Mary as God's kind of woman

Mary as God's kind of woman

In conjunction with my new series on marriage started with my previous post and the question of whether a wife is to have a man take authority over her (as if her husband is required to rule her), click here to read an excellent blog article about the best example of a New Testament “God’s kind of woman”.

Can God choose to use a woman in ministry without first consulting with her husband?  Must a woman’s spiritual decisions be filtered through her husband?  These are some of the questions that complementarians have posited as a basis for saying that women cannot take any positions of authority in the church because women would need every church decision they make to be approved by their husbands before they would be allowed to make any decision.  The story of Mary refutes this faulty thinking.

Was Mary a godly women who knew that she didn’t need a male authority figure to ask permission to say “Yes” to God?  The complementarian example of a godly Christian wife is blown away by the obedience and example of Mary.

24 thoughts on “Mary as God's kind of woman

  1. Good word. It has always been inspiring to me that Mary was willing to be used of God in whatever ways He wanted. She trusted God in a deep way. She understood that she was to have a personal one on one, face to face relationship with God. She was after all, human… created in God’s image.

    Those who teach that a woman needs approval of a man in order to believe correctly, make decisions, make plans or goals, etc. are essentially saying that women are less human than men. They are saying that only men can have a face to face confrontation with God, whereas women must have that relationship filtered through men.

  2. I think there is a temptation to avoid Mary among protestants, because of fears of Mariology. But Mary is a good example of a follower.

  3. I agree Don, It’s too bad but some will find mariololtry under every rock. I for one find the Magnificat one of the most ineffable beauties ever written. I think though that the tendency to diminish the importance of Jesus’ mother is more of an American protestant thing. Probably inherited from Winthrop & Co. (1600’s New England) Bach wrote some of his most beautiful stuff in honor of Mary.

  4. I’ve heard a gender hierarchalist say that Mary had no choice in being Jesus’ mother. Strange things said never end… How could anyone come to such a conclusion?

  5. God is Sovereign. It is not like He did not know how Mary would respond. And it is not like He does not have the power to change hearts!

    The point is that God did not approach Mary’s father or Joseph first.

  6. pinklight,

    Mary did have a choice and we can see that by what she said in response to the angel. First of all the angel said to her that “you will conceive”. He didn’t say “you have already conceived”. In response Mary said:

    Luke 1:38 And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

    Mary gave her agreement to what was given her as a prophecy. Joseph did not have the opportunity to give his agreement. When Joseph found out it was a done deal already. Mary was already pregnant when Joseph was told that she was expecting a child. His divine revelation did not come until after he already knew that she was expecting. This is quite revealing. Joseph was not told ahead of time that Mary would become pregnant. He was not even told by the angel that she was pregnant. He wasn’t divinely contacted until he had already made a decision in his heart to divorce Mary.

    The fact that only Mary was approached in advance shows that only Mary’s willingness to be be a willing vessel was needed. She did not need to turn to her father to get his okay, nor did she believe that she needed to get approval from her husband. She accepted what God said and she didn’t even tell Joseph what happened to her. If Joseph was Mary’s boss because he was her husband, then surely we would have seen Mary inform him Joseph of her soon-to-be motherhood. This did not happen.

  7. Cheryl you asked,
    …Can God choose to use a woman in ministry without first consulting with her husband? Must a woman’s spiritual decisions be filtered through her husband?

    I would like to respond to your question with my own situation.

    Yes!!! God can choose to use whomever to serve the Kingdom of God, male and female.
    Did God consult with my husband first? I really don’t know! I’m not sure who God spoke to first.
    Did my spiritual decision filter through my husband? Yes!
    The reason being, when I entered into the covenant of marriage the two of us became one. God does not call just an individual if they are married. The call affects the entire family. God also called Abraham, it affected Sarah. God confirmed the call/promise to Abraham by giving Sarah a Child. Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but they had not entered into the covenant of marriage, yet. However, God also spoke to Joseph and confirmed that what was within Mary was conceived by the Holy Spirit.
    God spoke to my husband also and confirmed that what was conceived within me was also from the Holy Spirit. This was my call to ministry. It was God’s call, which then was placed in the heart of my husband (albeit over the course of several years). I had to wait and trust (like Abraham) that God would place this in my husband’s heart as well. I have seen the same thing occur when God calls the husband and has to confirm with the wife.
    God will never contradict. When two people join in a marital covenant, the two become one, this is God’s plan. What God has joined together, no one can separate. God will not violate this. I believe God desires that believing spouses filter all spiritual decisions through one another. It is mutual submission. I made this a commitment 23 years ago, when I gave up my individual “rights” to become his wife. He gave up his “rights” when he became my husband. I will always submit to the wisdom of my husband and filter spiritual decisions through him as he loves me and will always pray and seek God’s will for me.
    My two cents.

