by custom and by law and found themselves nearly on the same level with servants.
If I am to speak also of womanly virtues … I will sum up all in a brief admonition: Great is your glory if you fall not below the standard which nature has set for your sex, and great also is hers of whom there is least talk among men whether in praise or in blame. Pericles
(The Role of Women in the Church)
Society viewed women as a lowly but necessary to raise up warriors for the city-state. One may conclude that in the Greek world, the status of women was decidedly inferior to that of men; wives led lives of seclusion and practical slavery.
By Roman times, the attitude toward women hardly improved.
Under the Roman Empire women enjoyed a somewhat better standing than in Greece. Legally, however, the wife was still regarded merely as a piece of property completely under the control of the husband. Yet in practice the law was interpreted otherwise, and women enjoyed considerable freedom. Further, the wife was not kept in seclusion as in a Greek household; rather, "she shared her husband's life and set a standard of wifely and motherly virtues envied in a later age." The Role of Women in the Church (Ryrie).
Whatever freedom they enjoyed turned to license regarding degrading behaviors.
One finds a greatly diminished value set on marriage, a marked increase in divorces, a general casting off of moral restraint.
Although Jesus modeled respect for women, a continual lack of appreciation for the role and worth of women persisted right on through American early history. The church even used the Bible to bolster their cultural attitudes. Here are some true stories that indicate how much more progress is needed in the church.
A seminar student looks at a young woman seated in the desk next to his and asks, “Why are you here? Don’t you know most of us are already married?”
One writer decries the fact that women were given the vote in this country because that is a part of the humanist conspiracy to destroy the American family.
In the opening service of a missions conference each of the men missionaries is given five minutes to present opening remarks. A highly regarded veteran woman missionary is told that she may share some of her experiences at a ladies’ tea, but is only to say her own name and the name of her field when she stands at the pulpit.
Talk show caller: Why can’t women preach and teach?” Minister host: “That ministry is for men only and I can give you a good reason; God made roosters to crow and hens to lay eggs.”
No one can deny the giant contribution of women in the Bible and throughout history. Women’s influence on culture, science, church growth, medicine increases by the day.
God’s view of Women
What does God think of women? Generally, if you want to find what God thinks, start at the beginning. The order of creation is an established and undisputed fact. God created Adam first. The God-designed inhabitants of His marvelous newly established earth remained incomplete. The completion of humanity found completion only in the addition of woman.
God spoke Adam into being. God “fashioned” Eve.
God created THEM.
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27
God blessed THEM.
Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man when they were created. Gen 5:2
God commissioned THEM to procreate together.
And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth
This dispels the notion that sexual relations came after the fall. Procreation was God’s plan from the beginning. He included it in the whole package.
God commissioned THEM to rule together
and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Genesis 1:28
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than God and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, Psalm 8:3-6
God declared His work, including the differences between man AND woman, VERY GOOD.
How dare we say anything different? Adam immediately recognized an equality and affinity with Eve not observed between any of the previously created creatures.
Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Genesis 2:23
God designed Adam and Eve to cultivate a mutually exclusive oneness.
For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. Genesis 2:24-25
Jesus affirmed this God-ordained unity.
Jesus answered and said, "Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE, and said, 'FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH'? "So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate." Matthew 19:4-6
There is no hint of self-centeredness or self-consciousness in the relationship. There is no disparity of worth or competition between them. Together they bear the image of the eternal God. Any other view does not pollute the attitudes until sin enters the family. Oneness in the family disappeared after a break first in their relationship with God through discontented rebellion. Now the conversation drastically sifted from praise to God the woman God gave him to blaming God for the woman God gave Him. Eve’s willing cooperation turned to fearful competition for control. Man’s loving leadership twisted to a tyrannical control of the woman.
What God intend as an efficient partnership between two creatures of equal worth warped into an excruciating battle between the sexes that rages to this day. It is clear, as previously stated, that God created Adam first.
The order carries some significance but not related to personal worth and ability only roles.
