Women teaching, men's prejudice and God's glory

Women teaching, men's prejudice and God's glory

Many complementarians have been so used to hearing what women are not allowed to do in the body of Christ rather than what scripture says women should do as followers of Christ, that the focus has become automatically set to see restrictions when the subject of women in ministry is discussed.  With this post I would like to lay out some of the allowances for women in ministry as well as the obligations of mature children of God including God’s female “sons” so that we can contemplate on God’s own instructions.

What should be the attitude of women who are dedicated, mature and reverent followers of Christ?  In 1 Peter chapter 3 Paul has been writing about how women followers of Christ are to show their love for their Lord in the respectful way that they treat their husbands.  Men followers of Christ are also to show their love for their Savior by treating their wives with love and respect as fellow heirs of the grace of God.  Then in verses 8-17 Peter continues on to speak to both men and women about their attitude, their behavior and actions and their obligations.

1 Peter 3:8 (NASB) To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit;
1 Peter 3:9  not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.
1 Peter 3:10  For, “THE ONE WHO DESIRES LIFE, TO LOVE AND SEE GOOD DAYS, MUST KEEP HIS TONGUE FROM EVIL AND HIS LIPS FROM SPEAKING DECEIT.
1 Peter 3:11  “HE MUST TURN AWAY FROM EVIL AND DO GOOD; HE MUST SEEK PEACE AND PURSUE IT.
1 Peter 3:12  “FOR THE EYES OF THE LORD ARE TOWARD THE RIGHTEOUS, AND HIS EARS ATTEND TO THEIR PRAYER, BUT THE FACE OF THE LORD IS AGAINST THOSE WHO DO EVIL.”
1 Peter 3:13  Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good?
1 Peter 3:14  But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. AND DO NOT FEAR THEIR INTIMIDATION, AND DO NOT BE TROUBLED,
1 Peter 3:15  but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;
1 Peter 3:16  and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame.
1 Peter 3:17  For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong.

Since Peter says that this is written for “all of you”, let’s focus on what we can see about God’s will for women from these verses.  Peter writes in verse 8 that women are to be harmonious (of like mind with all believers) humble in spirit, kindhearted, brotherly (fond of the brethren which is the body of believers) and sympathetic.  How does this work out in practice?  Peter writes in verse 9 that women are not to return evil for evil or insult for insult but they are to practice giving a blessing even when they are reviled because women in Christ are called for the purpose of inheriting a blessing.

Peter goes on in verses 10-12 to encourage women to keep from speaking evil words and women followers of Christ are to do what is good and to pursue and seek after peace.  When women followers of Christ live this way they have the eyes and ears of the Lord Jesus toward them because the eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and his ears hear their prayers.

In verses 12-14 Peter writes that God is against those who do evil so that if women are zealous for doing what is good that God will be on their side and look out for them regarding those who do evil to them.  Women are told that even though they may suffer for doing what is good, God will bring them a blessing for suffering for the sake of righteousness.  God tells women that when they are reproached for doing what is good, they are not to fear the intimidation of those who are against them.  God tells women they are not to be troubled when they suffer for doing good and they are not to fear those who try to intimidate them, instead these women are to be prepared to defend their faith in God.  Verse 15 says:

1 Peter 3:15  but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;

Women are not only allowed to give a defense to everyone who asks them to give an account, but they are commanded to do so.  They are not told to be prejudiced against men but to give a defense to everyone.  Women’s obligation is to be ready with a gentle and reverent spirit to give an account to whoever challenges them on their faith in Christ.  When Jesus gifts and equips a woman she is to use these gifts without fear.  In 1 Peter 4:10,11 Peter records that each one of us has been gifted and we are commanded to use our gifts for the use of the body of Christ.

1 Peter 4:10 As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.
1 Peter 4:11 Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

If God has gifted a woman to speak she is commanded to speak as one who is speaking the very utterances of God.  She is to do this because it pleases God to gift her.  When she uses her gift God will strengthen her in that gift because this brings honor to Jesus.  Whenever she uses her gift she is bringing glory and honor to Jesus Christ her Lord.

What about if someone challenges a woman follower of Christ that women are to be prejudiced against men and must refuse to use their God-given gifts for the benefit of the men in the body of Christ?  What if someone says that teaching the bible for the benefit of men is an evil act and not allowed for godly women?  What if someone says that women followers of Christ are sinning against God if they refuse to turn away men from hearing them teach the bible?  Peter instructs the women to keep a good conscience and in doing the good works of a mature follower of Christ, if she is slandered by those who hate her good works and who say that her good works are evil, these ones who have slandered her will be put to shame by her good behavior in Christ and her gentle and reverent spirit even during her persecution and her suffering.

