Reclaiming the Wesleyan/Holiness Heritage of Women Clergy: Sermons, A Case Study and Resources
by Randy Huber and John E. Stanley
Copyright © 1999
Grantham, PA: Wesleyan/Holiness Clergy, Inc.
Reclaiming the Holiness Heritage of Women Clergy: Sermons, A Case Study and Resources emerged from the preaching of Randy Huber at Chapel Hill Church of God, York Springs, PA as he led the congregation in a bylaws change to include women on the Board of Elders and as pastoral candidates. Rev. Huber and Dr. John E. Stanley received a Christian Faith and Life Teaching Grant from The Louisville Institute in 1998 to publish Randys sermons, to develop seminars on women in ministry and to publish resources for helping Wesleyan/Holiness churches to reclaim their heritage of women clergy.
Wesleyan/Holiness Women Clergy, Inc. thanks Randy and John for their work in preparing these resources. Thanks to Monica Volante for formatting the sermons from Pastor Hubers manuscripts. Thanks also to the staff in Faculty Services and College Press at Messiah College for their help.
For copies of this booklet please complete the order form
Rev. Dr. Susie C. Stanley
In 1998 we received a Christian Faith and Teaching Grant designed to bring a pastor and professor together for twelve months in a significant study that linked the congregation and the classroom.
The grant proposal to The Louisville Institute read in part:
This study will use Chapel Hill Church of God, York Springs, PA as a case study in reversing what Paul Bassett identifies as fundamentalist leavening in the holiness movement, especially in regards to women in ministry. A distinctive of most Wesleyan/Holiness denominations is that they have always ordained women as pastors. However, in recent decades as these churches have assimilated new members, especially from fundamentalist traditions, the willingness to accept women as clergy has diminished. Chapel Hill Church of God fits that pattern because it had women ministers at its inception, and a woman pastor from 1944-1947, only to reject women as leaders in 1982. Pastor Randy Huber preached a series of eleven sermons on women in the Bible in the fall of 1996 and initiated bylaw changes which the congregation approved in November 1997 to allow women to serve as pastoral leaders and as members of the Board of Elders. Reclaiming the Holiness Heritage of Women Clergy: Sermons, A Case Study and Resources contains Randy Hubers eleven Women of Faith Sermons, the seminar session we conduct, and Wesleyan/Holiness resources for reclaiming the heritage of women in ministry. The sermons are typed transcripts of Pastor Hubers oral messages. Although overheads accompanied each message, we have only included selected overheads due to space. Feel free to use the overheads.
To document that ordained women have been part of the Wesleyan/ Holiness movement from its inception we developed three handouts for our seminars. These resources show that the acceptance of women in ministry is not a recent development but an intrinsic practice and teaching of most Wesleyan/Holiness traditions. These documents are New Testament Arguments for the Equality of Men and Women in Ministry, Church Policy Statements on Ordaining Women, and Wesleyan/Holiness Women Clergy--A Partial Bibliography. We realize that sociological forces have contributed to the decline of women clergy in Wesleyan/Holiness churches; however, we have stressed the biblical basis of women in ministry to call our tradition to reclaim the heritage and practice of Galatians 3:28, There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.
Randys sermons use the NIV Bible and Johns article uses the NRSV.
We thank the Louisville Institute for the grant which funded our seminars and contributed to the initial printing of this teaching resource.
Randy Huber and John E. Stanley
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September 15, 1996
This morning we begin an eleven-week series on women of faith. Despite centuries of sinful subjugation of women, God has mightily used women. As we study together, we will explore the strengths and weaknesses of various women and see what significant leadership and service these women of faith have performed for the kingdom of God.
Lets start with the first woman, our sister, Eve. Look with me in your Bibles please to Genesis 1:26-28.
Then God said, Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.To fully appreciate the value of women we need to understand Gods original intention. Both the male and the female were created in the image of God. Both the male and female were given the role of leadership and dominion. God intended that Adam and Eve, both made in his image, should multiply and rule over the earth. He said, let them rule.
Lets continue reading at Genesis 2:18. The LORD God said, It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.
God made Eve because it was not good for Adam to be alone. He was incomplete. Adam needed a helper. In English, the word helper is misleading. The Hebrew says--ezer kenegdo. It means one like. The idea is a counter-part to oneself. It means one who is like and equal to oneself, of the same nature, of the same flesh and blood. Usually, helper refers to God as in My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth (Ps. 121:2). The word helper is an unfortunate translation because it implies a hierarchy, as though the woman exists only to help the man. The Hebrew makes it clear. Lets rephrase verse 18. The Lord God said, ?It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make one like himself to complete him, one of his same nature and flesh and blood to be his counterpart. The man completes the woman and the woman completes the man. There is beautiful equality and harmony in Gods plan for man and woman.
Lets pick up at Genesis 2:21-25.
So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the mans ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, for she was taken out of man. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.The idea of the woman being an equal counterpart and complement to the man continues in these verses. God formed the woman from Adams rib. Man and woman are of the same flesh. They are of the identical nature. Together, they are one-flesh created in the image of God. There is no superiority or inferiority.
The sexual union of marriage reaffirms what God intended. The two are one flesh. They complete and complement one another. They can be naked and unashamed because they are one.
When Adam first saw Eve, he understood! He exclaimed, This is bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh! She should be called woman for she was taken out of man. The Hebrew word for man is ish. The Hebrew word for woman is ishah. Ishah means literally she-man. Woman is fully human, but she is female. Man is fully human but he is male. Maleness and femaleness are complementary and completing traits, not hierarchical and competing traits. Our English word woman is an abbreviation of the Anglo-Saxon word that means the man with the womb. Women are humans with wombs. They complete and complement men. Men complete and complement women.
Adam and Eve were in the garden together, both fully human, both made in the image of God, both coming from the same flesh, both given the same rule and dominion over the world. Completing one another as complementing equals they were one flesh, and they were naked and unashamed; equality was part of the order of creation.
Then there was the fall! Adam and Eve both sinned against God by eating the forbidden fruit. After the fall, sin marred everything. The man and the woman began to blame one another. They could no longer be naked and unashamed. There was a separateness between them and God and between each other. God expelled them from the garden paradise. Every form of sin entered the world. All kinds of ugly things that God never intended began. Soon there was disease, death, murder, drought, famine, war, racism, slavery, and the subjugation of women. Men would treat women as property. Women would be denied the right to study the Torah. They would be prohibited from exercising their spiritual gifts which were given by God to help rule and subdue the earth. They would suffer the indignities of being treated as sex objects, only with value if they produced male children. They would be used as expendable objects of male desires in polygamous marriages. They would be granted no right of divorce yet they could be abused and discarded. Over the centuries, womens weaker muscular strength, coupled with the dependencies generated by increased pains in childbearing, would make them increasingly subjugated by men.
God described these consequences of the fall in Genesis 3:16. To the woman he said, I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you. How right God was about the effects of sin.
The fall drastically marred Gods intention for man and woman. The curse of sin put woman under subjection.
Is there any good news? Yes, over the centuries, despite male subjugation and domination, God has used many women powerfully. Rebekah, Jochebed, Miriam, Deborah, Esther, Lydia, Priscilla, Junia the apostle, Mary Magdalene, the virgin Mary, Hannah Whitall Smith, Catherine Booth, Joni Erickson-Tada, Mother Teresa. The list is in the millions. Even more so, the Lord Jesus Christ gave his life to set men and women free from the curse of the law that holds us accountable for sin. Galatians 3:13 affirms: Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree. Jesus was cursed for us so that we could be restored to a right relationship with God. Christ restored the order of creation. He set us free from the curse so that we could be restored as gender equals and one flesh. Christ died so that we could be set free from racial divisions like those between Jew and Gentile. He set us free from class divisions like the exploitation of slaves. He set us free from gender divisions. The power of his death over the curse is beautifully set forth in Galatians 3:28. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
May God give us grace to be restored to his original plan. May we seek to demolish any residual effects of the fall. Where there is racism, lets renounce it. Where there is slavery, lets abolish it. Where there is male domination of women, lets end it. In the beginning at creation, God made us male and female and gave us equal dominion over the earth. Lets labor to fulfill Gods order of creation rather than continue the order of the fall.