But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. 1 Corinthians 11:3
For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. 1 Corinthians 11:8
Headship does not demand superiority. Submission does not indicate inferiority. Most everybody lives under the authority of someone yet we don’t consider ourselves inferior. Jesus willingly and joyfully submitted to the Father but maintained the reality of their oneness.
“I and the Father are ONE.”
Paul included the same balancing principle we saw in Genesis.
Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God. 1 Corinthians 11:11-12
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28
The issue is not that men have less worth because they can’t bear children. The is not that women have less worth because God ordained men to lead. The issue is not that slaves have less worth because they are not free. The point is that all have EQUAL worth in spite of unequal social status. There are obvious differences between men and women but with regard to worth, God views male and female equally.
You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered. 1 Peter 3:7
It is a sad thing that the differences in roles between men and women has been used to justify unbiblical views concerning worth. The Bible speaks without hesitation concerning how God feels about women. He created woman with a creative flair superior to the creation of the stars.
God recorded the virtues of a godly woman in Proverbs 31.
An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. Proverbs 31:10-11
He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD. Proverbs 18:22
By the way, I am not sure that all of the characteristics included in that chapter could all be found in a particular super woman but were representative of the kinds of things that distinguish them from others. They engaged in both domestic and business ventures.
Women are marvelous models of godly character.
Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised. Proverbs 31:30
The Bible focuses on some particular women that draw attention to their great worth and value in God’s sight. The Bible also includes a number of negative examples of women just as it does men. There is not time to go into all the examples but I want to highlight just a few.
Old Testament Examples
Peter pointed to Sarah as an example of a godly woman. She is the “poster child” for Biblical submission.
For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands; just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear. 1 Peter 3:4-6
This does not mean that Sarah blindly went along with EVERTHING Abraham said.
At one point, this exalted example of submission dared contradict Abraham.
Now Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, mocking. Therefore she said to Abraham, "Drive out this maid and her son, for the son of this maid shall not be an heir with my son Isaac." The matter distressed Abraham greatly because of his son. But God said to Abraham, "Do not be distressed because of the lad and your maid; whatever Sarah tells you, listen to her, for through Isaac your descendants shall be named. Genesis 21:9-12
Sarah based her “suggestion” on God’s promise. Abraham was waffling.
Five daughters from the tribe of Manasseh approached Moses because there were no males left in the family line of their father. The law said the land passes through the males.
"Why should the name of our father be withdrawn from among his family because he had no son? Give us a possession among our father's brothers."
So Moses brought their case before the LORD. Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, "The daughters of Zelophehad are right in their statements. You shall surely give them a hereditary possession among their father's brothers, and you shall transfer the inheritance of their father to them. Further, you shall speak to the sons of Israel, saying, 'If a man dies and has no son, then you shall transfer his inheritance to his daughter’. Num 27:4-8
God spoke and ruled through women – Miriam, Deborah, Huldah
Women led worship – Miriam (Moses’ sister)
God highlighted women in the genealogy of His Son
God listened to the prayers of women – Hannah (Samuel’s mother) (Hagar)
Women demonstrated persuasive powers of logic – (Abigail)
New Testament Examples
Jesus demonstrated high regard for women.
He taught them.
He esteemed them highly.
He included them in ministry.
He praised them.
He trusted them.
He appeared to them first.
Paul pointed out the contribution of women to ministry numerous times.
They had a teaching ministry. (Priscilla mentioned 6 time where she is listen first 4 times)
They were instructed to teach 1 Tim 2:3)
Effective evangelists (Lydia, Samaritan Woman)
They exercised the gifts of the spirit.
They held prophetic ministries (Anna, Philip’s four prophetess daughters Acts 21:9)
They were instrumental in the development of the early church.
Honorable women Act 17:4, 12
Romans lists 8 women out a list of 23 individuals
Included women along with men as his “fellow-workers” Phil 4:1-3
Timothy’s mother and grandmother taught him the scriptures. (2 Tim 1:5)
Scripture recognized the significant contribution of women to ministry outside of marriage to a man and the raising of children. It appears that women engaged in nearly every ministry activity practiced by men. Women held ministry titles (Deaconess) with specific official qualifications.