1 Peter 3:16  and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame.
1 Peter 3:17  For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong.

God’s word for women followers of Jesus, is do not fear intimidation and do not be troubled.  Be glad that you are counted worthy to suffer for the sake of the Lord.  Do not return evil for evil or return insult for insult but keep on doing what is good.  Teaching God’s word is good.  Using your God-given gifts is a good thing.  Scripture never once tells women to turn their backs on men and to refuse to use God’s gifts for the benefit of men.  That is prejudice and prejudice is not a godly thing.  God’s way is to use your gifts for God’s glory without prejudice.  Do this good work in a gentle and respectful manner without responding back with evil words if you are insulted and slandered by your brothers in Christ.

Let me tell you a story about our ministry partner Lorri MacGregor.  Lorri was a Jehovah’s Witness for 15 years and when she came to Christ and had come to a full understanding of the truth of God’s word, God called her to teach the scriptures especially to Christians who had no idea how to witness to Jehovah’s Witnesses.  Lorri was faithful to go wherever the Lord called her even though she had many barriers put up in her pathway because she was a woman.  God caused her testimony to be heard by men and women, lay people and Pastors alike.  Many Pastors were so impressed by her testimony and her ability to teach Christians how to witness to Jehovah’s Witnesses, that they allowed her to teach on this subject even though they have never allowed a woman to teach the bible to the congregation before.  Lorri’s ability to make the gospel clear and to teach difficult subjects like the Trinity and make these teachings understandable to the average Christian was clearly noted and she was asked into many churches to share her testimony and her special gift of teaching.  Lorri never refused to teach anyone because of their gender nor did she act in a prejudicial way to the men in the audience.  When some objected to her teaching on the platform, she asked if she could teach from the floor using a music stand instead of a pulpit.  Her humility and her respectful manner allowed her to receive a hearing and because of this many men and women were equipped to share their faith in a way that brought much fruit and brought Jesus much honor.  Lorri’s ability and her gifts were strengthened by her experience coming out of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Pastors saw the benefit of her teaching as a unique gift.

Because Lorri’s desire was to use her gifts for the benefit of the body of Christ and it was not her desire to elevate herself or stand in open opposition to the tradition held by many Pastors and many churches, the doors opened to her for her to teach what is good.  In fact her teaching was so clear and so easy to understand that Lorri was invited into the pulpit in places that had never before allowed a woman to teach the congregation.  Lorri did not make an issue of being a woman teacher, she just used her gifts in a God-honoring way that benefited both men and women followers of Christ.  She was not deterred by those who tried to stop her and who tried hard to put up a roadblock in her pathway.  Lorri stayed the course and followed Jesus through every open door that he provided.  The Lord provided ways for Lorri to serve in her gifts because she trusted him to make a way for her to serve him.

My path has been somewhat different than Lorri’s.  My focus is not to go around the roadblocks but to respectfully and methodically dismantle the roadblocks with the gifts that God has given me.  I deal with the opposing arguments head on and I use God’s word in context using God’s inspired words and his inspired grammar to understand God’s will for women.

If you are a woman who has been called to serve Christ in teaching the bible, yet you have been told that this work is forbidden to women unless women are willing to turn their back on men and refuse to use their gifts for men’s benefit, you need to see the hard passages in scripture on women in ministry in their context.  I would encourage you to get a copy of my 4 DVD set called “Women in Ministry Silenced or Set Free?” so that you may have a tool to help you give a defense to everyone who demands of you an answer and this DVD set can help you give an answer with gentleness and reverence.  Do not let anyone stop you from doing the good works that God has prepared for you.

Matthew 5:16 (NASB)  “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

1 Peter 4:14  (ISV) If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the glorious Spirit of God is resting on you.
1 Peter 4:19  So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should entrust their souls to a faithful Creator and continue to do what is good.

1 Peter 2:15  For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men.

Colossians 3:23 Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men,
Colossians 3:24  knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.

Don’t stop doing what is good.  Do your godly works in a respectful way and trust that God will open the door for you to serve him in exactly the way that he has called you.  If we can be an encouragement to you on this blog community, we are at your service.