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September 22, 1996
Last week, we saw that God created males and females in his own image. God created males and females to complement and complete one another as one flesh. He created males and females to rule together over the earth. Today our society is rocking in a battle of the sexes, a battle for control, a battle for dominance. Women are frequently caricatured as manipulative, scheming and controlling. Men are caricatured as insensitive, non-communicative, stupid brutes with one-track minds. How far have we fallen from Gods intent?
Today, I want to briefly study Rebekah. Rebekah is often remembered as a controlling, manipulative and deceiving woman. She was, but whats the rest of the story?
Lets begin with the event that commonly defines Rebekah. Isaac and Rebekah were married and had twin sons, Esau and Jacob. Isaac favored the first-born, Esau. Rebekah favored Jacob. Genesis 27 records that when Isaac grew old, it was time for him to bless his oldest son. He commanded Esau to hunt for some wild game and to cook it the way he liked it, then he would bless him. Rebekah overheard the conversation and told Jacob to pretend that he was Esau so that he could be blessed. Rebekah cooked some goat meat and disguised it to taste like game. She put Esaus clothes on Jacob. Jacob succeeded in deceiving his father into giving him the blessing.
Is there any question that Rebekah was manipulative and deceptive? Didnt she try to control the situation? Didnt she encourage Jacob to lie to his father?
Why did Rebekah do this? I certainly cannot praise Rebekah for doing wrong, but she did not have many options. She was trapped in an unfair system.
Isaac and Rebekahs marriage was not the equal partnership that God willed in the garden when God gave Adam and Eve equal dominion and rule over the earth. Their marriage was not two people complementing and completing one another as one flesh. Isaac was boss. Rebekah was far less. Rebekah was never an equal partner. In Isaacs and Rebekahs time, marriage degenerated into an arrangement among families. You can have my daughter if you give me two donkeys, ten goats and fourteen baskets of grain. In her male-dominated world, Rebekah could not choose her own husband.
When Isaac met Rebekah, the Bible tells us that he loved her. Was his love a sacrificial, Christ-like love between equals? You be the judge.
Isaac and Rebekah moved to Gerar. Look at Genesis 26:7-9. When the men of that place asked him about his wife, he said, She is my sister, because he was afraid to state, She is my wife. He thought, The men of this place might kill me on account of Rebekah, because she is beautiful. When Isaac had been there a long time, Abimelech king of the Philistines looked down from a window and saw Isaac caressing his wife Rebekah. So Abimelech summoned Isaac and asked, She is really your wife! Why did you say, She is my sister? Isaac answered him, Because I thought I might lose my life on account of her.
Isaac sacrificed the dignity of his wife to spare his own life. He cared less about his marriage than he did about his safety. It didnt matter what happened to Rebekah. What mattered was himself. Rebekah had no recourse. She had to do what Isaac said. Isaac was in charge. Isaac believed in and practiced male dominance. He bought into the curse of the fall. He believed he was more important than his wife. He believed he should rule over her.
This is a far cry from the equal-partnership marriage that God planned for humanity at creation. Rebekah was a lesser partner in an unequal union. She also had a problem. She had important knowledge that either Isaac did not have or that he disregarded. Look at Genesis 25:21-25.
Isaac prayed to the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was barren. The LORD answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant. The babies jostled each other within her, and she said, Why is this happening to me? So she went to inquire of the LORD. The LORD said to her, Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger. When the time came for her to give birth, there were twin boys in her womb. The first to come out was red, and his whole body was like a hairy garment; so they named him Esau.Both Isaac and Rebekah prayed. Isaac prayed that Rebekah would bear children. Rebekah prayed to understand why her twins were in such conflict even in the womb.
God spoke directly to Rebekah. God speaks to men and to women. In this case, Rebekah understood Gods purposes. Isaac did not. What was Rebekah to do? How could she convince her husband to bless Jacob when he favored Esau? She lived in a fallen, male-dominated world. Her husband was boss. He favored the manly, hunting Esau, who despised his spiritual birthright and sold it to his brother for a bowl of red stew. God favored Jacob. We do not know what happened behind closed doors. Either Rebekah told Isaac of Gods plan to bless the younger and Isaac would not accept it; or Rebekah was too afraid to approach her husband to tell him what God told her. The result was the same-- Isaac was in control. God wanted to bless Jacob but Isaac intended to follow the traditions of men and bless his oldest son.
Rebekah resorted to deception in order to see Gods will done. She was desperate, but she was wrong. Isaac was also wrong. He was not a husband who loved with sacrificial love. He did not treat his wife as an equal partner. Because of his domination, her godly voice was either unheard or unheeded. Isaac should have submitted to his wife. She heard the voice of God clearer than he did.
Are women sometimes manipulative, controlling and deceptive? Yes, and so are some men. Are men sometimes controlling, dominating and authoritarian? Yes, and so are some women. The war of the sexes is a battle for control. It is a selfish battle rooted in the sinfulness of the fall. Gods will for men and women is that we love and respect one another. He intends that both genders value the godly counsel of the other. God speaks to men. He also speaks to women. God speaks through men. He also speaks through women. My wife, Susan, has saved me from many snares and bad decisions. I have done the same for her. May God give us grace never to treat our mates as anything less than He intended--equal partners.
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October 6, 1996
Today we continue in our series Women of the Faith. We have already seen that when God created men and women, God created both in his image. God made males and females to complement and complete one another and gave both dominion over the earth. He gifted both to rule. When Adam and Eve sinned, all forms of evil entered our world. Slavery, war, racism and exploitation of women became commonplace. In recent years, women have made some progress. Less than a century ago, women did not have the right to vote in this country. Less than a century ago, it was unthinkable for a woman to be a senator, or a governor, or a general. Thank God for progress, but women remain second-class citizens in much of the world.
In 1980, according to the United Nations, women who represent roughly half the worlds population did two-thirds of the worlds work, earned one-tenth of the worlds income, and owned only one-hundredth of the worlds property. Today, women nearly everywhere still suffer abuse and discrimination.
Centuries of curse-oriented prejudices are hard to change. Is it okay for women to own their own businesses? Is it okay for women to be doctors or lawyers? Is it okay for women to be university presidents? Is it okay for women to have positions of leadership in the government or in the church? Can women be leaders in the military?
There is only one place to go for answers and that is to Gods Word. Is it Gods view that women should not lead men? Is it Gods view that women should not lead in matters of government or military or religion?
Look with me in your Bibles please to Judges 4. After Ehud died, the Israelites once again did evil in the eyes of the LORD. So the LORD sold them into the hands of Jabin, a king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor.
Susan and I have been to Hazor. It was a key city in Galilee located on a main road. Because of Hazors location, Jabin was able to cruelly oppress the Israelites for twenty years. King Jabins commander was a tough man named Sisera. Sisera commanded thousands of troops with iron weapons and he also had nine hundred iron chariots. Israel had only bronze weapons and no chariots. The wheels of Siseras chariots had scythes attached to their axles. They cut through foot soldiers like cheese shredders.
Pick up reading again at verse 4. Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time. She held court under the Palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites came to her to have their disputes decided.
Did you catch that? Israels leader was a woman. She was married. She was a judge who held court. She had such wisdom that she settled peoples disputes. What were her qualifications? The text does not say that she had university degrees. She was not a princess who came into her position by heredity. She was not elected by popular vote. She was a prophetess. That means that she was so close to God that God spoke to her and she spoke Gods words to others. Deborah was an inspired preacher. God himself chose Deborah to lead. God gifted her to judge legal disputes. He gifted her to preach his word so that she became the religious leader of her nation.
