Women and the Church part 1

Women and the Church part 1 November 11, 2019


​Women around the world suffer significant oppression. They are, simply because of their gender, routinely deprived of education[1] and other opportunities afforded to men. In some countries, women are forced into unwanted marriages.[2]

According to the World Health Organization 35% of women worldwide have experienced either intimate partner violence or non partner sexual violence in their lifetime.[3] One out of every three women have been a victim of some form of physical violence by an intimate partner.[4]

And it is not just out there. In the United States, one out of every six women will be the victim of an attempted or completed rape.[5]

When all factors are equal, such as experience and education, women working the same jobs as men are paid significantly less than their male counterparts. Gender discrimination goes well beyond pay: it includes a lack of respect. Women often feel less important. They are passed over for promotions or important assignments, and even turned down for a job simply because of their gender.

​In addition, women are more often harassed than men: 70% of women believe online harassment is a major problem; and that it is often overlooked or dismissed.

If we are appalled at the practice of slavery, then we should be far more appalled at the global treatment of women today. There are as many as ten times more women trafficked in sex slavery today than there we slaves brought to the new world.

Though there are more women in the western and European world today, and though they tend to live longer lives, demographers have estimated that there are between 60 and 100 million missing women from societies due to infanticide of female babies. In many countries girls are aborted far more frequently than boys.

For evangelicals who are so radically concerned with the abortion issue, why are we not speaking up! This is not what God intended! It is time for the church to stand up and cry out at the injustices brought upon our wives, our daughters, our mothers, and our sisters.

Women in the church
Women have played a prominent role in the church for centuries. Historically women have been the majority members of the church. The large female membership likely stemmed in part from the early church’s informal and flexible organization offering significant roles to women.

When we look at the New Testament we learn that women held prominent roles in the early church: including, the evangelist Priscilla,[6] the deaconness Phoebe,[7] and Philip’s daughters that prophesied.[8] Luke portrays Mary in the posture of a disciple when he notes that she was sitting at the feet of Jesus.[9] Women were prominent in the resurrection accounts of all four gospels. The letter to the Corinthians indicates that women were praying and prophesying in church.[10]

It appears that the hallmark of the new covenant is that men and women will equally receive the Spirit. Thus, Peter’s citation of Joel: “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy” (Acts 2:17-18).

When we read of women taking on such prominent roles, we must recognize that this was radically counter-cultural. The church was blazing a trail that had not been much trodden.

When we look at the church today, however, women are often consigned to a second-place status: a second-place that is often a significant distance from first. Why, then, if the NT consistently elevates the role of women, do most churches relegate them to an inferior status?

In this series of posts, I will contend that women play a significant role in the NT because in the new covenant God is restoring His creation which includes the equality of gender and race. Hence, Gal 3:28 “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

[1] Two out of three of the world’s illiterates are women. See: https://www.savethechildren.org/us/what-we-do/global-programs/education/girls-education.

[2] One third of the world’s girls are married before they are 18. One of every nine women are married before they turn 15. See: https://www.icrw.org/child-marriage-facts-and-figures/.

[3] See: https://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/violence-against-women.

[4] See: https://ncadv.org/learn-more/statistics.

[5] See: https://www.rainn.org/statistics/victims-sexual-violence.

[6] Cf Acts 18. Note in 18:18, 26, Rom 16:13, and 2 Tim 4:19 her name precedes that of her husband suggesting strongly that she has a more prominent role. 1 Cor 16:19 is an exception where Aquila appears first, but this only makes one wonder more why Priscilla (or Prisca) is listed first in every other occasion.

[7] Rom 16:1 appears to call Phoebe a deaconess. Though most translations use ‘servant’ here. The calling out of Phoebe itself suggests someone of note. Grammatical considerations also lend towards her being a deacon. Some contend that the masculine “deacon” is used and not the feminine “deaconness” but it does not appear that the feminine “deaconness” had to come into use yet.

[8] Acts 21:18-19: they are called prophetesses. One must remember that a prophet in the NT is more than one who receives oracles from the Lord. But they are often associated with teaching and exhorting. Cp Paul’s contrast of those who speak in tongues vs those who prophesy in Acts 14.

[9] Luke 10:39.

[10] 1 Cor 11:5.

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