  8. Pastor Darlene,
    I do understand what you are saying. I also believe that God works with both people in a marriage and when he calls one of them, he calls the other to support. Yet the spiritual decision between God and myself is individual and I do not need my husband’s support to serve God. Years ago after several years of marriage, God called me back to himself. I had not been following God and although I never stopped believing in him per se, I was not living out my Christian faith in practice. I was ashamed if anyone found out at work that I was a Christian. But God got a hold of me and my experience with God as I gave him complete control of my life was very profound. When I told my husband what I had done in my heart he was very angry with me. He was interested in doing his own will and he didn’t want God in his life. I told him that I really wanted him to join with me in serving God, but if he would not, I would serve God with all my heart by myself. My decision had been made with or without him and this decision did not need to be filtered through him.

    It didn’t take long and my husband too had made a decision to follow Christ and to give up the control of his own life. My decision to follow hard after the Lord will always be there whether my husband joins with me or not, but in the area of ministry I really do need my husband to work with me. I am submissive by nature and I am not a loner and a long time ago I told God that if he really wanted me in ministry that he would have to work this out through my husband because there are some things that I just don’t do well by myself. I really need my husband and together we are a solid force of two yet one.

    So in the question whether a woman’s decision must be filtered through her husband, I would say that it is always wise for the one flesh union to work together and talk things over to come to a mutual decision. However my obedience to God is not dependent on my husband’s obedience.

  9. One other thing, Mary had Joseph had not yet come together physically as husband and wife but in the culture of that day their engagement was a binding contract that could only be dissolved through divorce. They in essence were husband and wife but had not yet completed the final physical act of coming together.

  10. I think when God calls a person, He calls only that person. And needs only that person’s agreement. I’m not aware of God checking with anyone else when He called a person for His purposes. It is to the benefit of any others that they get with the program, and God is gracious and merciful enough that He is willing to help them do that. The idea that a husband must approve God’s decisions is treading dangerously. Male or female, the other spouse may wonder if their spouse is getting things right, which is why praying to God to find out is the answer. We are not to place our trust in the arms of flesh, but God only.

    The gender hierarchalists based their belief of husbandly authority to approve a wife’s calling on Numbers 30. They use the Scripture inaccurately. Numbers was about young women making covenants to the temple. Young men and women could make a covenant of some sort to live in the temple and serve there for years. I don’t know the details. I do suspect that some young wives (remember they married them off at 13ish) did this in order to escape a marriage they didn’t want. But at the time, all of this was done for protection of women and to continue a way of life. Women were needed to bear children and lots of them. At any rate all of that has no relevance to God calling someone into any sort of ministry. God comes first before all our dreams and desires. His ways are best for everyone.

  11. Tiro,
    This is well said! I am trying to think if there is any example in scripture where a man or woman was called by God where the other spouse did not support them. The only example I can think of that might even be a little bit related to this is where David danced before the Lord when he brought the ark back and Michal was not happy with David’s exuberant worship. 2 Samuel 6:14-23. It says that Michal was childless until she died, but it is unclear to me whether this came as a result of David’s rejection of her or the Lord’s.

    To me, though, the highest form of service to God is when the two who are one flesh and work and move in union. I believe that this is God’s highest way too. But will God be thwarted when one holds back? David kept on serving God whether his wife liked it or not. Hmmmm….what do you think?

  12. This is well said! I am trying to think if there is any example in scripture where a man or woman was called by God where the other spouse did not support them. …

    Hmmmm….what do you think?

    Esther was called by God in a manifestly unsupportive atmosphere
    (I started blogging and my thoughts on Esther are
    here )
    Abigail was called by God to go against her husband. (1 Sam 25)
    Sapphira lied to the Holy Spirit in order to “go along with” her husband (Acts 5)

    That said, I’m with you Cheryl. I am a hyper-submissive. I could not be in any ministry where my husband was going to be the enemy, on the attack, tearing me down, discounting, invalidating… I figure if GOD is REALLY calling, he has his ways… HE’ll send along a great big fish if HE has to. 🙂

  13. I don’t think God called Abigail to go against her husband, she was just wise enough to realize her foolish husband was going to get all of them killed. She didn’t tell him what she was doing. But I do not interpret this as going against him, just being wiser than him.

    Cheryl, I am by nature not super submissive at all. I am thankful the Holy Spirit has been working on that issue in my life. I agree with you that Michal’s contempt towards the way David worshipped God does not show support. I could have become like a Michal if God had not begun a great work in my life. (Though she was treated like a piece of property being married off to 2 different husbands, and having to deal with other wives of David’s)
    I think we are saying almost the same thing. God does not need to ask my husbands permission to use me in ministry, but like yours, he brought him to a place of acceptance of this call. I have a bit of concern when anyone says that “God called me” and my spouse isn’t in agreement. I am deeply grieved when there is a divorce over this. I have encountered people who weren’t really called by God and were not willing to listen to the concerns and cautions their spouse was trying to give to them and then just said, well I guess God called me and not them. This is my concern, God ordained marriage as a covenant, God would not override a covenant. Married people need to be in a great deal of prayer together over this. God will answer and either clarify and confirm, or clarify and diminish the idea. Either way, a heart is changed and unity is obtained.

