So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27 ESV)
When God created humans, he made them in the likeness of God. (Genesis 5:1 GW)
God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. (Genesis 1:31 NIV)
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DOES GOD PROMOTE THE ORDINATION OF FEMALE CLERGY?
This question, and questions similar to it, are taking center stage in Christendom as men and women of faith search their Bibles for answers — and disagree about what they find.
For every person’s reference to 1 Timothy 2:12 NIV (“I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.”) comes someone’s reference to Galatians 3:28 NIV (“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”)
Not only are the verses used to square off against one another, but the two sides to the question disagree about what the apostle Paul, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, meant when he wrote them. In other words, does one side or the other misread Paul’s words?
Against the backdrop of church doctrine is the secular world’s various opinions about the role and status of women generally, not just in Western countries influenced by Christianity but also in non-Western countries, where Christianity’s reach often is tenuous to non-existent.
WITHIN THE BODY OF CHRIST ARE WRITINGS from men and women of strong faith and conviction who see the issue from radically different perspectives — and this difference contributes to disunity within the church.
Is that disunity a healthy sign of vibrant thinking, top-notch scholarship, and faithful prayer, or is it the troubling signs of satanic meddling intended to scramble the energies of clergy and lay leaders, alike?
Major church voices — like John Piper, Tim Keller, and Wayne Grudem — argue quite strongly and persuasively that God has laid down a “complementarian” position, where men and woman are equal in their Creator’s eye in spiritual significance but whose assigned tasks in life differ according to the strengths and weaknesses He designed into them.
Other leaders — Bill Hybels and Charles F. Stanley, for example — take a different approach, while not driven by secular culture still more acceptable to it, known as “egalitarian.” This view strips away gender-related differences as nonessential, leaving bare the person’s individual skills, interests, experiences, and dreams as the driving force in church and family role.
BECAUSE THE CHURCH EXISTS IN THE WORLD, what happens in the world around the church affects its theology. That does not mean “changes” its theology, so that church doctrine bends toward the worldly view. It means that it “impacts” the thinking, the questions asked, the answers given, the prayers raised, the interpretations advanced, the factions created.
Paul urges us in his letter to the Roman church “not [to] be conformed to this world, but [to] be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2 BSB)
So, it is clear from Paul that the world’s clamor for doctrinal clarity is not the standard by which the church should be led. Instead, the church — both the institutional organizations and the body of believers as individuals — should be directed by God’s pronouncements.
So, what does God say about the matter?
TWO POINTS SEEM TO BE VERY CLEAR in God’s calculus.
One is His clear assignment of leadership and headship responsibilities to Adam, not to Eve. Also clear is His presentation of Eve to Adam as his helper, not the other way around (Genesis 2:20b-22).
The second is His statement that, as a result of Eve’s deception, her desire would be to rule her husband, but he was to have a fiduciary or protective role over her (Genesis 3:16).
Also clear, because of Adam’s disobedience, God decreed that Adam’s toil would be made more difficult (Genesis 3:17-19).
The difference in makeup and role carries starts with the family and carries over to the church.
The marital relationship involving men and women was established by God in Genesis 2:24 NIV (“For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh”).
The relationship is explained in detail in Ephesians 5, where Paul tells women they are to “respect” their husbands and men are to “love” their wives. The duties of “loving” and “respecting” set up dual roles — which are complementary but not identical.
A man is supposed to use his physical strength, deeper voice, tougher body, and aggressive hormones to shield his wife from harm, even to the point of laying down his life for her, if required. Of course, the directive to lay down his life can be analogized easily into self-sacrificial love for his wife, so that he cares for her, ensuring her well-being.
The directive for women to respect their husbands is to recognize the man’s responsibility to care, protect, and provide for his wife and children. The wife is to acknowledge her husband’s servanthood and the sacrifices he makes, the risks he takes, and the responsibilities he shoulders to keep them housed, fed, educated, insured, and safe.
God’s design keeps men and women in a mutually reinforcing partnership that mimics both the Trinity (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) as well as God’s relationship with us (Christ and the Church).
Paul called this relationship a “profound mystery.” (Ephesians 5:32a NIV)
WHY, THEN, IS THERE SO MUCH TURMOIL over the question?
There is no doubt but what our sin-stained lenses distort our vision of God’s creation. When the Almighty says through Paul that “Christ is the head of every man,” and “man is the head of a woman” (1 Corinthians 11:3 NASB), this either sounds, on one hand, as comforting as warm bath water or, on the other hand, as grating as fingernails on a chalkboard.
The alignment established by God is completed when the woman submits to her husband, who in turn submits to Jesus Christ, who in turn submits to God the Father (1 Corinthians 11:3b NASB).
No doubt that men and women have sinned their way way from the “love” and “respect” cycle, so that men use their advantages of strength and dominance to disrespect and badger women while women use their advantages of cunning and wile to milk a man of his assets for their own selfish needs.
No wonder few of us can come to the doctrinal table without stained hands and distrustful hearts. After all, who can trust the other sex when the conflicts of our sin-infused world have led us away from the model God created and taught us.
THE ISSUE OF FEMALE PASTORS and church leaders has been hijacked by those who look not to the Bible for instruction but to their own reasoning. It was never intended to be about superiority and inferiority or higher ranking and lower ranking.
The complementarianism of God’s creation was designed to enhance mutuality, where the various strengths our Creator gave to men and women were intended to compensate for their corresponding weaknesses — a man’s strengths compensate for the woman’s weaknesses — and the woman’s strengths compensate for the man’s weaknesses.
God created us in His image, so that every strong, noble, and courageous trait that Adam and his progeny possess came from God — just as from God came every graceful, elegant, beautiful, nurturing, and tenacious trait that Eve and her progeny posses.
WHILE THIS MEDITATION believes the “complementarian” position is aligned better with Scripture, and the “egalitarian” position is a misreading of Scripture, our LORD grieves when doctrinal disputes interfere with church unity.
Perhaps believers were never supposed to have all of the answers to life’s questions, for Moses tells us in Deuteronomy 29:29 ESV: “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”
Jesus reenforced this by saying God’s gift of salvation is based on our faith, not our reason: “At that time Jesus prayed this prayer: “O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding these things from those who think themselves wise and clever, and for revealing them to the childlike.” (Matthew 11:25 NLT)
Instead of human pride leading to church spin-offs and hurtful accusations, this could be a moment when humility would lead all believers to join in prayer for God’s direction.
“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18 NIV)
What is it that is unseen?
“Now faith is the assurance of what we hope for and the certainty of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1 BSB)
God’s grace. Our faith.
PRAYER: O LORD, we pray that You will open our eyes to the Truth of Your Word. Humble our hearts so that we turn to You for direction, not to rely on our own ways, thoughts, and desires. Lead us to see the wisdom of Your creation and to follow and obey You, honoring how You made us. We pray in the name of Jesus. Amen
- When answering life’s deepest questions, do you search the Scriptures as the Bereans did (Acts 17:11) for God’s answers, or do you rely on your own understanding and reason?
- How do you handle Scriptural teaching that may conflict with your thoughts? Do you ask God to explain His Word or do you substitute your reason for what you read?
- How do you help other people, some who are struggling believers and some who are skeptics and deniers, understand God’s eternal truth?
2 thoughts on “Reaffirming God’s Perfect Design for Men & Women”
Food for thought… Thanks.
Thanks for your comment! In my faith walk, I ask God to explain to me those things I do not understand … in His time, in His way. Meanwhile, I stay in faith that He will lead me.