Thursday, February 18, 2021

Women Leaders in the Church

Women Leaders in the Church

When I was called into ministry, I asked the Lord, “Are you sure it should be me? Many countries and denominations don’t believe a woman can lead or teach.”

Before I began the journey into my calling, Holy Spirit took me through the New Testament scriptures which spoke about women leaders and put my heart to rest. In the last week, the Lord has sent seven people to inquire about women leaders. It is clear that He wants me to share what He has revealed with His body. Paul wrote many letters instructing Christians addressing how the Body of Christ should be organized. In order to fully understand what he wrote, we must:

  •  make sure it is in agreement with both the Old and New Testament
  • know what was happening during that time
  • understand who he was writing to

In the Book of Acts, we see that Paul traveled and spoke about the Gospel so much that a group of idol makers became concerned that their livelihood was in danger, especially where the most popular of deities was concerned: the female goddess, Diana (Artemis).

Now there is danger not merely that this trade of ours may be discredited, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may come into disrepute and count for nothing, and that her glorious magnificence may be degraded and fall into contempt—she whom all [the province of] Asia and the wide world worship. (Acts 19:27 AMPC)

Because this was a goddess, women most likely dominated many spiritual meetings and even home life. Worship of this goddess included temple prostitution with provocative attire and raucous festivals. Dedication to the god and the hierarchy of its leaders was shown by elaborate braiding of hair adorned with jewels and costly decorations.

Paul was urging Christians to be holy, which means separated from any other religious practices. He was also trying to establish God’s way among gentiles. One of the changes would be that the husband is the head of the household and should be honored. For this reason, many of Paul’s letters center around how godly women should conduct themselves.

Looking at the letters from Paul in order will shed much light on the instructions given. Chronologically speaking, the first letter was to the Corinthians. As much as I love the Amplified Version of the Bible, 1 Corinthians is understood better in every other version except the Amplified. 

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. (1 Corinthians 11:3 KJV)

In the King James Version, it would seem to say that men are above women, spiritually speaking. However, if we look at it in another translation, we get a different picture of what is being said:

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 ESV)

The English Standard Version takes into account other indicators in the sentence structure to select a different definition for the Greek word anēr (ah-n’ay-err): it chooses husband instead of man. Likewise, for the word gynē (goo-nay’) it selects wife instead of a woman. This proper word choice is confirmed by another scripture from Ephesians where the same words are selected as husband and wife:

For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. (Ephesians 5:23 KJV)

God is orderly. In every system there must be a head, a leader. In the family it is the husband who leads and a wife must submit to him as the leader. In the Church it is Jesus who leads. Here are some additional key scriptures you may have heard mentioned from 1st Corinthians 11 (AKJV):

  • every woman that prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven. (V5) 
  • For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, for as much as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man. (V7)  

Paul was advising the Corinthians that Christian women should cover their heads to show they were submitted to their husbands, and not aligned with the ways of that goddess who asked for hair to be elaborately decorated.  Every statement about praying with their head covered is connected to the fact that the city was dominated by the worship of a goddess. In Greece where this goddess is still worshipped, most Christian women still wear a head covering. The fact that its application was to the local customs can be seen with the final remarks about the discussion:

Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted to them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also said 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. (1 Corinthians 14:34-35 AKJV)

These scriptures are repeating what Paul has been asked. His response is what directly follows this statement:

What? Came the word of God out from you? Or came it to you only? If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write to you are the commandments of the Lord. But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant. (1 Corinthians 14:36-37 AKJV)

This is a very strong rebuke. He literally says, “What?” as in, “this is total nonsense.” Then he expounds: “did you get a new revelation from God like a prophet? Was it given only to you?” It is clear that this was one church’s idea of what should happen and Paul was not in agreement with it.

Stating “any man THINK himself to be” shows that Paul doubts very seriously that this is a new prophetic word from God. It is very clear that the prior statements are far outside what God has taught His people.

The next letter written about women’s behavior was sent to Timothy who was in Ephesus. This city held the deity’s temple considered one of the seven wonders of the world and is known as the center of worship of this god.

