Women Speaking Out in the Church

“… I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being quite deceived, fell into transgression. But women shall be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self restraint.” (1 Tim. 2:12-15) “Let the women keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but let them subject themselves, just as the law also says. And if they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper [a shame] for a woman to speak in church.” (1 Cor. 14:34-35)

“Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips, nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, that the Word of God may not be hindered.” (Titus 2:3-5) “… every woman who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying, disgraces her head…” (1 Cor. 11:5) “Now this man had four virgin daughters who were prophetesses.” (Acts 21:9) “And there was a prophetess, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, …she never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers. And at that very moment she came up and began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak of Him [Jesus] to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.” (Luke 2:36-38) “And it shall be in the last days, God says, that I will pour forth of My Spirit upon all mankind; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even upon My bondslaves, both men and women, I will in those days pour forth of My Spirit, and they shall prophesy.” (Acts 2:17-18, from Joel 2:28-29) See also Exodus 15:20, Judges 4:4, and 2 Kings 22:14-15 for examples of Old Testament prophetesses.

It would seem that we have a bit of a conflict. On the one hand, women are basically told to shut up and sit down; on the other hand to teach and prophesy. Can this be resolved in the Kingdom?

Believing as I do that the Word of God is inerrant and inspired by the one true God who cannot lie or make the slightest mistake, I know it can be resolved; please hear my proposed resolution and see if the Lord will confirm any of it to your heart. Other people try to resolve it in other ways, and I know that there is some speculation here, but this is the only way I’ve heard that seems to fit all the Scriptures.

God created Adam in His own image, and called all of His creation “very good.” (Gen. 1:26, 31) God put Adam in the Garden of Eden, commanded him to cultivate it, and gave him one negative command: to not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (2:15-17) Some time later God said, “It’s not good for man to be alone; I will make a helper suitable for him.” (vs. 18) Adam then named all the creatures, but did not find a suitable helper, so God put him to sleep and took out one of his “ribs,” from which He fashioned a woman to be his wife. (vs. 18-25) Huh. So familiar we just slip right past several elements crucial to our discussion.

First, note that God (1:26) is plural. “Let us make man in our image…” Yet we know from other Scriptures that He is one God, indeed the essence of oneness. “Hear O Israel! Jehovah is our God, Jehovah is One!” (Deut. 6:4) We can explain that (I believe correctly) by saying that God is so vast in His many-splendored, many-faceted nature, that it takes at least three “persons” to comprehend Him: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, yet these three are perfectly, in their very essence, one God. Three in one; the Trinity. This is consistent throughout Scripture, and is not disputed by Christians. But it is this Trinity who creates man in His (Their) own image! Some explain this by saying that we too are trinity: body, soul, and spirit. I do not argue that; we are. But that explanation doesn’t totally satisfy me.

What about the woman? Is she less fully in the image of God, since she came from man later, after man was created in God’s image? Is that why Paul tells young Timothy that the woman should keep quiet in church?

Why then does Peter tell us to love our wives “in an understanding way, as with a weaker vessel, since she is a woman, and grant her honor as a fellow-heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.” ? (1 Pet. 3:7)

 I cannot believe that a woman is a second-class citizen of the Kingdom. Rather, I believe there are a few things about God’s nature which we do not fully understand. (Is that an understatement or what?!) I believe that there are dominant male characteristics to God’s nature, as well as subordinate female characteristics, which tend to be hidden by their very nature, so that we know very little about them. I believe that Adam was given similar characteristics, both dominant male and subordinate female, so that he was fully in God’s image as male and female (1:26) before God separated Him into Adam and Eve (in 2:22).

The separation is unique in the creation story. Everything except man, God made in pairs from nothing, by the word of His power. But He made man from the dust of the ground, and breathed Himself (the Breath of Life, His own Spirit) into the man, and thus “man became a living soul.” (2:7) Herein is a problem. Adam, in the very image of God, was created with a dominant (male) nature, yet he must learn to be submissive, subordinate to God Himself. Thus the characteristics which he needs to learn are hidden, obscured by their very nature. Now, God did not want Adam to become another Lucifer, to try to be god over the earth in defiance of the one true God. To solve this problem God separated Adam – into Adam and Eve.

I believe that this was a “trinity” separation: physical, mental / emotional, and spiritual. (Please bear in mind that this is just speculation — God does not tell us how He did it.) This theory says that Adam wound up with most of the dominant male characteristics, and his “female” side was to a great degree removed, leaving him incomplete. Eve wound up with those previously hidden submissive female characteristics as dominant within her, leaving her also lacking in wholeness. Thus a man can only be wholly in God’s image when he, “…shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they both shall become one flesh.” (2:24).

A clue which tends to back up this theory is contained in the word translated “rib,” which God took out of Adam to make Eve. It comes from a word which also means chamber or womb, implying that God also removed the female plumbing from Adam and gave it to Eve. Thus the physical differences between man and woman may be a result of the separation, and not an aspect of our being in God’s image. In other words, Eve’s physical differences do not make her any less in the image of God than Adam, for both of them wound up missing something.

 Another clue is found in Jesus’ response to the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection. He said, “You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures or the power of God. The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage; neither can they die any more, for they are like angels, and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.” (Matt. 22:29 ff; Luke 20:35 ff) The implication here is that when we are changed into our resurrection bodies we will all, male and female alike, become “sons of God” – “male” like the angels, who are always referred to in Scripture in the male gender. Does this remind you of Adam before he was separated into Adam and Eve? In Luke 3:38 Adam is called the son of God! Don’t forget that because the angels (and we, after the resurrection) won’t die, we will no longer have any need to procreate to perpetuate the species. So rather than calling the angels “male” we might call them “sexless.” Yet Scripture refers to them as male, and I think for good reason.

