(Concluding the series. See previous posts for the Introduction and Parts 1 & 2 of the series)
Should a Woman be in Public Ministry? ( A 3-Part Series)
An Excerpt from my upcoming book,
Married, Successful & Embracing Life: A Godly Woman’s place in a changing world.
Why would God throughout the scriptures secure a woman’s position so much? It must be because of what women carry, what is embedded in them and the weaknesses of the structure carrying this treasure which only the Maker himself knows. It is a purposeful weakness designed by God to invoke care, responsibility and affection in the man, and a willingness in the woman to submit to the man. It demands that she be in agreement with the man who is to be held responsible for the disbursement of the treasures God has loaded up in her. A woman is her family’s spiritual vault. She holds and carries the future’s promise. That future cannot be indebted to anyone or mortgaged haphazardly. It must be protected. In fact, God told Eve that her seed shall bruise the serpent’s head. Powerful! But that discussion is for another day.
These arrangements do not make women, second class citizens. On the contrary, it makes them the best place for treasure to be hidden. A safe bank that does not run dry and will carry it’s household through dire situations to the very end. The very term ‘help meet’ is a term used in scripture to describe God himself, to describe the function of his Holy Spirit. I always say a woman is like an ambulance, while God is the Hospital. She is a mini – equipped facility capable of sustaining life. In scripture, God always calls for women when the situation is very bad and emergency measures have to be instituted. We are in such a time today. God is calling for his women. We better be well prepared to step out properly or the consequences will be dire, both on ourselves, on our marriages and families, communities and the world at large if we are thoughtless in our approach. We better get well organised.
So the bible makes no qualms about the exact nature of the woman. It tells husbands;
‘Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered’. (1 Peter 3:7 KJV).
Why will God ask that something inferior be honoured? He won’t. He doesn’t. A woman is not inferior to the man. She and he are heirs together of God’s promises. She simply houses their joint treasure in the weakness of her vessel. The treasure must be honoured and the vessel must be protected. With your husband in your corner with you, woman, the sky is the limit. Can two walk together except they be agreed? That is a question the bible asks.
It also tells us this; Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 18:19 KJV).
What a powerful promise. This is God’s way of ensuring that the assignment will truly be executed at the time when ‘God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth’. (Genesis 1:28 KJV)
Divorce therefore is not a light matter as far as God is concerned. The casting away of a woman leaves her vulnerable, uncovered in the cold. God hates divorce. He sees it as ‘dealing treacherously with the wife of your youth’. That is why, a woman never leaves to find the man to marry. She is protected at all times. The man has the responsibility to leave, his mother and his father and to go find his wife and not live with her as two people but cover her, give her an identity and confirm her manifestation and calling.
A woman comes loaded with favour which she brings to the man that marries her. ‘Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the Lord’. (Proverbs 18:22 KJV). If your husband cannot confirm your calling, it is not ready to be manifested or else you will destroy your marriage as well as yourself. Leave it to God to sort it out. Don’t bulldoze your way through. If he confirms it, then the responsibility is on him to keep you covered. If you go out of your way on your own, you step outside God’s insurance policy.
Do you know that Adam named his wife twice? First he called her ‘Woman’ – bone of my bones, cornerstone of my bones, best bone of my bones. Flesh of my flesh because she was taken out of man. This was her identity based on what happened in the past before he met her. This was what he was searching for in a wife. This is the part of her he had no hand in moulding. Woman, you are and were somebody before you met your husband. You are uniquely, independently, who God made you, with skills, abilities, opinions, visions, and the like. These must be recognised and identified by the one who is to marry you. You don’t loose it just because you married them. They are parts of you that still require confirmation and expression even in your marriage. A good man will name it just as it is. After all, it is what attracted him to you in the first place.
Secondly, Adam named her ‘Eve’ because she will be the ‘mother of all living’. – according to her future prophetic destiny. How did he know? He took it straight out of the mandate God pronounced upon them in the day he made them, while Eve’s core structure was still embedded in Adam. As for God he gave them one name ‘Adam’, a symbol of their unity and oneness. The division of task was up to them. He never said, this is what a woman is to do and this is what a man is to do. That kind of thinking defeats progress. Tasks must be divided according to ability and function. As for God, He gave them the same blessing with regards to fruitfulness, dominance and replenishing the earth. Adam could not do it without Eve and she will be unable to do it without him. A woman’s future explosion is joint to her husband, irrespective of how personally endowed and gifted she is. The ribs holds the sensitive parts of the upper body in place. Mechanically, God gave the two beings that make up Adam part of the one same rib cage. It is in being one that their upper, better life is held up together and stays in place. It is up to them to learn how to execute this mandate both within the union and in the world at large.
