By Gboye Omotaye
The present discrimination in the Church against the ministries of womenfolk is largely premised upon the words of the apostle Paul in his epistles to the church at Corinth and to Timothy while in the Church at Ephesus. The words of apostle Peter in his epistle are additionally credited for this ‘ban’ on the ministry of womenfolk.
Much has been said about what the apostles meant in these passages of scripture and what they did not mean. What intrigues me however is the manner in which people drift away (deliberately or unconsciously) from the fact that the texts under reference are part of the entire word of God which we all know was written under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost.
If we approach the subject of women in ministry holistically from the point of view of what God has said and demonstrated in His word through the Holy Spirit, rather than ‘what the apostle Paul or apostle Peter said’ in these texts, maybe, just maybe the author of God’s word (the Holy Spirit) would be able to enlighten us on the very mind of God concerning this issue.
WILL GOD USE A WOMAN?
This is a direct question which not quite a few would answer in the affirmative but would give a qualified answer. However, our yes must be yes and our no remain no. Without qualification, we know from God’s word that the answer is yes. God has used women, is still using and will continue to use women till Jesus comes back for His Church and this can in no way contradict what the apostles Paul or Peter said anywhere.
In considering this issue of women in ministry, let’s take the cue from key text on the ministry gifts in the New Testament, the very place where it began to be explained in detail. In Ephesians 4:11, it says when He ascended on high, He led captivity captive and gave gifts unto men. It thereafter went on to list these ministry gifts in the eleventh verse.
Firstly, we must understand that these gifts (the callings with the accompanying divine enablement to prosecute them) are referred to as gifts because they are notworked for or earned.
They are not hereditary like part of the kingship and priesthood in the Old Testament, they are not given to some because God is happier with them more than others.
The gift has nothing to do with the person or background of the called viz-a-viz where they are from, what they are naturally gifted to do etc.
The gift is a supernatural endowment (or ability, if you will) and given by God according to His predestination and purpose without any human or circumstantial consideration.
It is only God that decides and calls in His sovereignty, just like only He decides the day and time of Christ’s coming. This is how sacrosanct the call to ministry is.
The gift is given by God Who calls through Christ, no call, no gift (supernatural ability). And very importantly, the gift is given because of or for the benefit of the Church not the individual who is called.
Without the Church, the gift would not be necessary or be given.
WHO DID/DOES JESUS GIVE THE GIFTS TO? MEN OR WOMEN?
Now, we know from the Greek language with which the New Testament was originally written that the same Greek word translated ‘wife’ is also translated ‘woman’. The English word into which it is translated is therefore based on the context within which it was used and it is usually easy and clear. The same goes for the Greek word translated to both ‘man’ and ‘husband’.
In this text that talks about Jesus giving ministry gifts in Ephesians 4:11 however, the Greek word translated ‘men’ is not the word used in reference to ‘men’ or ‘husbands’. It is the one used when reference is being made to ‘mankind’ or ‘human beings’, referring to both men and women. This thus forecloses any ambiguity on whether Jesus calls men only or/and women to the ministry.
In calling and giving the gifts, gender is not a restricting factor. This agrees with what we see in the bible (both Old and New Testaments) concerning those who God used in doing His work.
Without doubt though, there has been a preponderance of God using men in the bible and in the history of the Church, but God’s gifts and callings have never been and will never be gender restrictive.
The ministry gifts that Jesus gave and is still giving are to both men and women.
Despite the fact that for whatever reasons many have tried to re-arrange what Christ instituted, His institution has not failed to play out as He planned it (to the extent allowed by the Church), with a few female folks who knew better than to disobey God, bracing obedience against all odds and dogma to stand and operate in the offices of their calls. And what a blessing these women have been to the Church!
How great would it have been if church folks would further embrace these doings of the Lord and support these ministries, how much of a blessing would these gifts be to the body of Christ as a whole! Rather than embrace and encourage what Christ gave, we had somewhat managed to stigmatize and drag down these Christ given gifts and to whose loss? To the loss of the entire body of Christ of course and to the satisfaction of the kingdom of darkness.
I was at a discussion once and someone said most women who were called to the ministry and obeyed the call had not always ended up well.
I could only wonder within myself why they would largely end up well when the entire efforts of menfolk and even some women in Church from the get go has been to pull down these wonderful gifts Christ blessed His body with!
If folks devoted that much time and effort to pulling down menfolk in ministry too, the same would be happening or probably worse, because without the pulling down there are still many men that did not end well also.
What am I saying here? Christ is the Head of His Church, He administers the Church as He desires in line with God’s pre-determinate counsel. Christ calls into Ministry and He calls who He wills, male and female alike. If Christ has not called, then you cannot stand in any of these offices to minister, whether you are a man or a woman. The earlier we embrace this, the better it is so that we benefit from the fullness of His plans to build His Church.