There are many today that say women cannot lead men. They quote a few texts from Pauls letters. Those texts are difficult to interpret and must not be carried beyond their limited context. Well study those texts in later sermons. Essentially, they base their views on centuries of prejudice and tradition that are rooted not in the plan of God but in the results of humanitys sin. Dont miss the importance of this text. God is not bound by human prejudices and tradition. God himself chose this woman to deliver his people. A leader in government and religion, Deborah was also the commander-in-chief of Gods armed forces. Lets pick up reading at verse 6.
She sent for Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali and said to him, The LORD, the God of Israel, commands you: Go, take with you ten thousand men of Naphtali and Zebulun and lead the way to Mount Tabor. I will lure Sisera, the commander of Jabins army, with his chariots and his troops to the Kishon River and give him into your hands. Barak said to her, If you go with me, I will go; but if you dont go with me, I wont go. Very well, Deborah said, I will go with you. But because of the way you are going about this, the honor will not be yours, for the LORD will hand Sisera over to a woman.Barak knew that Deborah was wise and walked with God. He knew that the Canaanites had him outnumbered and had superior weapons. He would not go into battle unless Deborah was by his side. He would obey her orders but he was afraid to fight without her. She was his inspiration. She was his leader.
Deborah gave the command for Barak to move his troops into battle. God gave them a total victory. The Kishon river was swollen so the chariots got bogged down in the mud. Only one Caananite soldier survived--Sisera, the commander. He escaped on foot.
Pick up reading at verse 17.
Sisera, however, fled on foot to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, because there were friendly relations between Jabin king of Hazor and the clan of Heber the Kenite. Jael went out to meet Sisera and said to him, Come, my lord, come right in. Dont be afraid. So he entered her tent, and she put a covering over him. Im thirsty, he said. Please give me some water. She opened a skin of milk, gave him a drink, and covered him up. Stand in the doorway of the tent, he told her. If someone comes by and asks you, Is anyone here? say No. But Jael, Hebers wife, picked up a tent peg and a hammer and went quietly to him while he lay fast asleep, exhausted. She drove the peg through his temple into the ground, and he died. Barak came by in pursuit of Sisera, and Jael went out to meet him. Come, she said, I will show you the man youre looking for. So he went in with her, and there lay Sisera with the tent peg through his temple--dead.This is a troubling account. Jael violated numerous customs. She was supposed to be Siseras friend. She took him into her tent. No man was allowed in a womans tent. Sisera would be safe there, because no man would search her tent. Once anyone was in someones home the host was bound to offer protection and hospitality. Jael treated Sisera kindly. She built his trust. She gave him milk when water would do. She covered him up. She stood sentry at the door of the tent and then she murdered him while he was sleeping. Jael did wrong, yet Israel remembers her as a hero because she killed the evil enemy of her people.
Any number of men could have struck Sisera down yet it was a woman who killed him, just as Deborah prophesied to Barak. Sisera was defeated at the hands of women. Deborah was commander-in-chief, and Jael was the person who finished him off. God can use men and women as he pleases. If he wants women to lead, they can lead. If he wants women to preach, they can preach. If he wants women to win the victory, theyll win the victory. God is God. Our traditions and prejudices are not sacred.
Now some may protest, Deborah was an exceptional case. Indeed she was! Her gifts were so great and her courage was so remarkable that she rose above the prejudices of her time to do Gods will. She won a great victory and Israel enjoyed forty years of peace under her rule. God himself chose Deborah as prophetess, as religious leader, as government leader, and as military leader. God has chosen numerous women over the centuries. The Lord has a higher view of women than society does.
In Jesus time, Jesus taught women when it was unfashionable to teach women. He encouraged women to follow him as his disciples. It was women disciples who were last at the cross and the first to witness and proclaim the resurrection. It was a woman, the Virgin Mary, who bore the child, Jesus, in her womb. It was a woman, Priscilla who helped teach the great preacher Apollos. Despite prejudice and tradition, God has repeatedly called and equipped women to great responsibility and leadership. Is God still calling women to such important tasks today? Since God does not change, what do you think?
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Proverbs 31 Woman
October 13, 1996
What makes a woman valuable? Some would answer physical beauty. Women are expected to have perfect figures, clear skin and gorgeous hair. The idea that the value of a woman rests in her appearance is deeply ingrained in our society. It starts in childhood.
Two Little Leaguers were taking a rest between innings. Suddenly, one of them spotted an extremely pretty little girl sitting in the front row of the bleachers. Wow! he exclaimed. When I stop hating girls, shes the one Id like to stop hating first.
It is hard to overestimate the value that our society places upon the physical attractiveness of women but the Bible teaches that the value of a woman is found in her character. Turn in your Bibles please to Proverbs 31:10-31.
A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands. She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar. She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls. She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night. In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers. She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy. When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet. She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple. Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land. She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes. She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all. Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.This detailed description of a virtuous woman does not mention her appearance. It is the quality of her character that matters.
A newspaper describes a small boy who went to the lingerie department of a store to purchase a gift for his mother. Bashfully, he told the clerk that he wanted to buy a slip for his mom, but he didnt know her size. The lady explained that it would help if he could describe her--was she thin, fat, short, tall, or what? Well, replied the youngster, shes just about perfect. So the clerk sent him home with a size 34. The news article followed up by reporting that a few days later the mother came to the store to exchange the gift. It was too small. She needed a size 52. This little fellow saw her loving character not her slip size.
The Proverbs 31 woman has tremendous character. She is noble, trustworthy, industrious, wise, resourceful, generous, strong, dignified and godly. In addition to the quality of her character, God gifted her with tremendous spiritual gifts and talents. She was a wife, a mother, a manufacturer, an importer, a manager, a realtor, a farmer, a seamstress, and a merchant. No wonder her husband said she was worth much more than rubies!
The incredible giftedness of this woman understandably often bothers women. Good, godly women sometimes compare themselves to this multi-talented woman and feel like nothings.
Let me quickly attempt to dispel those negative feelings.
First, it is never wise to compare our abilities to others. God has made us each unique. We all live in different circumstances. This woman was the wife of a respected town elder. She had enough wealth to have household servants. She was gifted far beyond the average woman. Comparison either makes us envious or boastful. Both are unhealthy.
Second, We must never forget that our true worth is not in our talents but in the quality of our character. Verse 30 says: Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Godly character is what matters in life. Godly character makes a woman truly attractive. An American traveling in India met an elderly, white haired lady of unusual dignity and charm. She was a Christian who had acquired the shining quality of spiritual maturity. The visitor looked at her wrinkled, smiling face, and said believe me, you are truly beautiful! Well, I ought to be, she replied sweetly, Ive had seventy-four years to let the Lord work on me!
True beauty comes from the inside. The Proverbs 31 woman teaches us in many ways. She shows us what is inside is what matters. Godly character is worth more than physical beauty.
She shows us that God gives tremendous spiritual gifts and talents to women as well as men. This woman could run several businesses for a profit and be a godly wife and mother. This woman was praised for fully using her many talents both inside and outside the home.
She shows us how important a good wife is to the success and happiness of a man. Verse 12 says: She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. A Czech proverb says: Do not choose your wife at a dance, but in the field among the harvesters. A good wife is a fabulous blessing. I should know. I have one.
She shows us how important a godly mother is to her children. Verse 20 says: Her children arise and call her blessed, her husband also, and he praises her. There is no way to overemphasize the influence of a godly mother on her children.
Finally, verse 31 shows, us that godly woman should be rewarded and appreciated. Verse 31 says: Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise a the city gate. What is the value of a woman? Just in terms of her household chores she is worth big bucks.