So Paul wisely admonishes that he does not permit a woman to teach until she has learnt well. At the time of his statement, girls and women culturally did not have the benefit of education, careers and the like in the same capacity as boys and men did. The ones able to teach the gospel without mistakes were the men who themselves had to be taught by other men. So the order was set that church leadership, formally had to be the domain of men. We have verses like ‘a Bishop should be the husband of one wife’ which some automatically use to eliminate any chances of a woman ever being a Bishop even in these modern times. For a woman to learn in Paul’s days, she had to be taught most likely by her husband. For a woman to teach, which was nigh impossible, she had to have learnt well. Not only the subject matter of the gospel but also all that pertains to her place as a woman, a godly woman. The bible has records of men who took it upon themselves to teach without first learning and Paul was careful to warn against them.
‘For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. (Acts 20:29-31 KJV).
He also made sure that those he taught were also faithful to teach others to lead.
And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also. (2 Timothy 2:2 KJV).
Unfortunately because of the prevailing culture, the focus was always on teaching men.
There were women that cracked it though. There were women in ministry alongside Paul. He plainly talked about them in scripture. Paul was not forbidding women from ever preaching the gospel or teaching others, both men and women in public. The bible bears record of Priscilla and Aquila, a couple who taught and preached the Gospel and had a church at their home. It mentions the woman first and clearly attributes the ‘teaching’ jointly to her.
Paul wrote, ‘Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus: Likewise greet the church that is in their house. Salute my well beloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia unto Christ’. (Romans 16:3, 5 KJV).
The bible clearly records this couple re- teaching a man how to preach the gospel. ‘And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus. This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John. And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly’. (Acts 18:24-26 KJV). These two, according to the bible even travelled with Paul.
In fact, there were some of the women preaching alongside Paul who manifested ‘women problems’ as if to proof his point. ‘I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life’. (Philippians 4:2, 3 NIV)
It was and still is that the sanctity of the gospel has to be upheld, that the structure of marriage be preserved and that a woman be honoured and protected as per the design of God. Since the operative word is ‘learn’, I can confidently say that I am yet to see a student who stays in school forever. Every student must graduate at some point or be reckoned as having failed their evaluations and therefore unable to practice what they have been training for. In these modern times, education is equally available to Women in most cultures. A woman who has learnt well and is recognised not only as gifted but called of God, must be validated both by her husband and by those in authority over her and must be allowed and supported to practice and teach what she has learnt. She must be free to lead and have a dominant sphere of Influence to the glory of the wise God who made her and in his wisdom decided to load her with her giftings, talents and abilities.
The conclusion of Proverbs 31, a passage about the virtuous woman, a woman who exhibits her prowess not only at home but outside the home with the full support of her husband could not be more apt when it says the following; ‘Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her. Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all. Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord , she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates. (Proverbs 31:28-31 KJV).
Her own works means just that ‘her own works’. It is the works that praise her, not her pushy, disrespectful, bulldozing ways, neither is it a made up camouflage of other people’s work. Her works are also not limited to her home. They are known at the ‘gates’, the places of power, of authority, of influence and decision making. She is not excluded from the marketplaces of the world.
There are great women that had public ministries both in the old Testament and in the new. They preached, they taught, and some even killed enemy kings right in the comfort of their homes. Women worked along side Jesus Christ himself. He did not undermine them. He respected their marriages. He saw them as women of substance for ‘they ministered to him out of their substance, even Mary, out of whom seven devils had to be cast out.
And it came to pass afterward, that he went throughout every city and village, preaching and shewing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God: and the twelve were with him, And certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils, And Joanna the wife of Chuza Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others, which ministered unto him of their substance. (Luke 8:1-3 KJV)
These women and more, followed him publicly right to his death. They did not leave his side. They carried the message of the resurrection. How proud God must be of his daughters.
‘And there followed him a great company of people, and of women, which also bewailed and lamented him. But Jesus turning unto them said, Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children. For, behold, the days are coming, in the which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck. Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us; and to the hills, Cover us. For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry? (Luke 23:27-31 KJV).
The bible tells us this: ‘The Lord announces the word, and the women who proclaim it are a mighty throng: “Kings and armies flee in haste; the women at home divide the plunder. Even while you sleep among the sheep pens, the wings of my dove are sheathed with silver, its feathers with shining gold.” (Psalm 68:11-13 NIV)
It is important that women are allowed and supported to take their place publicly or else the church will continue to limp with its side remaining unhealed. Women who seek public ministry, must do the work of submission, of learning in silence, and cutting off all the excesses, the flagrant displays of wantoness and disrespect of holy order that is so common nowadays. There is a call back to the threshing floor.
‘And thou, O tower of the flock, the strong hold of the daughter of Zion, unto thee shall it come, even the first dominion; the kingdom shall come to the daughter of Jerusalem. Arise and thresh, O daughter of Zion: for I will make thine horn iron, and I will make thy hoofs brass: and thou shalt beat in pieces many people: and I will consecrate their gain unto the Lord, and their substance unto the Lord of the whole earth’. (Micah 4:8, 13 KJV)
A woman’s place is where God has destined her to be. She must learn, develop and occupy her place until he comes back for his bride.