    In my particular case, the praying took several years before the call was clarified and confirmed and it was strong in both of us.

  14. Charis,
    Thanks for the links. They both worked so you are better then you thought!

    Pastor Darlene,
    I see the issue of calling in two ways. The best way is when both are there together in a supportive way. However I have seen a woman’s calling in obedience to God yet without disrespecting her husband. A man’s disobedience does not necessarily stifle a woman’s ministry. Through it all there is a period of growth and maturity as we learn how to serve the Lord with or without a supportive mate. While my own life is inextricably tied to my husband’s and his support is vital to my ministry, we have to be open too, I think, to the idea that God can and will use women whose husbands are not saved or who are in rebellion against God. It may not be the same open ministry they would enjoy if they had a supportive partner but I think that God’s hands are not tied on behalf of a woman who yearns to be used by God but whose circumstance is anything but perfect. A behind-the-scenes ministry of encouragement can be just as valid as a up-front ministry. Faithfulness is what is required and God’s grace to keep respectful in spite of a man’s opposition. In the end I think we all desire to have a husband working together with us serving God in a one-flesh union.

  15. One last thing…regarding a woman who has set her face toward a public ministry in direct opposition to her husband, I think she needs to be in much prayer to make sure that her desire is not from herself. Our own selfish desires may seem like they come from God, but if they cause us to devalue our mate, then we need to be careful because it could be ambition that drives us instead of God’s calling. God’s way is the way of humility and peace in the home. God knows how to work around the obstacles and sometimes it takes time and patience. If we push through when it isn’t time there can be disastrous results. If we wait for God’s timing, he will give us the desires of our heart.

    Isaiah 40:31 Yet those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.

  16. In my undestanding, Joseph planned to get a Hillel “Any Matter” divorce from Mary due to her pregnancy and this would be a quiet divorce that would avoid shaming her as he did not need to bring any reason forward for discussion. The Pharisees taught that a man in such a situation MUST divorce his engaged wife, or else he partook in her sin.

  17. Don,
    You are right in this evaluation. The interesting thing is that Joseph was not brought to knowledge of what God was doing until after he had decided in his heart that he was going to divorce Mary. This appears to clearly contradict the teaching that the man’s oversight of the woman is necessary regarding decision-making. Joseph had no knowledge of Mary’s decision to allow herself to be the mother of the Messiah and apparently both God and Mary did not see fit to tell him about the angel’s visit to Mary.

  18. I noticed on CARM that the male hierarchicalists are left with claiming that Mary had no choice in getting pregnant. But a fundamental Biblical truth is that God never forces anyone to do something against their own will. To me, this just shows how one skewed interpretation (male hierarchy) results in a cascade of errors (eternal hierarchy in the trinity and God forcing people) in an attempt to justify the initial error.

  19. In reference to post # 14 by Charis, Good object lessons from the book of Esther to be sure. In general though complementarians will just brush these instances aside as incidental and not pertinent to the issue of patriarchal authority. They will agree that they’re part of the inerrant and inspired text, but they will vehemently deny that they have anything to do with what they believe is God’s established patriarchal order from Eden.

  20. Don,
    You said:

    “I noticed on CARM that the male hierarchicalists are left with claiming that Mary had no choice in getting pregnant. But a fundamental Biblical truth is that God never forces anyone to do something against their own will. To me, this just shows how one skewed interpretation (male hierarchy) results in a cascade of errors (eternal hierarchy in the trinity and God forcing people) in an attempt to justify the initial error.”

    I couldn’t agree with you more. While scripture focuses on submission, hierarchy focuses on authority. While scripture focuses on the equality of the Godhead, they focus on whose the big boss. Lastly while scripture focuses on a willing heart and God imploring us to choose to say yes to him, they focus on an God forcing people against their will. I don’t see this as God’s way.

  21. I’ve only got as far as comments 9-14… but i can’t help wondering if the possibility of conflict between marriage and ministry was what the apostle paul was referring to in 1st Corinthians 7 when he said that the married man or woman has to be concerned with the things of this world, and how to please husband or wife, while the single is free to think only of how to please God (my rough paraphrase)
    it’s interesting to note that the apostle specifically makes the effort to individually reference men and women to say exactly the same thing to each… doesn’t this assume that women would have been ministering separately from their husbands?

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