In a column in the Detroit Free Press, Bob Greene cited a study by attorney Michael Minton on the monetary value of a wifes services in the home. First he listed the various functions she performs. They included-- chauffeur, gardener, family counselor, maintenance worker, cleaning woman, housekeeper, cook, errand runner, bookkeeper, budget manager, interior decorator, caterer, dietitian, secretary, and public relation woman/hostess. Using this impressive list of household duties, Minton figured the dollar value of a housewifes work in 1981s labor market. He came up with the amount of $785.07 a week. Thats $40,823.64 a year. That amount would be higher today.
Obviously a godly woman has value for all the wonderful things she does, but far more, a godly woman has value for all the wonderful things she is. A Christian woman was a busy housewife and mother, working hard to meet the needs of her family. She carried several key responsibilities in the church. And she was working part-time. During a time when her schedule was particularly heavy, she began to feel depressed. She felt taken for granted by everyone. Her children expected clean clothes and tasty meals. Her husband was busy. At work, no one paid any attention to her. The people at church seemed unappreciative. Then she found a bouquet of flowers at her door. The note said simply, We just wanted you to know how much we appreciate you. Youre a wonderful wife and mother. It was signed, Your husband and children. She sat down on the floor and wept. And with her tears went her depression.
Women, you have tremendous value. It does not matter if you are not physically pretty. What matters is that you allow the spirit of Jesus Christ to give you a godly character. It does not matter if you have many spiritual gifts or few. What matters is that you love God, and use all the gifts God has given you for his glory.
Men, lets appreciate and praise the women in our lives. Lets encourage our wives, mothers, sisters and daughters to use their spiritual gifts and talents wherever God calls them. Lets not take our wives for granted. A wife of noble character is worth far more than rubies.
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October 20, 1996
About 2500 years ago, a brave young woman saved her nation. Her Hebrew name was Haddasah which means myrtle, but we know her by her Persian name, Esther. The book of Esther is a tale of exploitation, intrigue and deliverance.
Esthers story begins with a drunken king named Xerxes. For 180 days he showed off the wealth and splendor of his kingdom. At the end of his boastful display he began a great banquet. The alcohol flowed freely. On the seventh day of feasting and drinking, when Xerxes was in high spirits, he commanded that his Queen, a beautiful woman named Vashti, be brought before him wearing her royal crown so that the he could show her off like all the other wealth of his kingdom. Vashti refused. She would not be treated like a piece of meat which men would ogle and lust.
This was a radical act of rebellion. Xerxes was a great king. He was not accustomed to anyone disobeying him, especially a woman. Vashti was queen, but in Persian society women had few rights. The king was furious and consulted his advisors to decide what to do. Look at Esther 1:16-22 to find what the experts advised.
Then Memucan replied in the presence of the king and the nobles, Queen Vashti has done wrong, not only against the king but also against all the nobles and the peoples of all the provinces of King Xerxes. For the queens conduct will become known to all the women, and so they will despise their husbands and say, King Xerxes commanded Queen Vashti to be brought before him, but she would not come. This very day the Persian and Median women of the nobility who have heard about the queens conduct will respond to all the kings nobles in the same way. There will be no end of disrespect and discord. Therefore, if it pleases the king, let him issue a royal decree and let it be written in the laws of Persia and Media, which cannot be repealed, that Vashti is never again to enter the presence of King Xerxes. Also let the king give her royal position to someone else who is better than she. Then when the kings edict is proclaimed throughout all his vast realm, all the women will respect their husbands, from the least to the greatest. The king and his nobles were pleased with this advice, so the king did as Memucan proposed. He sent dispatches to all parts of the kingdom, to each province in its own script and to each people in its own language, proclaiming in each peoples tongue that every man should be ruler over his own household.Vashti challenged the sinful male-dominated system of her time. She wasnt a Jew. She probably did not know that God created men and women and gave them equal dominion over the earth. She probably did not know that she was created in Gods image. She probably did not know that men and women were made by God to complement and complete one another as equal partners in marriage. She probably did not know that male dominance began with sin. All that she knew was that she was a living breathing person, with a brain, with feelings and she should not be treated like property, like the kings favorite plaything.
King Xerxes and his advisors were afraid that women would rise up from their exploited position. They were in no mood to let women make any decisions (Esther 1:19-22). Men ruling women, though rooted in sin, was good for men.
Xerxes deposed Vashti from the throne and began searching for another wife. He called together all the beautiful virgins of the kingdom. The exploitation of women continued. He brought these young girls to the capital city. What mattered was not their minds, or their souls, or their personalities or their likes or their dislikes. The only thing that mattered was beauty. Each woman was given one year of beauty treatments. Then one by one they were brought to the palace to spend the night with the king. All of these young virgins but the one who was chosen to be the kings new queen would be used and forgotten.
Esther was an orphan who was adopted by her cousin Mordecai. Mordecai raised her as his own daughter. She was very beautiful and was selected as the kings new queen. In one respect, this was a great honor, but how would you feel to be taken from your home simply because of your beauty? How would you feel to be given a one-night tryout where you would be accepted or rejected. Once accepted, how would you feel to be in a relationship with a man who controls your total life? To be under the domination of a man, who in a drunken state commanded his first wife to parade her beauty in front of all to see and divorced her when she attempted to maintain her dignity? Since the fall of humanity, women in many societies have been treated with similar injustice and unkindness.
I said at the beginning that Esthers story is a story of exploitation, intrigue and deliverance. The exploitation is clear. How about the intrigue? The intrigue began at the start because Esther concealed her national and religious identity. King Xerxes did not know that Esther was a Jew, and he did not know that Mordecai, her cousin, had raised her.
Mordecai uncovered a plot against the king. He reported the plot to Esther. Esther reported it to the king. The king recorded in his records that Mordecai had saved his skin.
At the same time, the second-in-command behind the king was a pride-filled man named Haman. Haman commanded all the people to bow down to him. Everyone did except Mordecai. Mordecai, as a godly Jew, would bow down only to God. Haman was so angry that he built a gallows seventy- five feet high for Mordecai and hatched a plot to have all the Jews in the kingdom exterminated.
When Mordecai learned of Hamans plot to wipe out the Jews he approached Esther and asked her to talk to the king. Mordecai was asking Esther to risk her life. The kings law was that anyone who approached him unsummoned would be put to death unless the king held out his gold scepter. Not even a queen could approach without risking her life. The king had a huge harem. He had many women and likely more than one queen. It had been more than a month since the king had called for Esther.
Look at Esthers response to Mordecai in Esther 4:16.
Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.What do we see about this young woman of faith? Esther believed in fasting and prayer. She was counting on God to help her. She loved her people so much that she was willing to risk her life. She was a brave, godly patriot who defined herself when she said: And if I perish, I perish.
Esther used her God-given intelligence to devise a plan. The plan would only work if God did his part. Esther approached the king with fear. He invited her to come forward. WHEW! She wasnt going to die so she asked the king for a banquet the next day for the King, herself, and the evil Haman.
That night the king could not sleep so he read through his book of chronicles. There he found that Mordecai had reported the two men who had plotted to kill him. Mordecai had never been thanked so the king decided to honor him. (Isnt it great the way God comes through when needed?)
The next day at the banquet, the king asked Haman, How should the king honor a man that he wishes to honor? Thinking the king was talking about him, Haman answered, Give him a royal robe and crown and march him on the kings horse through the streets proclaiming: This is what is done for the man the king desires to honor.
The king loved the idea and told Haman to so honor Mordecai the Jew. Haman was grief stricken. He hated Mordecai.
Later at the dinner, Esther told King Xerxes that Haman had built a gallows on which to hang Mordecai. She also told how Haman had plotted to wipe out her people. The king left the room, and Haman begged Esther for his life. He was draped over her when the king walked back in the room. The king was furious at Haman for all that he had done and especially now that it appeared he was making advances on his queen. He hung Haman on his own gallows and raised Mordecai up to Hamans place. He also decreed that the Jews could defend themselves against their enemies. The Jews have celebrated their deliverance ever since in the festival of Purim.
Against all odds, a young woman dragged away from home against her will became part of the kings harem and became his queen. This godly young woman devised a plan and risked her life to approach the king to save the lives of her people.