I will therefore that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting. (1 Timothy 2:8 AKJV)

Paul begins by addressing the men. After seeing the reaction to the men who were placed in their rightful position in Corinth, is it any wonder that he warns those in Ephesus to be “without wrath.” We know that Paul is addressing the issues of the goddess because he continues speaking to women about how they need to change their behavior: like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works. (1 Timothy 2:9-10 NKJV)

“In like manner” shows that the two items are connected. Instruction begins with the outward appearance, their dress and their hair which we discussed previously. “Good works” is a phrase that refers to religious duties and obligations. In other words, “look appropriate for a modest Christian and not like a pagan as you serve God.” How many Christian women need to hear this today? Paul then continues with instructing these newbies to God’s ways about how they should act in public.

Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. (1 Timothy 2:11-12 NKJV)

The topic here is how a woman should conduct herself in meetings. Rituals for the goddess were loud affairs. To break the women out of old habits, he tells the women of this particular time and place to be silent to show submission. These scriptures end with the same word “silence” so what is in between is on the same topic.

The Greek word gynē (goo-nay’) is defined in Strong’s Concordance as “probably from the base of G1096; a woman; especially, a wife.” The Greek word anēr (ä-nay-er) is translated as both man and husband. The scriptures that follow speak about Adam and Eve, the original husband and wife, clearly demonstrating that this is about the personal relationship of man and wife not about leading a congregation.

It wouldn’t be right for a wife to speak up in a meeting and try to “teach” her husband something in front of everyone. This is not honoring. It is very disrespectful. Paul’s closing statement about this topic before moving on confirms that this is about marriage:

For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. Nevertheless, she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control. (1 Timothy 2:13-15 NKJV)

The original sin is mentioned then the fact that women can be “saved.” This is not the salvation of eternal life. To say that was dependent upon women bearing children would go against the Gospel message: the sacrifice of Jesus alone redeems us. We must research this verse more carefully to understand what it means.

The Greek word sōzō is translated saved but more fully means, “to preserve one who is in danger of destruction, to save or rescue.” Childbearing is the Greek word teknogonia. According to Strong’s Concordance, the fuller meaning here is “childbirth (parentage), i.e. by implication maternity, the performance of maternal duties.” If we put these two definitions together we get these instructions from Paul.

“If women are deceived into a false religion and lead men into sinful ways as Eve did with Adam, then let them come apart from all their religious practices, quietly learning about God’s ways.” 

The rest of the instructions are for women who have fallen into a false path and are trying to get clear. When Jesus freed the man in the tombs of the legion of demons, he was told to return home when he asked to be Jesus’ disciple. We see much the same advice here:

“These women who have gone astray can be rescued from falling back into these practices by focusing on performing motherly duties, and continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.”

This is wise for anyone, not only women who have been duped by the enemy. Spend time getting well-grounding in God’s ways! This principle wasn’t for an entire gender, just for those who had been led into sin by Satan, then continued to lead others into that same sin.

If this were, in fact, referring to the need for every woman to be a devoted mother in order to receive salvation, that would be in direct contradiction of not only the Gospel message but a letter to the Galatians as well:

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. (Galatians 3:26-27 AKJV)

Once we are baptized into Christ, we are all children of God. What does this mean? The next verse shows us:

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. (Galatians 3:28 AKJV)

We are all one, equal, in Christ once we are saved through taking Him as our Lord. We are all referred to as “the bride” of Christ. This is why Jesus leads and we follow. He is the husband and we are all equal and submissive to Him once we receive salvation. This is reinforced when Paul writes to the Corinthians.

Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman... (1 Corinthians 11:11 ESV)

Who Can Lead

Directly after addressing the problem with those who had been dedicated to a goddess, Paul gives a detailed description of what qualities a leader should possess. Many scriptures have been taken out of context. We should look at the scriptures and the Hebrew culture to see who can be a leader in the Body of Christ. Before the specific attributes are listed it says:

This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desires a good work. (1 Timothy 3:1 AKJV)

The Greek word tis which means “any person” is translated as “man.” The word episkopē is a feminine word translated as “bishop” but more fully means “overseer, elder.” This indicates that the person fulfilling the role may be of either gender.

Now a bishop (superintendent, overseer) must give no grounds for accusation but must be above reproach, the husband of one wife… (1 Timothy 3:2 AMPC)

According to God’s law, a woman could only have one husband, however, God allowed a husband to have more than one wife. Our Father is making a distinction here: if you are going to lead in the body of Christ, you should be devoted to only one spouse.