13 thoughts on “Women teaching, men's prejudice and God's glory

  1. This is a very good word and encouragement Cheryl. As usual. I’ll
    comment later.

    At the moment, I’m trying to find an answer to the following question.
    Sorry this isn’t on topic.

    There is a circulating claim of historical evidence of Iounias the bishop
    outside of Jerusalem during the apostolic era. Does anyone know of this?
    Is this information on a website, and in any books documenting it? I’d
    like to see what info there is on it.

    While so many scholars have claimed no evidence of any male having the
    name of Iounias… not one bit of evidence … where and when did this
    info turn up? Is this person real. And if so, what evidence is there that
    it is a man. Just because he/she was a Bishop that mean it was a man, is
    circular reasoning (the same circular reasoning regarding Iounia) . Fact
    is that there have been female elders in history.

    Thus we have no indication anywhere that Iounia(s) is a male name. Yet, we
    have a Iounia(s) Bishop that supposedly is male because of the position of
    Bishop.

    If anyone has any documented info they can point me to I would be most
    grateful

  2. Excellent entries Cheryl. As always, you focus on what scripture says and does not say with regards to women’s roles in the churches. I look forward to your DVD series on the trinity. What does the scripture say? What does it not say?

  3. Got some links for you JB:

    http://www.christianstandard.com/lettersmarapr07.asp
    http://englishbibles.blogspot.com/2006/10/junia-apostle-part-1.html
    http://www.godswordtowomen.org/studies/articles/juniapreato.htm
    http://englishbibles.blogspot.com/2007/05/junia-response-to-michael-burer.html

    I think what you’re seeing is another case of “search engine flooding”, where a few people put out a lot of documents and make sure they get posted and repeated all over the place. And of course CBMW has a vested interest in spreading their teachings far and wide. But when we look at all the research and see that the majority opinion of scholars is that no male form of Junia existed until the middle ages, the burden of proof is on the “gender benders” to present evidence that is recognized by both sides (and non-Christian scholars with no ax to grind) as credible scholarship.

  4. It occurs to me, upon reading your post and chewing on it a bit, that women in ministry are held to a much higher standard of Christlike behavior than men in ministry. I don’t think that is a bad thing for women as it calls us higher. I wonder if it is a bad thing for men, though?

    I have a mentor who is very old-fashioned about women’s roles in church… She thinks God is presently calling and anointing women to speak into the culture because men (whom HE called first) did not heed the call. She sees movements like PK as God calling men into spiritual leadership, but many did not heed the call and slid more deeply into things like porn (a rampant but unspoken problem in the church).

  5. I’m going to venture in here and be the dissenting voice….

    I think you are right, that looking at what the Bible does say to do vs. just focusing on what not to do is extrememly important. Afterall, we haven’t simply been redeemed to sit in place with our hands folded- we are all called (men and women) to do something with what we have been given.

    What you ended up doing here though is equating the call to give an answer for the hope that is in us (ie: knowing our faith, knowing the word, knowing our Lord, being able to explain to someone who doesn’t know Him how it is we are the way we are) to being called to teach anyone anywhere anything. I do not see the two as the same calling. The calling to be a pastor (elder/bishop) of a church and the instruction to know our faith and be prepared to answer those who challenge us are two completely different things. Yes, some of the knowledge (intamicy with the Word for example) is going to overlap. But being responsible for a group of believers (a local church) simple can not be made out to be the same thing as the sort of evangelism that is being talked about in this passage.

  6. Hello Tiffany, thank you for your comments.

    I quoted 1 Peter 3:15 and I took this verse in context since it directly follows verse 14. In verse 14 Peter is talking about those who are suffering for doing what is right and he then encourages those who are suffering for doing what is right to be prepared to defend their faith and their godly actions (verse 15). The two verses go together connected with the word “but”. I tied in verse 14 (suffering for doing what is right) with woman’s suffering at the hands of some who berate them for using their God-given gifts for the benefit of men. I expressed the fact that nowhere in scripture does God tell women that they must be prejudiced against men and scripture is clear that the Spirit’s gifts in us are for the common good. In this post I focused on God’s gifts. While being responsible for a group of believers is a good thing, this is a place of responsibility and maturity and since I was only speaking about God’s giftedness and not about spiritual maturity, hence the issue of being responsible for a body of believers was not part of this post. I do however believe that “pastor” is a spiritual gift given to those whom God chooses (Ephesians 4) and those who have this gift will minister wherever they are. One may use their gift of pasturing in a small group or one-on-one or in the full body. The key here is using our spiritual gifts for the common good instead of any of us acting in a prejudicial way towards men by withholding our gifts for their benefit.