Esther moved from the position of being an exploited young girl to the deliverer of the Jews. She rose above the sinful prejudices of her time to plead for the lives of her people. She dared to approach the king, face to face, person to person. She dared to speak and to be taken seriously. She dared to be more than just a pretty face. She risked her life to do Gods will. Esther is a great example of faith, ingenuity, and courage. Imagine what could be accomplished in the kingdom of Jesus Christ if more of us lived like Esther. Imagine what could be accomplished in the name of Jesus if more men and women would say as Esther said, Ill do what God wills and If I perish, I perish. May God help us to live like Esther.
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The Woman at the Well--John 4
October 27, 1996
Jesus Christ is the central person in all of history. He is God in the flesh. He is the king of kings and Lord of Lords. He is the way, the truth and the life.
As the Son of God, Jesus example and teaching on any subject are the final word. The word of the Lord Jesus Christ is worth more than all the experts in all the books, in all the libraries of all the world.
When Jesus came into this fallen world, he came to an earth marred by centuries of sin. He came to an earth torn by war, disease, racism and the subjugation of women. What was Jesus attitude toward the effects of sin? He preached a gospel of love and peace. He healed diseases. He treated women, people of different races, and sinners with dignity and respect.
Turn in your Bibles please to John 4:4.
Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacobs well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, Will you give me a drink? (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink? (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)Lets stop there for a moment. Jesus met a Samaritan woman at noon by a well and talked. So what? This conversation shows us the heart of Gods son toward three groups of people--Samaritans, women, and sinners.
The woman was a Samaritan. Jews and Samaritans did not associate with one another. The Samaritans were a mixed race. They were a blend of the northern tribes of Israel, Assyrian, and other pagan elements. They worshiped on Mount Gerizim until the Jews destroyed their temple about two hundred years before Jesus. The hatred ran deep for centuries. When Jesus traveled through Samaria and talked with a Samaritan, and drank from a Samaritan well, it was like violating American segregation laws in the 1950s. Jesus behavior was scandalous.
His conversation in a public place with a woman was even more scandalous. Centuries of patriarchal, curse-oriented teaching about women had made them second class. One rabbi of Jesus time wrote: Let no one converse with a woman in the street, not even his own wife. Women were viewed as inferior and incapable of understanding spiritual things. Another rabbi wrote: Rather burn the sayings of the law than teach them to women.
Jesus was a Jewish male, the product of his racist, patriarchal culture, but he also came from heavenly glory where Gods will is done. He challenged his society when he talked with this Samaritan woman. He had a heavenly view. Jesus did not see a person of another race. He did not see a person of an inferior gender. He saw a lost person who needed to come home. In Jesus day, the Pharisees avoided sinners. They would not eat or drink with them. The Pharisees looked down on sinners with a sick religious pride.
Jesus publicly talked to a sinner. Women normally drew their water at morning and evening. This woman was drawing her water at noon, in the heat of the day. Her immoral life separated her from the decent women of her community, yet Jesus cared for her anyway. Jesus and this immoral Samaritan woman had a lengthy theological discussion about living water, and then he got personal.
Look down to John 4: 16-19.
He told her, Go, call your husband and come back. I have no husband, she replied. Jesus said to her, You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true. Sir, the woman said, I can see that you are a prophet.Jesus knew this woman was a Samaritan. He knew that she was a female. He knew that she was an adulteress and a fornicator, yet he still talked with her. He valued her. He respected her. They talked some more about theological issues.
Now skip down to verse 25.
The woman said, I know that Messiah (called Christ) is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us. Then Jesus declared, I who speak to you am he. Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, What do you want? or Why are you talking with her? Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ? They came out of the town and made their way toward him.Now skip down to verse 39.
Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the womans testimony, He told me everything I ever did. So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers. They said to the woman, We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.There are some today that say women should be silent. They should not give testimonies. They should not teach or preach. Is that the way that Jesus Christ, the king of kings and Lord of Lords treated this woman? Even in Samaria, this woman had no credibility as a person because she was a woman. Even worse, she had no credibility because she was a sinful woman, yet God used her.
Who was the first preacher to the Samaritans? It was this woman. Jesus made no attempt to stop her ministry. He built on what she did. Did God bless her message? Verse 39 says : Many of the Samaritans believed in him because of the womans testimony. She brought others to meet Jesus. When they met him, they also believed.
God loves people of all races and wants to save them and use them. Jesus was no racist and there is no room for racism among the people of God. God loves women and wants to use them to further his kingdom. There is no room for sexism among the people of God. God loves sinners and wants to save them from their sins. Jesus alone was perfect, yet he showed kindness to this immoral woman. There is no room for a holier-than-thou attitude among the people of God.
If you are living for yourself, doing your own thing, receive Jesus as your savior. He loves you and wants to transform your life. If you are a racist or a sexist or a holier-than-thou legalist, allow Jesus example and values to be yours. As I said at the beginning: As the Son of God, Jesus example and teaching on any subject is the final word. The word of the Lord Jesus Christ is worth more than all the experts, in all the books, in all the libraries of all the world. Serve Jesus Christ as Lord.
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Jesus and Women
November 17, 1996
When I was a child, my Sunday School teachers told Bible stories using little posters. The posters showed Jesus with his disciples preaching and working miracles around Galilee and Jerusalem. The disciples were men who wore robes and had long hair and beards.
A detailed reading of the gospels paints a more varied picture. Some of Jesus disciples were women. Jesus treatment of women was revolutionary.
Look with me in your Bibles please to Luke 8:1-3.
After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Cuza, the manager of Herods household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.Jesus traveled with women disciples. This was scandalous in his time. You remember a few weeks ago, when I spoke of the woman at the well being the first preacher to the Samaritans, I quoted a rabbi who said: Rather burn the sayings of the law than teach them to women. I also quoted another rabbi who wrote: Let no one converse with a woman in the street, not even his own wife. Women were second-class citizens to the rabbis. Jesus loved women, taught them, and healed their diseases. Jesus talked with women in the streets and everywhere he went. Jesus had female disciples. This passage mentions Mary Magdalene. Jesus set her free from seven demons. This dear disciple of the Lord was present at the cross when the male disciples fled in terror. She was the first person to see the risen Christ and to proclaim the good news that he was alive. Joanna was married to Cuza who was the manager of King Herods household. Like the male disciples, Joanna left her home behind and traveled with the Lord.
Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, the mother of the sons of Zebedee, Mary the mother of the Lord, and Matthew 27:55 says, many other women were with Jesus at the cross. At the Resurrection, there was Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, Salome, and Luke 24:10 says, others who went to anoint Jesus body. Susanna and many other women also traveled with the Lord. These faithful women did more than just listen. Luke 8:3 says they helped to financially support Jesus ministry. These women were partners in the Lords work. They traveled with him. They gave financial support. They did not abandon him at the cross. They anointed his body after burial. Jesus loved women and valued their service.
Jesus treatment of women continually challenged the Jewish male prejudices of his time. You remember the story of Mary and Martha. Look in your Bibles please to Luke 10:38-42.
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lords feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, Lord, dont you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me! Martha, Martha, the Lord answered, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.The rabbis would not teach women. Jesus taught Mary. Martha performed the traditional role of hostess. She did womens work. Mary sat at Jesus feet and discussed ideas with Jesus. That was a mans place. What Martha did was good. What Mary did was better. Jesus made it clear that discipleship was not only for men but also for women.
Mary and Martha were sisters of Lazarus. The scriptures tell us all three of them became good friends of Jesus. Jesus had women disciples and friends in a time when other religious leaders treated women as second class.
Jesus example even challenged the rabbinical teaching that a woman was unclean during her period. This teaching was rooted in Levitical ceremonial laws.
Look at Leviticus 15:19.
