Wednesday, January 13, 2016
Yes, a woman can do that! Part II
We're studying the roles of women in the Old Testament and in the New Testament this week, and last time we noted that the ministry of prophetesses was not one of publicly proclaiming the word of God, but one of prophesying in a private situation, instead. We also began to discuss the role of teachers and the difference between teaching and prophecy.
We noted that in the Old Testament, while there were prophetesses, the teaching was done by the men: rabbis and priests. We'll look at the New Testament now, and it looks like prophecy is treated a little differently, and we also have some roles for women as teachers.
When the prophet Zephaniah, or Jeremiah, or Huldah spoke the word of God, it was unquestionably received as God's word. The listeners didn't test it or prove it or dissect it into tiny pieces; they just submitted to it. But when prophecy is spoken of in the New Testament, the apostles encourage us to test and prove the prophecy. Let's look at some verses:
Do not treat prophecies with contempt, but test them all, hold on
to what is good. (I Thessalonians 5:20-21)
Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh
carefully what is said. (I Corinthians 14:29)
It appears that there is an element of judgement, of thoughtful criticism in New Testament prophecy. There was encouragement to have thorough consideration of the prophecies; others should carefully ponder what they heard and keep what was "good." Instead of tacit acceptance, as in the Old Testament, there was to be careful testing of prophecy in the New Testament. And we've seen yesterday that in I Corinthians 11, women who prophesied were encouraged to do it such a way that recognized the leadership and authority of the men who led the church.
Now let's look at some other verses . . . in the Old Testament, the men were the teachers -- is it different in the New Testament?
So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of
you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourself with Christ.
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there
male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:26-28)
This is a verse that many read and re-read -- women are equal of men in Christ under grace. Yep, that's true. There is no more distinction of bond servant or free, Jew or Gentile, male or female. In grace we are all equal -- as sinners saved by grace. And we are all given spiritual gifts in Christ, given to us by the Holy Spirit. Here is where the rubber meets the road again: that doesn't necessarily mean that male and female are to exercise these gifts in the same roles or in the same manner.
See what I meant earlier this week? I'm treading carefully here, because I know that for some, this is a touchy subject. Again -- I'm explaining what I believe, and this is based only on where the Spirit has led me.
Let's look at Titus chapter 2; we are going to see that yes, women can have the gift of teaching.
Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live,
not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good.
Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and
children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind,
and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word
of God. (Titus 2:3-5)
I believe that the women are to teach -- they may be gifted teachers -- but they are to teach other women. I base this on the verses in Titus, and also the ones in I Timothy: "Let the woman (some translations use "wife" here) 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."
I got excited when I studied this. You know why? I think people have given Paul a bad rap here. He is not saying that the women are not smart. He isn't casting aspersions on their spiritual maturity. He is simply asking them to refrain from teaching in a mixed gathering of males and females. He says to them, don't teach in the assembly -- because it looks like you are usurping the leadership and teaching role of the men.
Does that make sense to you, too?
Here is another reason why I think many women have been too quick to give ole Paul a bad rap: he spoke of many women as "fellow workers" with him in spreading the gospel. He called some "fellow laborers" and did not make any distinction about them being inferior in standing, in spiritual maturity, nor due any less consideration and respect. We know this from passages in several of his letters. But we also know that he explained guidelines for the local assemblies that made it clear -- the roles of pastors, teachers and elders were open to men, not to women.
Now, even with that being said, I am not advocating nor defending the position some men have taken, and that is that women's talents and spiritual gifts are not as important or as respected as men's gifts and talents. Some have tried to squelch the use of women's gifts in ministries. Not a good idea! We will conclude our study tomorrow; hope you will join us again.