Are prospective leaders restricted to men elsewhere in scripture? Let’s look at the introduction to the roles of the church leaders. Before the list of apostles, prophets evangelists, pastors and teachers is given, we see this:

Why he said, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive and gave gifts to men. (Ephesians 4:8 AKJV)

The Greek word anthrōpos is translated as man, but it means mankind: men and women. Every office mentioned is in a masculine form, yet we know that God uses female prophets, often referred to as prophetesses. In the history of God’s people, shown in the Old Testament, we see:

  •  Deborah is a judge and co-led the army into battle
  • Isaiah’s wife, Huldah, Noadiah, Miriam, and Deborah are mentioned as prophets in the Old Testament

Prophets of either gender were considered the mouthpiece of God and brought correction to leaders and priests. If women were not to teach men how could they bring correction?

Priests in Israel were always male. According to many Hebrew traditional beliefs, men needed the ritual actions of priesthood in order to remain close to God and follow His ways. Women “have superior inherent spiritual wisdom,” known as binah. That makes them less dependent than men on the performance of timely religious practices to retain a strong spiritual connection to God. ( Retrieved 2019-03-08)

  •  Binah: “processed wisdom,” also known as deductive reasoning. It is davar mitoch davar—understanding one idea from another idea.
  • Chokhmah: is intellect that does not emanate from the rational process (it is either inspired or taught), Binah is the rational process that is innate in the person which works to develop an idea fully. Classical Jewish texts state binah yeterah natun l'nashim (“an extra measure of binah was given to women”).

This may explain why women could be judges (Deborah) and prophetesses (Miriam and Huldah) but were not priests. It also explains why Paul’s response in 1 Corinthians 14 was so strong.

The suggestion from the men:

Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted to them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also said 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. (1 Corinthians 14:34-35 AKJV)

These men wanted to put women completely aside in matters of the church.

What? Came the word of God out from you? Or came it to you only? If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write to you are the commandments of the Lord. But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant. (1 Corinthians 14:36-37)

 This was not the way Israel treated women. It was clearly not according to God’s law as they tried to state. It would take a new word from God, delivered by a tested prophet to treat women in such a way.

Women are not in any way less than men spiritually speaking. Could it have been that the wifely duties of running a household and caring for children added to the reasons for choosing men to fulfill the job of priests in ancient times? After putting the New Testament scriptures into historical context and reviewing how God used women in the Old Testament, it is clear that women can be leaders under the right circumstances:

  •  Their husband must support their calling.
  • They must honor and respect their husbands in public
  • They must not have worshiped another god and led others into a false religion.

If these three conditions are met, then a woman can be leader if God calls them. We are all equal in God’s eyes once salvation happens, but we must be obedient to God’s ways, including honoring our husbands.

Secret Place Confirmation

When this article was nearly completed, I visited with the Lord in the Secret Place. After I tested Him by asking if Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, He took me by the hand and said, “I have something to show you.”

As He began to lead me out, I stopped, “I can’t see very well. Can you help with that?”

The Lord blew on my face and I felt a wave of power wash over me. Now the scene before me was crystal clear. Taking my hand again, Jesus led me into the forest around the gazebo where we usually dance. His thought entered my mind as we raced along the narrow path. “Do you remember where this leads?”

“Are we going to the cave?” I asked.

His affirming answer came as the mouth of the cave appeared. We squeezed through the constricted hallway and into the brightly-lit cavern. The Lord gestured at the ceiling. “What do you see?”

I describe the sparkling dome overhead. “There are only a few big gems glowing brightly. Others are small and there is darkness in between them.” 

He explained what this represented, “This is my bride. Very few are fully revealed, operating as they should. Most have been covered, hidden away by teachings of the flesh (dirt), and some are completely obscured by them. Teach my bride, remove that which is flesh so she can shine brightly!”

I realize that wrong teachings have hindered half of the Christians from shining as brightly as they should. Women who have not been allowed to teach, to become elders and leaders have been a great victory for the enemy. It is now time for ALL of the brides to take their rightful place and shine with God’s glory!

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