The differences are far more than physical. The mental / emotional differences are huge. The male “logic” is balanced by the famous female “intuition,” the male “bold initiative” is balanced by the female “cautious investigation,” and so on. We really need each other to be a “balanced” person. It takes a very special gift from God to remain mentally and emotionally balanced without a spouse. Some are called to remain single. God promises to make up the difference for them Himself, so they will not need an earthly spouse. But this is the exception, not the rule given in Genesis 2: 18 & 24.

Then comes the spiritual differences. I believe they are at least as significant as the others. In general (there are many variations) the male has as dominant within him the strong, authoritative, ruling, leading, teaching, guiding, protecting, creating, “Fathering” spirit. The female has as dominant within her the meek, submissive, gentle, nurturing, caring, learning, obeying “Mothering” spirit, as the “weaker vessel.” However, both the man and the woman also have sub-dominant or recessive characteristics of the opposite gender. And all of this is also subject to perversion by the sin nature. We must be careful to be who God made us to be, and not allow these recessive characteristics become dominant.

I believe this is actually behind what the Apostle Paul is saying in 1 Tim. 2 and 1 Cor. 14. We must be what we were created to be in harmony and balance with our spouse. A man should not be weak, indecisive, cowardly, and slavish to women, and a women should not dominate, coerce, or manipulate, or try to teach the men. Instead, we will all live more in harmony with one another (and with all creation) if the men aim to portray the male “leadership” attributes of God, and the women aim to portray the female “supportive” attributes of God. We all are to shine with the character of God, but each in his or her own way — God is too big for any one of us to display all of His nature and character.

So far, so good; but what about the Kingdom?

“… You are all sons of God [like Adam before the separation] through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is therefore neither Jew nor Greek [pagan], there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:26-28)

“For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God [like Adam before the separation]… the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God… and not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first-fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption [restoration to the original design] of our body.” (Rom. 8:14, 18, 23)

 Yes, you women of the Kingdom, you also are called to be sons of God, by virtue of the Spirit which is in you and by which you are led, the Holy Spirit, which is a male-dominant spirit. According to God’s purpose at the separation, you must learn how to do that from us men, by being submissive and teachable, supportive without being manipulative, not seeking to dominate the men God places over you.

The desire to dominate is a part of the curse given by God to Eve, the “female curse,” the result of the original sin, and now a part of the female fallen nature. “… Yet your desire [to dominate] shall be for [against] your husband, and he shall rule over you [dominate you].” (Gen. 3:16) Ultimately it must be the Holy Spirit Himself who rises up within you and leads you to act above and beyond your own female nature, to accomplish mighty acts in the Kingdom, to pray and prophesy with the proper authority on your head (1 Cor. 11:5), to teach the principles of the Kingdom (especially to the younger women and your own children, but also to anyone whom the Spirit leads you to teach) (Tit. 2:3-4), and even to judge (discern the truth and apply the law of the land). (Judges 4:4)

And us men? Well, guess what? We must enter the Kingdom a bit differently. We are called to be the Bride of Christ! (Rev. 19:7) We are called to sit at Jesus’ feet and learn from Him, for He is gentle and humble in heart. (Matt. 11:29)

How can we do that? By loving our wife as our own flesh, nourishing her and cherishing her, (Eph. 5:25-29) dwelling with her in understanding, (1 Pet. 3:7) and yes, even submitting ourselves one to another in the fear (reverence) of Christ. (Eph. 5:20) We men sometimes have a tough time learning such things as humility, meekness, teachableness, sensitivity to the spirit, and so on, which you women tend to take for granted because it is part of your dominant nature. We must learn from you.

 I still have trouble with women preachers. It seems all backwards from God’s created order. But I frankly would rather sit under a woman preacher who is filled with the Holy Spirit and speaking a true and living word from God, than sit under a male preacher who has taken control by his own authority and his own knowledge and ambitions, and refuses to allow the Holy Spirit to have control of His church. Did you notice the desire to dominate: that “female curse?” I would say to that man: “I do not allow a woman to teach. You ought to go and learn from your husband (Jesus Christ) at home!” The best preacher of all is the humble man who has really learned what it means to be a Bride of Christ.

And to the woman who is led by the Holy Spirit to speak out in church, I am delighted to hear from the Lord through you, and I submit to what He is saying and thank you for having the courage to speak it. Women (both male and female) should be ashamed to speak out in church, but women should be eager to allow the (male) Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ to speak through them. And all you women who are learning to be sons of God in His Kingdom; I exhort you to eagerly claim all those male-oriented verses, such as: “… Christ in you, the hope of glory. And we proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, that we may present every man [or woman] complete in Christ.” (Col. 1:27-28)

Thus God’s purpose in separating Adam into male and female bares fruit. We men can learn from our wives the subordinate characteristics of God’s nature, and you women can learn from us the dominant characteristics, and we all can grow and mature in our knowledge of God. As we learn to walk in the Kingdom, we must remember that we bear His image and His holy Name, and we are called to “… be imitators of God, as [His] beloved children.” (Eph. 5:1) And ultimately, as we “…grow up in all aspects into Him who is the Head, even Christ” (4:15), we will all, male and female, “attain to the unity of the faith, to a mature man [beyond gender], to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” (4:13)