When a woman has her regular flow of blood, the impurity of her monthly period will last seven days, and anyone who touches her will be unclean till evening.Leviticus 15:25 adds:
When a woman has a discharge of blood for many days at a time other than her monthly period or has a discharge that continues beyond her period, she will be unclean as long as she has the discharge, just as in the days of her period.To say that a woman was unclean was to say that she was ceremonially or morally impure. The Hebrew word was Taw me and it meant not fit to enter into the presence of God. It was mainly the uncleanness of menstruation which prevented women from becoming priests in the temple. It was also the fear of being contaminated that kept many rabbis from teaching women. You remember in cursing Eve, God said a womans pain in childbirth would increase. Because of the curse, a normal biological function became a monthly reminder of the fall. Women were impure during their periods. Leviticus is full of such purity laws for men, women and even animals. These laws were rooted in the curse of sin after the fall. The priests knew that God was holy while his creation was not. The law made a separation between a holy God and his sinful creatures. What was Jesus attitude, as the Son of God, about a womans bleeding and fitness to be in his presence?
Look at Matthew 9:20-22.
Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. She said to herself, If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed. Jesus turned and saw her. Take heart, daughter, he said, your faith has healed you. And the woman was healed from that moment.Did Jesus become unclean as the law said? If so, how could he have been the perfect sacrifice for our sins? Did he condemn the woman for touching him? Jesus went against centuries of curse-oriented teaching and praised this womans faith. Jesus was not made unclean. This woman was made clean. Jesus also touched lepers and corpses. He made the lepers well and brought the dead to life. Jesus brought a revolution for women, lepers and corpses.
Men of Jesus time viewed women as inferior. Women were treated as second-class citizens. They had few legal rights. They were prevented, in large measure, from mingling with men and exercising their spiritual gifts. Normal biological functions made women unclean. Jesus chose women as friends. He taught women as his disciples. He accepted womens generosity for his ministry. He stayed at Marthas house. He re-interpreted the ancient purity laws. Jesus Christ restored the God-given dignity and worth to women.
For centuries, Judaism was a male-dominated faith. Likewise, for centuries, generations of Christian theologians have taught the curse of sin and its subjugation of women as though it was the original plan of God. Jesus saw women through different eyes. He knew that men and women were both created in his image and were given equal authority over the earth. He knew that both had souls and needed his loving ministry. He knew that both had spiritual gifts that could be used in his service. The Christian faith, the religion built upon Jesus Christ, is not a male faith. It is a faith for all. May God help us, men and women alike, to be his disciples.
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December 1, 1996
Prophets fascinate people! Many believe that prophets are people who foretell the future. That is sometimes true. More often, prophets simply preach in Gods name and with his authority. Their messages are given by God to correct moral and religious abuses. The word prophet comes from the Hebrew word nabi which means literally, to bubble forth like a fountain. A prophet is a person who bubbles forth with Gods word, a person who speaks for God. In 1 Corinthians 14:1, Paul showed that prophecy is one of the most important spiritual gifts when he said: Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy.
When we think of Gods prophets we usually remember male preachers like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Moses. We tend not to think of women as prophets. In fact, there are some Bible teachers today who cling to old traditions rooted in the sinful fall of humanity. They will not permit women to preach. They base their case on a few passages in Pauls letters. They view the rest of the Bible through anti-woman filters. Michael Hodgin says, Whenever we interpret Scripture, we tend to lean toward our own bias. Its like the story of the driver of a tour bus in Nashville, Tennessee. The driver was pointing out the sites of the Civil War Battle of Nashville. He said, `Right over here a small group of Confederate soldiers held off a whole Yankee brigade. A little further along, he said, Over there, a young Confederate boy, all by himself held off a Yankee platoon. This went on and on until finally a member of the tour group asked, Didnt the Yankees win anything in the Battle of Nashville? The bus driver replied, Not while Im the driver of this bus, they didnt!
Lets take an unbiased look at the role of women in Gods word. Did God call women to preach? In the Old and New Testaments, God called women as well as men, to be prophets. He entrusted women with this important spiritual gift Exodus 15:20 informs us that not only was Moses a prophet, but his sister, Miriam, was a prophet as well.
Then Miriam the prophetess, Aarons sister, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women followed her, with tambourines and dancing.Micah 6:14 includes Miriam as being sent by God with Moses and Aaron. God chose to speak through both Moses and Miriam.
You remember several weeks ago, we looked at Deborah. Judges 4:4 describes Deborah as a prophetess, who led Israel. Deborah was the religious, judicial and military leader of Israel. Later, when Josiah, one of Judahs most godly kings, needed to seek God, 2 Kings 22:14-16 says he sent his high priest to consult the woman prophetess, Huldah.
Nehemiah 6:14 describes prophets who tried to intimidate Nehemiah in his task of rebuilding Jerusalem. Among these prophets was a woman named Noadiah. Nehemiah wrote:
Remember Tobiah and Sanballat, O my God, because of what they have done; remember also the prophetess Noadiah and the rest of the prophets who have been trying to intimidate me.Isaiah 8:3 describes a prophetess who gave birth to a son. In the Old Testament there are many more male prophets than female, but the fact remains, despite a patriarchal society that downplayed the value of women, God still called women to preach his word.
When Jesus was born, his parents took him to be dedicated at the temple. Luke 2:36-38 records:
There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.God chose this faithful, godly woman to prophesy over Jesus at his dedication.
The early church began with women utilizing their spiritual gifts. Mary Magdalene was the first person to declare that Jesus was risen. The first resurrection preacher was a woman. Later, after Jesus ascended, the disciples waited together in an upper room to receive the Holy Spirit. Acts 1:14-15 recorded that the disciples were not alone. They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers. In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty). One hundred and twenty men and women joined together constantly in prayer, awaiting the promised Holy Spirit. After they were filled with the Holy Spirit and begin to speak in unknown languages some onlookers accused the disciples of being drunk. Look at Peters reply in Acts 2:15.
These men are not drunk, as you suppose. Its only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.This passage plainly teaches that it is Gods pleasure to pour out his spirit on men and women and to make them his preachers.
Acts 21:8-9 records the ministry of four of these women preachers.
Leaving the next day, we reached Caesarea and stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the Seven. He had four unmarried daughters who prophesied.I hope that it is becoming clear that God calls both men and women to preach his word.We have been blessed in the Church of God with some excellent women preachers. My friend Jeanette Flynn is the Executive Director of Church and Ministry Service in Anderson. She is a godly person with a womans heart and the voice of a prophet. Lori Solierno is a young woman who God is using powerfully all over the country. She is an exuberant preacher of Gods word. Many felt that she preached the most inspired and anointed message at Anderson camp meeting in 1996. Our own Chapel Hill Church of God was pastored by Flora Heinzman. Iva Jarvis stayed with her and knew her well.
Who could overstate the impact of women ministers over the years, Hannah Whitall Smith, Mother Theresa, Dot Worth, Lillie McCutcheon, Catherine Booth, and thousands of others? Gods word says in these last days:
I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.> Contents
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Women Leaders in the Early Church
December 8, 1996
These are controversial times for women leaders. Nationally, women leaders are making good progress. U.S News and World Report printed the results of a poll: The question was: Would the nation be governed better if more women were in elected positions? In 1984, 28% said yes. That number grew to 61% by 1992. Nowhere is the question of female leadership more controversial than in the church.
A survey of over 700 readers of Christianity Today revealed that more than 80% would allow women to teach adult men. Seventy percent think women should be permitted to be deacons and 60% would allow women to be ordained. Seventy-five percent of evangelical Christians favor the ordination of women.
On the other side of the controversy, three-fourths of the delegates to a recent world conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church voted to exclude women from ordination. The Roman Catholic hierarchy are even stronger against the ordination of women.
I cannot quiet the controversy about women in ministry with this one sermon, or even with the whole series that Im preaching, but it is legitimate to ask were there any female leaders in the early church?