ONLY GOD THROUGH CHRIST CALLS TO THE MINISTRY
Of great importance is the knowledge of the fact that God is the one that calls to His work. It is not an appointment made by man or any institution, it is a call that is placed upon the called before he/she comes out from his/her mother’s womb (like in the case of Jeremiah –Jeremiah 1:5).
Take Elisha as another example, he had been called by God Who at the fullness of time instructed Elijah to commission him to continue the work Elijah was quitting. (1 Kings 19:15-16). Two other people were to be commissioned by Elijah and the instruction was given in the same breath. It was a function of pre-destination.
We see the same thing confirmed in the life of the apostle Paul also when Ananias was asked to go and pray for him to receive his sight and be baptized with the Holy Spirit.
A key part of the message given to Ananias was that Paul was a ‘chosen vessel by God’ (Acts 9:15). His salvation opened up the possibility of Him fulfilling the call but the call had been there all along. He could not have fulfilled the call without first being born again and this holds true then and still does now.
The prayer of the saints and the laying on of hands by the Church many years later was to commit Paul to another phase of that call (which he started to fulfill the moment he was filled with the Holy Spirit) that God had placed upon His life while He was in his mother’s womb. That is why it says there that separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them (Acts 13:2).
Apostle Paul had been preaching and teaching before this time with God’s power confirming His word which he preached/taught, so it couldn’t be that it was at this time that he was called.
It was not the presbytery or the church that called them, God had called them before this time, He just confirmed it to the Church on that day and asked the church to give them the right hand of fellowship in that regard, as they moved into another phase of that call.
This is the fact behind what is today called ordination, dedication to ministry etc. Whether or not we still follow God in the process is a different question entirely but suffice to say that if God has not called, the gift is not there and the work cannot be done because then, God is not the one doing it. It would not matter who laid hands or what brand of oil was poured, who poured the oil or who prayed or where.
God caused His anointing (not Elijah’s anointing, because Elijah had nothing to do with it) to come on Elisha because He (God) had called Elisha. God told Elijah specifically to anoint Elisha to take his place, the same way He told Moses to lay hands on Joshua.
If God had told Elijah to anoint someone other than Elisha, and Elijah went ahead and not only gave his mantle but all his clothes to Elisha, it would have amounted to nothing. Folks, God calls and God anoints and it is not subject to man’s discretion.
When Samuel was sent to anoint one of the sons of Jesse to be king, had he called the whole assembly and bathed some other son of Jesse in 100 barrels of oil, the hand of God (anointing) would not have rested on that person to lead God’s people even if the people loved that person and cooperated with him.
God’s anointing comes upon who He calls, it has been like this since the Old Testament through the New and will continue to be till Christ returns.
Now, we must understand the difference between what happened regarding Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13) and what happened when deacons were appointed in Acts 6.
The deacons were chosen by the saints as directed by the apostles and the key criteria were faithfulness, dedication and commitment to God’s work in the Church.
They were to coordinate the work of serving tables (overseeing the servicing of people’s physical and organizational needs as well as administrative needs in the Church).
It took men that were dedicated to be chosen to do the work of serving tables in the Church, underscoring how important ANY work is in the body of Christ.
Even those that served tables and organized had to be committed, dedicated, serious Christians. This was done so the apostles could give themselves continually to the call, the five-fold ministry, prayers and the ministry of the word (Acts 6:4).
Men may chose based on certain criteria those who serve in administering physical and organizational needs in the Church as circumstances dictate but God chooses and calls into the five-fold ministry.
Though some that are called start from these services (like Stephen and Phillip), the two are not to be mixed up.
As expected of those chosen by men as necessary for this purpose, much more anyone called to the ministry by God must be committed, dedicated, and serious to succeed. These are the fundamentals of stewardship, faithfulness is non-negotiable.
WHAT APOSTLES PAUL AND PETER SAID
In 1 Corinthians 14:34, it says Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law.
It would have been easy to run away with this and say women are not permitted to speak in Churches but for the fact that in 1 Corinthians the eleventh chapter, the apostle Paul already wrote about women praying and prophesying in Church. This fact cannot be discounted by all the rhetoric of ‘speak’ does not mean ‘teach’, ‘pray’ and/or ‘prophesy’ are not the same as ‘speak’ which does not mean ‘teach’ and so forth.
Also, we know that obedience and subjection of woman to man have to do exclusively with husbands and their own wives, not men and other people’s wives or any other woman, after all, how many ‘heads’ can a woman have?
Is it not clear when apostle Paul said the head of the woman is the man, that he was referring to the husband and the wife? Even at this, has it ever occurred to us that every person will stand before the judgment seat of Christ to give account? A wife will not give account through her husband on that day and she will be judged based on what Christ told her to do not what the husband told her.
