Women in the Church Part 3

Women in the Church Part 3 November 18, 2019

Women and the Kingdom of God
There is no question that Jesus brought the Kingdom of God (KOG).[1] Now, the KOG is in its essence the restoration, redemption, and reconciliation of all creation. Though the kingdom of God is a central focus of Jesus’ teaching, it is in the description of the New Jerusalem in final two chapters of the book of Revelation (21-22) that we find the climax of the kingdom. One of the keys to understanding the Kingdom of God is to note that the description of the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21-22 is in accord with the restoration of Eden.[2]We know that in Eden male and female were created to be equals: “Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Gen 1:26-27). The Genesis account unequivocally asserts that both male and female were equally made in the image of God.

Some suggest that the formation of Eve in Genesis 2 asserts that subjugation of women. This, however, is not a good reading of the text. When Genesis is read against the background of the Ancient Near East it is clear that women are not to be relegated to inferiority.

For one, the Genesis account is unique in the ancient world in that it describes the formation of women! Other Ancient Near Eastern accounts do not include women in the discussion.

It has been asserted that since according to Gen 2:18 women were made as a helper for men, they must be inferior to men. The text states, “The LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’”

The problem here is that the designation “helper” does not imply inferiority. In fact, “helper” is used most often to describe God’s (Yahweh’s) relationship to Israel.[3] But God is Israel’s helper because He is stronger. If anything, then, one might suggest that women are superior to men.

The context, of course, does not indicate this either. The point being, the Genesis account asserts that both male and female were made in the image of God. There is nothing in the context that suggests that women are inferior.[4]

If, then, the Kingdom of God is the restoration, redemption, and reconciliation of creation,  and, if in the original creation male and female were equals, then it stands to reason that in the new creation male and female are equals again.

In addition, if the new creation has begun, which 2 Corinthians 5:17 surely indicates (“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here”), then the church should be at the forefront of advocating for women in the present—both in society and in the church. To deny such is to deny that the new creation has already begun in the life of the people of God.

Some may respond that the NT has plenty of instances in which women are inferior to men. How can this be if the new creation has already begun and women were moving towards equality with men?

First, one must recognize the radical nature of the church and the role of women in it. As mentioned above, in accord with Peter’s citation of Joel, women were equally filled with the Spirit. They were also fulfilling roles as prophetesses and deaconnesses. And women were praying and prophesying in the church. All of this was revolutionary.

I believe that one can easily understand passages in which Paul and the NT writers were putting restrictions on the progress of women in the church as a temporary restraint in light of the cultural conflicts that arose.

Simply put, if the church were viewed as too progressive in regards to women, and they likely were in danger of doing so, then it may well have had a negative impact on their witness. As a result, Paul thought it best to reign things in a bit.

Thus, when women were to pray and prophesy in the church, Paul says that they should do so with their heads covered (1 Cor 11:3-16). Note that Paul did not forbid women from praying and prophesying in the church—something that many churches do today—but that he simply yielded to the cultural pressures in order to maintain peace with the culture.

​In other words, Paul decides to lay down this rule in order to not offend beyond what was necessary so that the gospel may proceed.

[1] Cf Mark 1:14-15. Jesus’ opening announcement in Mark is that the Kingdom of God is at hand!

[2] Note the presence of the tree of life (Rev 22:2).

[3] See for example: Exod 18:4; Deut 33:7, 26, 29; Ps 33:20; 115:9-11.

[4] See below for my response to the notion that Adam was superior simply because he was made first. Primogeniture (being first) does not necessitate superior.

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