Some of the most troubling passages regarding women have to do with ones regulating conduct in a specific assembly or church gathering.
Head coverings 1 Cor 11:1-16
This passage addresses the issue of acknowledging God’s chain of command.
God the Father – Jesus – Man – Woman
Several observations from this most difficult passage.
There are God ordained protocols in life and worship.
Men and women’s submission to God’s protocols should be evident in the assembly.
Women participated in public worship along with men as both prayed and prophesied.
Men and women are mutually dependent on each other.
Our practices in public worship affect angelic beings in attendance.
Remain Silent 1 Cor 14:33-36
For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted; and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets; for God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church. Was it from you that the word of God first went forth? Or has it come to you only? 1 Corinthians 14:31-36
This section of Paul’s letter addressed abuses of spiritual gifts in public worship.
The admonition for women to keep silent seems to go against the early fact that women were praying and prophesying in public worship. This passage seems to focus on the issue of subordination. This was a culture where women were not formally taught or learned to listen.
Now that new freedoms had been granted, abuses appeared. Paul regulated a problem in this particular assembly in response to one of the questions the Corinthians asked Paul to address.
Paul urge them to prohibit certain women from disrupting the assembly with their chatter.
Women not permitted to teach or exercise authority over men 1 Tim 2:9-15
Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness. A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. But women will be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint. 1 Timothy 2:9-15
After a clear instruction directed toward men to pray publically with proper attitudes, Paul addressed public involvement concerning women. Timothy pastored the church at Ephesus that was noted for promiscuity and unhealthy public attire and dominance by women. (Goddess worship) Paul addressed out of control women in chapter 5.
At the same time they also learn to be idle, as they go around from house to house; and not merely idle, but also gossips and busybodies, talking about things not proper to mention. 1 Timothy 5:13
It was a warning against abusing the leadership of the congregation by disrespectful, boisterous actions. This may again be a specific instruction for a specific situation in this assembly. Maybe the women were giving young Timothy a hard time.
Paul himself did not allow women to exert authority over God’s appointed church leaders.
The word used here is to “lord it over”, take charge, dominate. Paul appealed to God’s order of authority. Paul did not advocate a physical silence but a teachable spirit. Paul also appealed to the general principle of women’s susceptibility to deception. At a time before the authoritative once-for-all faith was recorded, there was no real safeguard against false teaching. This passage may mean exactly what it appears on the surface, but given the silence in the rest of Scripture, we need to exercise caution in insisting on a universal ban on women in ministry.
Here is the official CM&A statement regarding women in ministry.
Women may fulfill any function in the local church which the senior pastor and elders may choose to delegate to them consistent with the Uniform Constitution for Accredited Churches and my properly engage in any kind of ministry except that which involves elders authority.
Such positions may include preaching, visitation of church families, new contact visitation, evangelistic visitation, counseling, women’s work of various kinds, children’s work, Bible classes, ministry to shut-ins, youth work, Christian education, prayer meetings, teacher training, and discipleship programs.
• God created, blessed, commissioned, draws and calls both male and female.
• God established a particular order of authority and headship.
• Subordination has nothing to do with superiority, worth, value or contribution (Jesus).
• Men and women equally bear God’s image.
• Men and women equally may aspire to relationship with God.
• Men and women equally exercise spiritual gifts as distributed by the Holy Spirit.
• Women can be permitted teach if under authority but not as SOLE authority.
• Don’t think yourself superior to women in any way.
• Take your God-ordained spiritual leadership seriously – God will hold YOU accountable for the spiritual development of your family.
• Don’t think you can’t learn anything from a woman.
• All women should be granted honor as fellow heirs of the grace of life.
• Don’t think that submission to authority means inferior or less valuable.
• You are permitted to strive for the truth.
• Guard your heart and attitudes.
let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. 1 Pet 3:4
• Embrace and exercise your God-given gifts inside and outside the local assembly.