    The person who is responsible as an overseer by overseeing the spiritual health of the congregation is not so much seen as a spiritual gift but a place of mature Christian responsibility. All may use their spiritual gifts but only those who have attained to a level of Christian maturity will be encouraged to oversee the flock so that the sheep are kept safe from the enemy and from false doctrine by the safe keeping of a mature and responsible Christian overseer.

  7. (sorry for the time lapse)

    Here is the first problem I see: All are called to given an answer. Not all are giving the gift of teaching. Whether you believe in women teaching men or not, not all believers have the same gifting and yet vs. 15 is an instruction to all believers and can’t be pertaining to the gift of teaching as such.

    Furthermore, tying in verse 14 (suffering for doing what is right) to women suffering for teaching men assumes that teaching men is right. Suffering for something does not automatically mean that the person is in the right.

  8. Hey Tiffany,

    I am glad that you popped in again. You are right in that all are called to give an answer. You are also right in that not all are given the gift of teaching. The point of my post was for those who are called to teach the bible. For those who are called to doing good in teaching the bible (and teaching the bible in a correct and respectful way is always good), verse 13 & 14 are talking about suffering for the sake of righteousness (for doing what is good). In that context we come to verse 15 since it is a command in amongst verses that are talking about our suffering for doing what is right. Although it is not just about suffering for teaching the truth of God’s word, it certainly encompasses such suffering. If one uses their gift of exhorting and one suffers for using that gift in a godly manner, then this verse can also be used for one who is suffering for doing what is good. You said:

    “Whether you believe in women teaching men or not, not all believers have the same gifting and yet vs. 15 is an instruction to all believers and can’t be pertaining to the gift of teaching as such.”

    It is a verse specifically about suffering. If ANY believer is suffering for doing what is good or ANY believer is asked to give a reason for the hope that is within him or her, this verse is for them. In this respect it isn’t exclusively about teaching but it does include a woman suffering for the truthful teaching of God’s word. You also said:

    “Furthermore, tying in verse 14 (suffering for doing what is right) to women suffering for teaching men assumes that teaching men is right. Suffering for something does not automatically mean that the person is in the right.”

    The logic goes this way….if teaching the bible correctly is a godly thing then it cannot be something that is wrong unless scripture specifically tells us that God has a law against women teaching the truth of God’s word. Since there is no such law then we can rightfully assume that it is not wrong for a woman to teach the truth of God’s word to anyone who needs to hear that truth whether they are a woman or a man.

    Does this make sense? If it doesn’t then you would need to prove that there is a specific “law” in scripture that forbids godly Christian women from teaching the truth of God’s word to men. This “law” must have the required two or three witnesses and having it listed in any list of “sins” would certainly qualify the list as one of the witnesses.

    I hope that helps!

  9. You are the only person that I have ever heard say that a command requires two or three witnesses. It isn’t something I think is supportable, and fundamentally disagree with that as an underlying premise to these discussions. On that note, I don’t know how profitable continuing the topic is actually going to be.

  10. Hi Tiffany,

    I have heard many times preached from the pulpit that every matter requires two or three witnesses to be established. In fact my own pastor just preached this exact same thing just a few weeks ago on a different matter. He quoted the exact same scriptures that I am going to quote to you and he confirmed that every matter and every law must have two or three witnesses.

    This precedent is set in the Old Testament:

    Deu 13:14 then you shall investigate and search out and inquire thoroughly. If it is true and the matter established that this abomination has been done among you,

    How is a “matter established”? A matter is established by two or three witnesses. The Old Testament lists many places that two or three witnesses are necessary. Numbers 35:30, Deut 17:6, Deut 19:15.

    In the Talmud, the Jews interpreted a witness as a person or a documented piece of evidence. A witness may be an oath that is written or it may be persons who testify.

    Jesus also confirmed the Old Testament demand for evidence to establish a matter by saying that every fact is to be confirmed by two or three witnesses so we can see that it is vital that every judicial matter be established with the required witnesses. Jesus said:

    Mat 18:16 “But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED.

    Jesus then made it so important that every fact is established and confirmed that he said that not even his own testimony if it were alone would be considered valid without another witness.

    John 5:31 “If I alone testify about Myself, My testimony is not true.

