Jesus’ Treatment of Women
As far as I know, from what I read in the New Testament, Jesus always treated women with high honor and respect. He never talked down to a woman or treated any woman as though she was less valuable than a man, with maybe one exception.
As recorded in Matt. 15:21-28, it appears that Jesus’ seemingly harsh words to a Gentile woman were not meant in unkindness, but that they were meant to test her faith, and to lead her to stand up for what she believed, too. And, then he honored her for her faith, which he said was “great faith.”
And when other men took advantage of women, for evil purposes, or when they mocked or criticized them, Jesus stood up for the women, and he protected them. And, he cared about their needs, and he ministered to them, and he honored their faith. And, if he did rebuke them, he was loving and gentle in his rebuke. He was always tender with them, compassionate and loving. And, he used women to share the gospel with men, too.
[See: Jn. 8:1-11; Lu. 7:36-50; Matt. 26:6-13; Mk. 5:25-34; Lu. 10:38-42; Jn. 2:1-11; Jn. 4:1-42; Jn. 20:11-18.]
In fact, In Luke 7 we read that a Pharisee invited Jesus to eat with him at his house. When a woman who had a reputation heard he was there, she came there and she anointed his feet with ointment, and wet them with her tears, and wiped them with her hair, and caressed them with her kisses.
When the Pharisee disapproved of the woman, Jesus rebuked him. But, what he said to the Pharisee was for the encouragement of the woman, as well. For, what Jesus said to the Pharisee is that everything that he should have done for Jesus, but did not do, the woman did do. For, he said, “she loved much.” And, he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
And, we read in Luke 8:1-3 that some women even traveled with Jesus and the disciples, too, and that they helped provide for Jesus’ and the disciples’ needs out of their own means.
I am assuming that the women made things which they sold for money, and that out of their earnings that they helped provide for Jesus and his disciples in the work of the ministry. So, they were co-laborers with Jesus and with his twelve male disciples in the ministry.
Your Daughters Shall Prophesy
And, when the scriptures teach on the gifts of the Spirit, they do not differentiate between men and women, i.e. that some gifts are not for women. In fact, in Acts 2:17-18 we read:
“And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams;
even on my male servants and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.”
So, why is it then that we have these teachings in the New Testament that sound as though women are to always remain silent, that they are not to speak in the gatherings of the church, without exception? (1 Co. 14:34-35; 1 Tim. 2:11-12). Doesn’t that seem contradictory to how Jesus treated women? And, isn’t it contradictory to the passage in Acts 2, and to other New Testament scriptures that speak of women prophesying?
And, why is it that so many church congregations, at least here in America, do not allow their women to prophecy (preach) in their gatherings? And, some pastors treat women as though they are dirt under their feet for them to walk on? For, Jesus never treated a woman like that. He valued women, and he used women in ministry, and he even sent women out to share the gospel with men. And, the Holy Spirit of God gifted women to prophesy. So, why would God then turn around and put the smack down on women?
And, why, then would the scriptures talk about how we are all one body in Christ, and that we are all necessary, and that one part should not say to another, “We have no need of you!”? And, why would it teach that the body grows and builds itself up in love and in the faith as “each part” does its work? And, then tell our women that their part, which God gave to them, and for which he gifted them, is not permitted? (See Rom. 12; 1 Co. 12; Eph. 4). Is the church then not suppressing the gifts of women?
How can we resolve these seeming contradictions? Is it possible that these passages on the silence of women in the church can have another plausible explanation other than the complete and total suppression of the gift of prophecy among the women in the church? And, if so, what might that be?
For, women obviously prophesied in New Testament times (See: Lu. 2:36; Acts 2:17; Acts 21:9; 1 Co. 11:5). So, how are we to understand this restriction of the silence of women in the church if God poured out his Spirit on both men and women so that they could prophesy, and we have recorded in the New Testament that there were indeed women who did prophesy? What is the context? What is the purpose of the restriction?
The Context Reveals
Well, the context of 1 Corinthians 14 is that of teaching on spiritual gifts, teaching on love, and instructions regarding the misuse of the gifts and the right way in which the gifts are to be used, and regarding their purpose, too. So, this is in the context of 1 Corinthians 12 and 13, also.
And, it is in 1 Corinthians 12 where we are taught that each body part is necessary, and that we are not to say to another part of the body that we have no need of him or of her. And, it is God who decides who gets what part, too. And, it is the Holy Spirit who assigns the gifts.
And, here in 1 Corinthians 14 we are told first off to pursue love, and to earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that we would prophesy. And, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding, consolation and encouragement. The one who prophesies edifies other believers, for the spiritual growth and advancement of them in the faith. He or she inspires, cheers, urges, nurtures, promotes and fosters spiritual maturity and holy walks in the Spirit of God, too, which is consistent with Eph. 4:15-16.
So, if both women and men are gifted with the gift of prophecy, and we women are to use the gifts of the Spirit given to us for the upbuilding and the encouragement of the body of Christ, his church; and if not one of us is to say to another “We have no need of you,” and if all the parts are necessary, and women did prophesy in the New Testament, and the body of Christ is built up in the faith as “each part” does its work, then we have to conclude that these instructions on the silence of women have a meaning other than the absolute silence of women in the church.
Order and Submission
So, again, let’s look at the context. The context has to do with how gifts are used, and it has to do with the order in which they are used. And, then let’s look at the wording of the passage, too. For, it all comes down to submission. It says that a woman, if she has questions regarding something she wants to learn, that she should ask her husband at home. So, apparently women were interrupting the order of service to ask questions. And, some of this is definitely cultural to that day and time.
It also appears, by the context, that these women were usurping authority over the men, for it clearly instructs them that they are to be in submission to their husbands, and to the leadership of the church, and it indicates that they were stepping out of that order by speaking in the church gatherings in a disruptive way. So, these women were out of order in what they were doing.
And, the passage in 1 Tim. 2 supports this, that women are not to usurp authority over the men, and that they are not to instruct men in an authoritative manner which would require men to obey them.
So, in conclusion, I believe God has gifted both men and women in various ways, and that scripturally both men and women are gifted with the gift of prophecy (preaching), which is for the edification and encouragement of the body of Christ and for their strengthening and nurturing of them in the faith, that they may all reach maturity in Christ Jesus, their Lord.
I believe Jesus values women highly, that he gifts them in ministry, and that he calls them to prophesy (preach) the truths of scripture so that the body of Christ might be drawn closer to their Lord in walks of faith, and so that they may not wander off from the faith to go after what is false. I also believe that our Lord uses women sometimes in areas usually assigned to men, but that he does so when so many men are spiritually AWOL, and so they are neglecting their callings (See: Lu. 7:36-50 as illustrative of this).
Lastly, I believe it all comes down to submission to the authorities within the church. If women are given permission to speak, and it is done in proper order, and if it is done in the right way, for the upbuilding of the body of Christ, then they should be allowed to speak. But, they are not to usurp authority over the men nor to cause a disturbance in the congregation, and they are not to instruct men in the sense of being over men in authority. But, they are to remain in submission and in proper order, and then they can speak as they are called upon to speak, as God gifts them to speak.
Have Thine Own Way, Lord
Words by Adelaide A. Pollard, 1907
Music by George C. Stebbins, 1907
Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Thou art the potter, I am the clay.
Mold me and make me after Thy will,
While I am waiting, yielded and still.
Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Wounded and weary, help me I pray!
Power, all power, surely is Thine!
Touch me and heal me, Savior divine!
Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Hold o’er my being absolute sway.
Fill with Thy Spirit till all shall see
Christ only, always, living in me!