APPENDIX: BIBLICAL PERSPECTIVES ON MEN AND WOMEN IN MINISTRY
© Rosemary Bardsley 2005, 2015
THE SHARED RESPONSIBILITY OF SERVING GOD
Christians are people who have been set apart for the service of God. We find this in:
1Peter 2:9: ‘But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light’.
Hebrews 9:14: ‘How much more then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!’
Revelation 1:6 ‘and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father’
Revelation 5:10: ‘you have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God.’
Here all believers, both men and women, are designated ‘priests’ – a role filled only by men in the Scripture – by the action of God and with the purpose of serving him. There is no distinction made between men and women. All are saved to serve as ‘priests’.
In the New Testament God’s servants are described as people who:
Praise God [Revelation 19:5]
Suffer or die because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus [Revelation 1:9; 6:9-11; 7:14,15;19:2]
Worship God [where ‘worship’ in the NIV parallels ‘serve’ in KJV – Hebrews 12:28]
Wholeheartedly do the will of God [Ephesians 6:6]
Present their bodies to God as a living sacrifice [Romans 12:1]
Obey God [Romans 6:16]
Show people the way of salvation [Acts 16:17]
Speak the word of God [Acts 4:29]
Proclaim the word of God – ‘prophesy’ [Acts 2:18 – with both men and women specified]
Follow Christ [John 12:26]
Are entrusted with gifts which they are responsible to use for the Master [Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 19:11-27]
Are to be always prepared and ready [Mark 13:32-36; Luke 12:35-40]
Serve God without fear [Luke 1:74]
It would be very difficult to enforce any distinction between men and women in this servant role, particularly when it is in a reference verbally speaking the word of God that women are specifically mentioned.
THE SHARED RESPONSIBILITY OF GLORIFYING GOD
Just as both men and women are saved by God to serve him as priests so both men and women are saved by God to glorify him. This is obvious from Ephesians 1:6,12,14 and 1 Peter 2:9.
In what contexts or actions do Christians fulfil this salvation purpose [which is also our purpose in Genesis 1] of glorifying God?
By their good works in the presence of people [Matthew 5:16; 1 Pet 2:12]
In the content and purpose of their praying [Matthew 6:13]
By the verbal acknowledgement of the true identity of Christ [Matthew 21:15-16]
By verbally giving him glory when he did miraculous deeds [many references, including refs to women]
In joyful verbal praise [Luke 19:37-38]
By acknowledging Christ’s character [Luke 23:47]
By ‘bearing much fruit’ [John 15:8]
By dying for Christ [John 21:19]
By acknowledging the work of God [Acts 11:18; 221:20]
By our faith [Romans 4:20]
By unity and mutual acceptance in the church [Romans 15:5-7]
By taking God’s truth to those who don’t believe [Romans 15:8-9]
By acknowledging that all that we are and have is Christ [1Corinthians 1:31]
By what we do with our bodies [1Corinthians 6:20]
By our godly choices and actions [1Corinthians 10:31]
By spreading the gospel of grace [2Corinthians 4:15; 8:19]
By faithful Christian service [2Corinthians 8:22-23]
By generosity towards other believers [2Corinthians 9:12]
Because of and by means of salvation [Ephesians 1:6,12,14]
In the confession of Jesus Christ as Lord [Philippians 2:11]
By God’s gracious working in his people [2Thessalonians 1:11-12]
By serving with the strength God supplies [1Peter 4:11]
Through the way his people endure suffering [1Peter 4:12-16]
This Christian responsibility of glorifying God is both active and verbal, with no distinction made between men and women. Both are expected to glorify God with their actions and by affirming the truth about Jesus Christ.
THE PERSPECTIVE OF THE TRANSCENDENT GRACE OF GOD
In this in-between ‘not-yet-in-heaven’ era in which we live, sadness and suffering is inevitable. Perfection in anything, including man/woman roles, is impossible, because we ourselves are not yet perfect. It is part of this ‘not-yet’ factor that we each sin, and that we each by our sin cause others to sin and to suffer. Men do not lead as they ought. They either lead wrongly, or do not lead at all. Women do not submit as they ought. They either refuse to submit, or they submit wrongly.
God knows this. He doesn’t excuse or validate it, but he does know it. And he knows with understanding: in Jesus Christ he experienced our suffering and our temptations to the max [Hebrews 2:14-18; 4:14-16].
When we fail, and when we find ourselves in difficulties regarding men’s and women’s roles, where every option seems to have some element of sin or to be short of God’s ideal of leadership and submission, we who trust in Christ can, without excusing or denying our sin and our imperfections, have absolute confidence that God’s grace transcends our sin, and that our fragility and vulnerability in the presence of sin and suffering does not exile us from his kingdom or from his presence.
In the context of man/woman roles in the church we need to think deeply about God’s grace, and to allow his transcendent grace to wash over us setting us free from the guilt, shame and fear that threatens our peace with him.
Romans 5:2 - ‘this grace in which we now stand’
Romans 5:17 - ‘how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace …’
Romans 5:20 - ‘where sin increased, grace increased all the more’ [This means that there is no sin bigger than grace, nor are there ever too many sins for grace to cover.]
Romans 5:21 - ‘so that grace might reign’ [Grace is in charge in Christ’s kingdom, not law or condemnation.]
Romans 6:14 - ‘you are not under law, but under grace’
Ephesians 1:7-8 - ‘we have … the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.’
Ephesians 2:7 - ‘the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus’
1Timothy 1:14 - ‘The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly’
We need also to believe and rejoice in this text.
‘I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense, Jesus Christ, the righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins …’ 1 John 2:1-2.