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Women and Ministry -- What the Bible Says

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Euodia and Syntyche -- in Philippians 4, Paul refers to these two as co-laborers. So what can we glean from this text? That they were co-laborers. No one has ever suggested that women have no role in the church.

Priscilla -- in Romans 16 she is referred to by Paul as a fellow worker in Christ. Same point as with Euodia and Syntyche. This is what is deceptive about the argument being made. The argument put forth here is that the Bible supports women in leadership positions, specifically pastoral or teaching in nature. Yet the examples have all been in the realm of prophecy or co-laborers.

Phoebe -- the writer refers to Phoebe as a "leader in the church at Cenchrea." To say this is a leap is an understatement. The word used in these verses is essentially "help." Phoebe had been a tremendous help to many, including Paul. Not a leader at the church. She may have been involved in many charitable acts as well. There is zero scriptural support that she was a leader in the church. John MacArthur wrote about Phoebe once and reminds us that the word "servant" used here is translated "diakonos "; which is where we get the word deacon. Prior to church structure being set up, as in the case of the writing of this letter, the word simply meant servant. In fact, the exact word is used earlier in the letter; twice during chapter 13. When speaking about rulers, Paul says the following:

For he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is a servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. -- Romans 13: 4 (ESV)

Paul is speaking about rulers who hold authority here and refers to them as servants of the Lord twice. In both instances it is the exact same word used in Chapter 16 to refer to Phoebe. No one in their right mind infers that in Chapter 13 Paul is calling rulers deaconesses, yet that is the argument being made for its usage in Chapter 16 and it is simply inaccurate. Phoebe is beyond question a very important person to Paul. He entrusted her with delivering this letter to the Church at Rome, which in those days was no small task. She was probably wealthy and a great benefactor to the cause of Christ. She deserves our admiration and respect for these things but that does not make her a leader in the church as the writers of this position paper carelessly state.

Junia -- the writers gleefully state that Junia was a female apostle so that must mean that Paul was a "strong advocate of women in ministry." They also state that translators have tried to masculinize the name to Junias because they could not bear the thought of a female apostle. I do not need to get into the gender confusion because she was not an apostle either way:

Greet Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners. They are well known to the apostles, and they were in Christ before me. -- Romans 16: 7 (ESV)

Those who want the Bible to say something it does not prefer the translations that say these two individuals were "outstanding among the apostles." Biblical scholars who are experts in syntax and grammar however agree that the ESV translation above is probably to most accurate. When other translations state that they were "outstanding" it simple meant that they would stand out" to the apostles. It is also of interesting note that Paul uses the male collective term kinsmen to describe both. As stated however, the gender does not matter as these two individuals were not apostles. The truly sad thing is that as you progress through this position paper it becomes clearer that the authors were looking to be able to prove what they already believed. How else could they offer up these examples and then state:

"These instances of women filling leadership roles in the Bible should be taken as a divinely approved pattern, not as exceptions to divine decrees."

Seriously? You offer up six women who prophesied, four co-laborers, one woman who was not an apostle and another who was not a deaconess and think that has established a divine pattern we can rely upon to dismiss actual scriptural instruction? I do not think so. It should be noted however they did offer up one other name that I have saved for last and that is the judge, Deborah. She is the single representation of female leadership in the 6,000 + years of recorded biblical history. There is no question that Scripture states she was a judge and a prophetess. But beloved we must reason together. She is the outlier in Scripture, not the normative. Many have speculated that her rise to be a judge, the only female judge in the 400 years of judges, was a testimony against the men of Israel. That God had to turn to a woman to lead. I see no value in devaluing her role and her contribution to the people of God. The larger point is that in the entire canon of Scripture she is the only example of a woman in a leadership position, exercising authority over men. You cannot build doctrine upon that, especially in light of the very clear instructions that are in Scripture regarding the role of women.

Point Three -- you cannot establish a false narrative and then use that to explain away the verses that do not work in favor of your argument.

"Without attempting to definitively resolve this debate, we do not find sufficient evidence in "kephale" to deny leadership roles to women (in light of biblical examples of women in positions of spiritual authority, and in light of the whole counsel of Scripture)."

"Therefore, Paul's consistent affirmation of ministering women among his churches must be seen as his true perspective, rather than the apparent prohibitions of these two passages, themselves subject to conflicting interpretation."

"Passages that imply most leaders were male may not be taken to say that all leaders were male, since the biblical record speaks approvingly of numerous female leaders."

Throughout the paper the authors run into the very clear problem that Scripture presents to their argument and every time they are left to speculate where there is no lack of clarity and return back to the false case that they built. There is only one example they provided of a woman in spiritual authority and that is because there was only one example, the aforementioned Deborah. The Bible does not speak approvingly of numerous female leaders. It does speak approvingly of many females in ministry but not leadership. Paul may have consistently affirmed women working as co-laborers but nowhere does he affirm them in leadership. Nowhere. I trust that the writers are not being willfully deceitful but this cuts to the core of how deceitful our hearts can be. When we want the Bible to say something, we can convince ourselves of anything.

Point Four -- let's get back to Scripture. Let us go through the various Scriptures the writers tried to dismiss in this paper:

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Credentialed Minister of the Gospel for the Assemblies of God. Owner and founder of 828 ministries. Vice President for Goodwill Industries. Always remember that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to (more...)
 

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