Lets dig a little. The first thing we discover is that the New Testament Church was pretty much led by men. What else would we expect? Christians lived in much the same world as the Jews. They grew up in the same male-dominated patriarchal culture. It takes a long time to change deep-seated cultural biases. In Galatians 3:28 the Apostle Paul wrote: There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. This is a tremendous statement of Christian equality and unity that Paul, himself, did not fully grasp in his lifetime. The early church struggled for decades with the distinctions between Jew and Greek. Who would be in charge? Would Greeks have to become Jews to be saved? Would Jews and Greeks be equal? Could Greeks lead in the church? Paul made good progress on this issue. He was a strong advocate for the equality of the Greeks. Concerning the inequality of slaves and free, Paul made some progress. He still told slaves to obey their earthly masters. He made no effort to abolish slavery, yet he also was able to treat the runaway slave, Onesimus, as a brother. The inequality between slave and free was not settled in the United States until the Civil War and the subsequent amendments to the Constitution. Concerning the inequities between male and female, Paul also made some progress. On the one hand he clung to the patriarchal society that was part of his upbringing and training as a rabbi. On the other hand, in several ways he contradicted some of his own more extreme positions against women in leadership. Paul did not fully settle these issues in his lifetime, and the inequality between male and female is not fully settled today. Cultural prejudices and traditions die hard. We would no more expect to see many women leaders in the early church than we would expect to see Greeks among the original twelve apostles or slaves in leadership. In the first century, there was not full equality between slaves and free, nor was there full equality between males and females. In this context, women leaders could not be common. Despite these cultural inequities, were there any female leaders in the early church? The answer is yes.
Look with me in your Bibles please to Acts 16:14-15.
One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Pauls message. When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. If you consider me a believer in the Lord, she said, come and stay at my house. And she persuaded us.The first convert in Asia was a woman. The first church in Asia met in Lydias house. Lydia was not an apostle but she was a church leader.
Priscilla was a woman leader with a higher profile. Priscilla, with her husband, Aquila, is mentioned seven times in the New Testament. Five of those seven times, Priscilla is mentioned first. In a patriarchal culture, that is remarkable. It shows that Priscilla was a higher profile leader than her husband. Priscilla ministered side by side with Paul. She and her husband traveled with him. In Romans 16:3, Paul said to greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus. This woman was a fellow-worker of Pauls, worthy of being greeted by name.
When the great orator, Apollos, began preaching, it was Priscilla and Aquila who taught him more about the Lord. Look at Acts 18:26. Apollos began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately. Some Bible teachers quote Paul, saying that a woman cannot teach a man; yet it is clear that both Priscilla and Aquila, Pauls fellow workers, taught Apollos.
A patriarchal cultural bias prevents some from seeing how God used women in the Bible. Cultural bias can even influence Bible translators. Romans 16:1 mentions Phoebe. We do not know much about Phoebe. In Romans 16:1 Paul said: I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church in Cenchrea. That word servant may mean simply one who serves but it is the same word that is translated in other places in the New Testament as deacon. Deacons were church leaders. This selection of servant over deacon may be a case of gender bias in translation. One can only wonder, if Phoebes name were Stephen or some other male name, would the Greek word be translated as servant or as deacon? Phoebe was likely a deacon in the Cenchrean church. Paul had no need to commend a person who merely cleared tables or cooked meals. He likely commended her for her leadership as a deacon.
Another case of translators bias is the case of Junia. Look at Romans 16:7 please. The King James Version describes a female person named Junia. The NIV describes a male person named Junias. The NIV reads: Greet Andronicus and Junias, my relatives who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was. Adronicas and Junia were apostles of the Lord. Many male commentators say that the name translated as Junia or Junias can be male or female. The reality is that Junia was a common female name. Junias was not a common male name. The Greek form of the name is clearly feminine. All of our best Greek New Testament manuscripts show Junia in a feminine form. The early church leader Chrysostom stated that Junia was a female. I know of no basis in the manuscripts or in the construction of the Greek language to translate Junia as Junias. Why then, do commentators use the male name Junias? If they concede Junia was female, then they must concede there was a female apostle in the first century. The apostle was the highest leadership role in the church. To concede that Junia was an apostle violates centuries of teaching that prohibited women from being leaders.
Were there women leaders in the first century church? Not in the same numbers as men, yet the door was slowly opening for women as it was for Gentiles and slaves. Can women be leaders in the church today?
Women were created in Gods image. God gave men and women dominion over the earth. God called Deborah to lead the entire nation. He called several other women to preach. Jesus taught women as his disciples. God filled women with the Holy Spirit and gave them the same spiritual gifts that he gave to men, including gifts of leadership. Some women were leaders in the early church. Since God has called some women all through the centuries to lead, why would he stop calling women to be leaders now?
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A Virgins Blessing
December 22, 1996
There have been many remarkable women in history. Some have been brilliant. Some have been powerful. Some have extraordinary accomplishments, but one woman stands head and shoulders above all others-- Mary the mother of the Lord. Mary is the most deeply venerated woman of all time. Our Roman Catholic friends call her the Queen of the Universe. An increase in the number of purported sightings of the Virgin Mary has sent millions flocking to her shrines around the world. The Catholic church hierarchy remains skeptical of these miraculous visions, but the Vatican has officially certified seven sightings of Mary in the twentieth century. The annual attendance at Lourdes, France is 5.5 million. The influx of pilgrims to Knock, Ireland, where the Virgin allegedly appeared a century ago, swelled to the point that a new international airport was needed. Last year over a half a million visitors traveled to Mount St. Marys near here at Emmitsburg, Maryland. Mount Saint Marys is one of the oldest of the forty-three shrines to Mary in the United States.
Why the fascination with Mary? Much interest results from centuries of non-Biblical theology. Roman Catholics teach that Mary played a role in the redemption of the world through her suffering when Jesus was on the cross. They teach that Mary was not only a virgin, but that she was immaculate, morally pure, without original sin. They teach that when she died her body was assumed into heaven. They have encouraged the veneration of Mary to the point where she is virtually worshiped by some. Some Catholics say the Rosary and pray to her. Protestants have rightly reacted against these unbiblical notions, yet Mary is still the most blessed woman who has ever lived. Turn in your Bibles please to Luke 1:26-33.
In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgins name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.Among all women who have ever lived, Mary is unique. She is the only virgin who ever conceived a child, and hers was not just any child. Mary bore in her womb, Jesus Christ, the Son of God. No other woman has been so highly favored and blessed by God. Listen to some of her words from Luke 1:46-49, And Mary said:
My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me--holy is his name.Gods choice of Mary is so typical. God said the humble will be exalted, and the exalted will be humbled. The Lord did not choose a rich and powerful person to bear His son. God did not seek a princess in a Judean palace. God sent an angel to the tiny village of Nazareth and chose a young, poor virgin with a good heart. God chose a simple peasant girl who loved him. Listen to Marys response to the angels message in Luke 1:38, I am the Lords servant, may it be to me as you have said. No wonder Mary was highly favored by God. Marys greatness is not found in centuries of theological myth. Her greatness is not found in her great intellect or accomplishments. Her greatness is in her simple submission to God. Her greatness is in her holy heart. Her greatness was in gladly receiving a gift. She was willing to bear Gods son.
I entitled this message A Virgins Blessing. This title has multiple meanings. Mary was blessed to bear the son of God. She is blessed to this day by all who understand the rich privilege which she enjoyed. She was also blessed that her child was called Jesus, which means God is Savior. Mary had the special blessing of bearing her own savior.
The Christian Reader tells about a doctor who was treating a young woman dying from tuberculosis: Every day her condition grew worse, yet she clung to life. Toward the end of February, she became nauseous. The doctor was stumped. A senior medical consultant asked him if she could be pregnant. To everyones astonishment it was true.
A chest X-ray showed the growth of the tuberculosis cavity had stopped. The reason? Her diaphragm was pushing up against her diseased lung to make room for the child she bore. The child saved her.