    Jesus then goes on to establish his list of witnesses. He says that the Father is his witness John 5:37, John the Baptist is his witness John 5:33, the works that Jesus does are also his witness John 5:36, and the Scriptures testify about Jesus as witnesses John 5:39.

    If Jesus himself accepted the need for a matter to be established with two or three witnesses even when it came to his own testimony, and he is the Son of God, then surely we can understand from the OT and the NT that a single witness cannot condemn a person because a matter has not been established by law. Paul said facts are repeated for our safety (Philippians 3:1) and the reason is because a matter that is not repeated can be misunderstood and misrepresented. It is then not safe. With the proper witnesses and the proper testimony a matter is established and the law is 100% established by the repetition of the charge of sin. If we have a “sin” that isn’t repeated and therefore it is not established as a charge of sin, then we need to ask ourselves why. Why would God break his chosen method of establishing a matter? Every single sin is documented in scripture with two or three witnesses and not even one has only one witness. If the “sin” of a godly woman teaching the truth of scripture to men is not established by a second witness, then God does not allow us to charge her with sin since it is not an established sin. It is not a safe matter to charge a woman with sin with only one scripture that has been taken out of its complete context. Scripture tells us over and over again that this is not safe and it is not allowed by God’s own law.

    Deu 19:15 “A single witness shall not rise up against a man on account of any iniquity or any sin which he has committed; on the evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed.

    I appreciate your feelings if you do not want to continue to dialog. That is certainly up to you. But know this for a fact, that a matter of charging sin against a woman is not accepted by God’s own written standard with only one witness. 1 Timothy 2:12 does not say that godly women are not allowed to teach. There would have to be a second witness to determine that Paul was setting a brand new law against all godly women who teach men. No such law existed in the OT and no list of “sins” contains this particular sin. There is no second witness that it is godly women who are being barred from teaching and this “law” that we have accepted by tradition and not by God’s standard of the charge of sin, is invalid.

    Now if you can find another place in scripture where women in general (including all godly women) are barred from teaching the bible to men, then we can consider it as an established “law”. Until then it doesn’t pass as God’s law since it does not have the required two or three witnesses.

    I have also encouraged people to prove me wrong on this matter. Find even one universal sin that is only mentioned once in scripture and which does not have a second or third witness. I have never seen such a law. Every law has been properly established and has been properly documented by more than one scripture thus more than one witness.

    This certainly is a very important principle since aberrant doctrine and cults themselves base their doctrine on one scripture taken out of its context. There is no second and third witness to false doctrine nor is there a second witness to a false charge of sin. The scriptures are clear – a second or third witness is for our safety.

  11. Cheryl,
    I enjoyed your last post. For me that is where the frustration lies in that people will not come out and tell me they think it is a sin for women to teach men – they just say I don’t believe women should teach men leaving me with this empty feeling of why? It seems they are afraid to say the word sin for fear it will start an all out war. I have openly asked one pastor if he thought it were a sin and he would not answer me. Why would that be other than to be afraid of starting a war, i.e. division in the body. What he doesn’t realize is that people are not stupid, they figure it out sooner or later. It seems to me that the Lord and Paul always done things openly and not secretly. Why do you think these things are done secretly rather than openly? Rather than dealing with the issue it is done covertly. As with any issue it will surface eventually and what will the fall out be?

  12. Val,
    I don’t know why it is a “secret” to so many that they believe it to be a sin for a woman to teach the bible to men. One of my friends was extremely prejudiced against women believing that women are sinning against God when they teach the bible to men, but he kept it hidden from me. I could not figure out, though, why he was treating me so badly. I experienced the brunt of his anger many times and it didn’t make any sense to me. It wasn’t until I came to understand how strong some complementarians are and I pushed him to admit that I am not sinning against God for teaching the bible to men and he refused to say that I wasn’t in sin, that I became fully aware of what his problem was. It is my belief that a person cannot fully respect or love their sister in Christ while at the same time believing that their sister is willfully sinning against a direct command of God’s. Finding this out freed me to move on from our friendship because a friendship like this is not healthy or respectful to the woman. I tried to save the friendship for a long time before I realized that it was hopeless. Unless one can change their view about this “sin” it appears to me that it is pretty much impossible to have true Christian fellowship. This makes me very sad but it also helps me to want to fight against these false beliefs because this error in belief is responsible for tearing apart brothers and sisters in Christ.

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