“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” (Genesis 1:26-27)
God created mankind in His image, both male and female, to have lordship under His lordship on the earth. The woman He called man’s “helper”, a term of honor God often used for Himself. (Genesis 2:18; Exodus 18:4; Psalms 54:4) The two were clothed in glory.
Then sin came. The serpent tempted woman, the “rookie” in Paradise, who then tempted the man who loved her. (Genesis 3) Now they would be clothed in animal skins rather than glory.
Now, exiled into a harsh world, woman would have to carry children in her womb longer so they could survive after birth. And woman would find herself married not to godly man but to fallen man: men who seek not just dominion over the earth but over her. Since they carried weapons while the women carried babies, men would succeed in lording over women even while they fought to lord over each other. (Genesis 3:16, 4:8)
And so it has been ever since. The Taliban attitude toward women is as old as sin itself.
Once God entered covenant with the Hebrew people, He began to reveal how wrong it was to treat woman like man now treated her. Honor your mother, He commanded! (Exodus 20:12) Honor marriage! (Exodus 20:14) Treasure and praise a godly wife! (Proverbs 31:10-31)
God chose women like Miriam and Huldah to prophesy His word. He chose Esther, “for such a time as this”, to be a savior of His people. And He chose Deborah to judge all of Israel. If it was not within God’s will for a woman to preach, teach or lead, these things could never have occurred.
Then Jesus came. God chose both a special woman and man to rear His Son, and both a male and female prophet to declare this baby the Christ. (Luke 4:25-38) From the outset of His ministry, Jesus was followed by both men and women, with the women proving more faithful in the end. (Mark 14:50, 15:40)
Jesus personally revealed His divine identity to both a prestigious man and a marginalized woman. (John 3, 4) He invited women to do what no other rabbi had ever permitted: sit at His feet and learn. (Luke 10:39) And when He rose from the dead, Jesus told those faithful women first, and had them tell the men! (Matthew 28:9-10; John 20:1-18)
Perhaps nothing demonstrates man’s sinful tendency to lord it over women more than this. The men did not believe the women Jesus sent. (Mark 16:11) Jesus rebuked them for that. (v. 14)
Jesus told all His disciples they would be His witnesses in the world, and to wait for power from on high. (Acts 1:3-8) As prophesied by Joel, the Holy Spirit was poured down at Pentecost on 120 men and women, and they were all filled with God! Sons and daughters! Male servants and maidservants of the Lord! (Acts 2:17-18)
In the years that followed Pentecost, despite continued male domination in the general culture, Chloe and Lydia would head households that hosted home churches. The four daughters of Philip would prophesy. Phoebe would be recognized as a deacon. Priscilla and her husband, Aquila, would be Paul’s beloved co-workers in the Gospel and together teach a powerful preacher, Apollos, the fullness of that Gospel. (Acts 18:26) Another married couple, Andronicus and Junia, would be called “outstanding among the apostles”. (Romans 16:7)
If women cannot preach, teach, or lead in the Church, those things could not occur. So what happened? How did so much of the Church come to later believe women were still second-class citizens? Where did we lose the great truth: “There is no longer male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus … heirs according to promise”? (Galatians 3:28-29)
As could be expected, the new-found freedoms of women in Christ led to some “rookie” mistakes, particularly as to marriage. Christian marriage is the core of Christian family which is the core of Christian community, and the Lord does not want divisive marriage any more than He wants a divided Church. So God clarified through Paul that in areas where they could not reach agreement, the wife should respect and submit to the husband. (Ephesians 5:22-33)
Note: the wife was called to submit, not to obey as a child obeys a parent or a servant his master. And a husband is to cherish his wife like Aquila and Andronicus did, drawing out her splendor rather than quenching it. A husband’s lordship of his wife is not that of sinful man, who lords over people, but of godly man like Christ, who sacrifices and serves. (Matthew 20:25-28)
Paul also addressed situations in church meetings where some wives were speaking out in ways that seemed disrespectful to their husbands. He told them to address those matters at home. (1 Corinthians 14:33-36; 1 Timothy 2:11-15)
Note: the Greek word for “wife” can also mean “woman”, but Paul consistently used different Greek words for “man” and “husband”. He also used different words for “male” and “female”. It is clear from the Greek words Paul chose that he was asking “wives” (not “women” or “females”) to be silent rather than unilaterally teach or assert authority over their husbands. Paul had already specifically honored the right of women to pray and prophesy in church meetings. (1 Corinthians 11:5)
Unfortunately, the Church did not prove over time to be immune from Greek culture or the Roman Empire, both of which were still ruled by sinful men. Within a few centuries, the Church regressed back to an Old Testament model of priests and people, rather than a royal priesthood of believers. Only men were appointed. Then when the New Testament was translated into Latin, Paul’s words were changed. Women, not wives, were told to be silent.
I could share some very woman-demeaning quotations from respected theologians like Augustine and Thomas Aquinas. I could discuss the grave error of thinking the only way to give women equality is to declare these misunderstood scriptures are no longer authoritative, thus “throwing out the baby with the bathwater”.
Instead I will simply point out how John Wesley and Charles Finney empowered women to preach and pray in the First and Second Great Awakenings, how women helped lead the Azusa Street Revival, and how glorious are the gifts and callings of Anne Graham Lotz, Mother Teresa, Beth Moore, Joyce Meyer, Kay Arthur, Heidi Baker and countless other modern sisters in Christ.
Satan broke up the male-female team in the Garden. Jesus fixed it. If we want another Great Awakening, we must embrace what Jesus did.
God bless you, and God bless our community.