The husband’s ‘headship’ is first domestically in marriage and secondly spiritually, to the extent that he is in line with the word of God, else what will be the fate of the woman with an unsaved husband? Would she follow the husband that refuses to be saved to hell because He is her ‘head’? Would a matured believer backslide to accommodate the immaturity of the husband who may be a baby Christian simply because the husband is her head?
The wife is to submit to her husband domestically and spiritually to the extent that it does not contravene God’s word, and this includes but is not limited to not disrespecting the husband in Church, pubic or at home.
Meanwhile, regarding the five-fold ministry, the person more spiritually mature is not the first consideration but whether or not God has called in the first instance.
1 Timothy 2:11-12 says Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.
It would have been easy to run off with this also and say a woman must not teach in Church except that the husband and wife are being referred to here and the issue is the wife not usurping authority over the husband, nothing else.
Yes Adam was first created and then Eve but have we noticed that Eve was a help meet for Adam and that every other woman in Adam’s lifetime were not ‘a help meet’ for him? If it has to do with Adam and Eve therefore (in context), then it is about a husband and his wife.
In that domestic arrangement, the husband is the head and this should also be respected in the church as far as that man and that woman are concerned so that there is order in that God ordained institution of marriage.
The issue of a wife being veiled in Church while praying or prophesying in the Church at Corinth was so that the honor of the wife for her husband be shown, otherwise it would have been for the wife to honor all men in the gathering if indeed every man is the head of all women.
It is noteworthy that the epistle written to Timothy (1 Timothy quoted above) was written to him as the Pastor of the Church at Ephesus, the Church apostle Paul also wrote the Ephesian epistle to, in which he wrote about the ministry gifts (in Chapter 4).
In the fifth Chapter of this epistle, the apostle Paul admonished that the saints submit themselves one to another (vs 21). He said this so there would be order and unity in the Church.
Gender notwithstanding, we are to submit to each other in love and we are compelled to do this in the Church not because of the other person but because we fear God.
It was in this same breath that he wrote for wives to submit to their own husbands. It is the same word ‘submit’ used in both cases and the reason why it was said separately to husbands and wives is because the married couple have a unique relationship and responsibility towards each other which requires that someone have pre-eminence and the other concede. Why? So that there would not be chaos, the same way there will be no chaos in the church only if we submit to one another in the fear of God.
If two folks disagree in the Church, they can easily stay separate with their opinions without getting in each other’s ways. Even if one fails to submit, the other submitting and stepping down/aside in love will quench the fire of dissent.
Demand is laid on us all to do this and it is easy when those involved do not live together and compelled to make decisions jointly as in the case of the husband and the wife. This is one of the reasons why in the latter, one must take pre-eminence and the other follow otherwise there is bound to be chaos. This same position was expressed by apostle Peter in his epistle (1 Peter 3).
God’s calling to the five-fold ministry is not gender based and to believe and promote the possibility of any of the genders being restricted from functioning in any of the offices would be tantamount to quenching the Spirit in that area.
If God has said that His kingdom under the New Testament is not delineated along the lines of gender, race or social status (Galatians 3:26-28), He meant just that.
This does not take away however from the order which He has put in place regarding a man and his wife as also made clear in His word.
A woman who is called of God should operate in the office of her call to the extent that she is not usurping authority over her husband. It is an expectation, the same way it is expected that a man called to the ministry should not be irresponsible at home (1 Timothy 3:4).
As we have seen, Jesus gave these ministry gifts (to men and women) in the Church, how then would apostle Paul by the same Spirit of Christ say women are not to function in these capacities according to the gift Jesus gives them? Or did apostle Paul say so?
Let us settle it in our minds that these two texts in 1 Corinthians 14 and 1 Timothy 2 cannot be viewed in isolation from the other things that were inspired by the Holy Spirit in the bible, particularly on the subject, most of which were penned by the apostle Paul himself.
Besides, what do we then make of Deborah the wife of Lapidoth (the leader, judge and prophetess) and many others like her, called, anointed and used by God in the Old Testament? How about Anna the daughter of Phanuel (the prophetess) that prophesied at The Lord Jesus’ dedication at the temple, Phoebe, Junia (who was notable among the apostles), Phillip’s four daughters and Priscilla, among many others in the New Testament?
Over and above all these, one question we should all attempt to answer in all honesty is this, if you saw ‘the called’ sitting under a tree in your neighborhood with a red baseball cap on and preaching, would you know to listen and receive what God has for you through them? If you would know, then you should really be less concerned about whether they are male or female. There is no male or female anointing.
Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all (1 Timothy 4:15).
Pastor Gboye Omolayo is the Resident Pastor of Church@Allen, Allen TX, USA. He is a prolific writer and preacher who believes the efficacy of the word of God and the potency of the works of the Holy Spirit are still available to the Church today, as were at the Church’s infancy.