The child whom Mary bore blessed her own soul by saving her. Jesus also blesses the whole world because he is our savior. The Virgins greatest blessing is not what God did for her but what God did through her. Mary gave birth to our savior. Mary is not the Queen of the Universe, but she was uniquely blessed and has brought a wondrous blessing to the world. She is the most important woman who ever lived, yet she is not the true focus of Christmas.
Lisa Wells Isenhower of Spartanburg, South Carolina wrote how her eight- year-old son, Rob, and her four-year-old son, Andrew, helped her set her porcelain manger scene on the coffee table. She wanted the children to arrange the figures so that they all looked posed like for a photograph. The children did as she instructed. When the manger was all set up, she left the room. Later, Lisa returned and saw that the manger scene had been re-arranged into a tight little circle. Boys, she called angrily, Why did you change the manger scene? Because nobody could see Jesus! Rob said. Lisa looked again at the scene. Her kids knew better than she did. In the middle of that tight cluster of people was Jesus. All eyes were on Him. That is the right focus. The shepherds heard the angels song. The wise men traveled a long way and brought wonderful gifts. Joseph took good care of his expectant Mary. Mary was highly favored as the woman who bore the son of God. Jesus is our savior. He is our hope. He is the reason for the season. This Christmas, lets keep our eyes on Him.
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Paul and Women
January 5, 1997
Catherine Clark Kroeger, co-author of I Suffer Not a Woman, tells of a brilliant and creative psychologist who was a research director for a prestigious Minneapolis firm. Her research earned her national recognition. She found the Lord and started attending a Bible study which was taught by an energetic and forceful leader. It wasnt long until he directed the group to study 1 Timothy 2:11-15. He insisted vehemently that women should never teach men nor be in a position of authority over them. He said this new believer was out of the will of God and that for her to retain her job was a direct violation of Gods word. The gifted woman was confused and dismayed. Sadly a similar story has been repeated over and over again. How many godly, capable women have been told that on the basis of Gods word they cannot preach,
they cannot give testimony,
they cannot teach men,
they cannot be authors,
they cannot lead worship,
they cannot be missionaries,
they cannot pastor,
they cannot serve on church boards,
they cannot vote in church business meetings,
they cannot be Sunday School superintendents,
or work in any occupations where they supervise men?
It is a very serious matter when we disqualify fifty percent of Gods children from so many important roles. Surely, there must be a very good reason! Did you know that women are disqualified from all of these positions largely on the basis of one verse? Did you know that the traditional anti-woman-in-leadership position rests largely upon one verb that is used only once in the entire Bible and that the one reference is in this verse? The verse is 1 Timothy 2:12. The NIV translates it as: I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. In this message, I hope to demonstrate that the traditional anti-woman-in-leadership interpretation of this verse is false because:
A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing--if they continue in faith, love, and holiness with propriety.Lets look at my first point. To interpret this passage as denying women the opportunity to teach men or to have authority over men plainly contradicts many other passages of scripture. Back on September 15, I began this sermon series on women of the faith. We have explored how, through the centuries, God has blessed and used numerous women in his kingdom. Miriam, Huldah, Anna, and others were preachers and prophets. Deborah led the whole nation of Israel. She was a religious, civil and military leader. The Bible plainly has allowed women to preach and have authority over men.
Paul himself allowed women to teach and respected them in leadership. He allowed Lydia to persuade to him to start the Philippian church at her house. He gave greetings to Phoebe the deacon. He called Priscilla a fellow-worker, knowing that she taught the great preacher, Apollos. He gave greetings to Junia the apostle. Clearly, Paul knew and respected women in leadership. It is poor scholarship to allow one verse, a verse which is difficult to translate and to interpret, to override centuries of clear biblical evidence to the contrary. This passage must have some other meaning.
How do we translate and interpret this difficult passage? There have been numerous attempts. Some take the edge off the passage by suggesting that the verses reflect Pauls residual anti-woman biases which resulted from his schooling as a rabbi. Others see cultural issues which were unique to Pauls day, such as how women dressed and were expected to behave. They do not believe these first-century cultural practices are binding today. There is merit in both of these views, but I believe we find the best key in translating and interpreting this text in a richer understanding of the Ephesian context that Paul was addressing.
Ephesus was a city which had long been dominated by female goddesses. You recall the riot that erupted when the gospel challenged the great temple of Artemis of the Ephesians, according to Acts 19:23-41. Pagan myths ran deep in this world famous goddess-honoring city. The Gnostic heresy was common in Ephesus. The Gnostics perverted many Bible texts including the Genesis account. Some female Gnostics taught that Eve brought life to Adam, that Adam had his origin in Eve. They also taught that childbearing was somehow beneath a womans dignity. Truly religious women did not bear children. The Ephesian church struggled with many of these Gnostic heresies. Over twenty percent of 1&2 Timothy and Titus deal with false teaching. Women played a role in spreading the Gnostic lies. Look at 1 Tim 4:7 Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. These old wives tales were likely Gnostic myths that women were spreading around the Ephesian church.
Look at 1 Tim 5:11-13. This list refers to the office of ministering widows.
As for younger widows, do not put them on such a list. For when their sensual desires overcome their dedication to Christ, they want to marry. Thus they bring judgment on themselves, because they have broken their first pledge. Besides, they get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying things they ought not to.These young women were going around house to house spreading Gnostic tales. Women taught the Gnostic myths and believed them. Against this background of goddess worship and Gnostic false teachings, lets look specifically again at our passage. A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. The word quietness does not mean merely silence. It is the feminine form of the same word found in 1 Tim 2:1-2.
I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving be made for everyone-- for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.The word quiet refers to a settled, non-troublesome peaceful life. Women were commanded not to make waves. They were not being prohibited from speaking or preaching. Look back at verse 12, I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. The word translated as to have authority is used only once in the entire Bible. It has at least four possible translations. One of those translations is to be author or originator of. This fits perfectly with the context of the rest of the passage and with the Gnostic false teaching common in Ephesus. The gist of the verse is: I do not allow a woman to teach nor to proclaim herself author of man. In other words women are not to communicate that man originated with them. Why not? Look at verses 13-14: For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. Paul reaffirms the truth of Genesis and shows the Gnostic teaching that Eve was the author of Adam to be false. God created Adam. He then created Eve from Adams rib.
Lets look finally to verse 15. But women will be saved through childbearing--if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety. Although the literal meaning of the verse implies that women are saved through having children, we know that only faith in Jesus saves (Rom 1:16-17). The plain meaning of the verse opposes the Gnostic teaching that women should not bear children. You can be a Christian and a mother too.
There is so much more that we can say. Let me summarize. There is no convincing biblical basis to deny women the right to teach or to have authority over men. Certainly, one difficult verse, dependent upon translating one verb, found only once in the Bible, is not an adequate reason to cast aside centuries of Biblical teaching to the contrary. In these verses, Paul was not giving a universal prescription for the role of women everywhere. He was giving specific instructions to combat Gnostic false teachings prevalent in Ephesus. God made men and women in his own image and gave them dominion over the earth. He called them and equipped them to be preachers and leaders. Jesus taught female disciples and entrusted a woman with the first message to the Samaritans. A woman was the first to proclaim that Jesus was risen. At Pentecost, the Lord reaffirmed that in the last days, women would preach. There were female teachers, prophets, deacons, and apostles in the New Testament church. Lets put prejudice behind us. Denying leadership roles to women is rooted in elevating one difficult to translate, confusing to interpret, verse over the rest of the Bible. It is rooted in the attitude, Well thats the way I was taught. Dont confuse me with the facts. My mind is made up. Its rooted in perpetuating the curse of sin on women and missing Gods original intent for women. Lets allow Jesus to remove the curse of sin from womens backs. Lets allow women to be restored to their created purpose. It is time to open the doors of leadership to 100% of Gods children so that all can use their God-given spiritual gifts. Lets live Galatians 3:28 to the fullest. The apostle Paul said, There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
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