Stop oppressing women in the Church

 The Bible exalts women. The Bible applauds and honours the role of women in the home and in the society.  The Bible is filled with examples of women whose influence and actions have served to fulfil God’s plan and purpose for His Church and the world.  Women play prominent roles in many key biblical narratives as judges (Deborah), queens (Esther), prophets (Miriam) and warriors (Jael).  Wives are venerated partners and cherished, equal companions to their husbands.  In Genesis 2 v 24 God established the marital union where husband and wife become ‘one flesh’.

When God issued the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai in Exodus 20:12, God commanded children to honor both father and mother, thus giving the mother and father equal status as parents.

In Genesis 2:18 God gave Adam his wife Eve he said that Eve was to be a ‘helper’ to Adam.  Contrary to our usual understanding of the word ‘helper’, that implies ‘provider of assistance’ to someone else, the word ‘helper’ is translated from the Hebrew word ‘ezer’ which means ‘power’ or ‘strength.’  The only other times that the word helper’ is used in the Old Testament is the instances where God is somehow described, in terms of power or strength, often God promises to be a helper to Israel (e.g. Deuteronomy 33:26 and 29 – “There is none like the God of Jeshurun, The Rider of the Heavens in your strength (ezer), and on the clouds in his majesty.” And “Blessed are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord? He is the shield of your strength (ezer) and the sword of your majesty.”

So in Genesis 2:18 where Eve is to be a helper to Adam, I would say that God intended that in marriage, Eve would offer “power” or “strength” to Adam as an equal partner.  As a ‘helper’, a wife is not to be thought of as second rung at all, but rather as a divine gift, key to humanity’s survival.

Paul’s epistles have proven to be confusing and controversial for some Christians.  In his first epistle to the Corinthian Christians, Paul writes that wives are to submit to husbands, that the man is the head of the woman in marriage, women should keep silent in church and should not teach.  Some Christian denominations follow these words literally and women in these denominations are led to believe that they are second rank to men.  Others say that Paul was teaching at a time when cultural practices and differences required women to be subservient and that since times have changed, Paul’s teachings are irrelevant.

My own view is that Paul’s intention was to bring order to the Corinthian Christian congregation that was experiencing problems at that time.  Corinth was a wealthy, multi-cultural city and the congregation there reflected the cultural and demographic diversity of the city.  Members of the congregation comprised Jewish and pagan converts.  There were problems such as the continued observance of pagan practices (1 Corinthians 10: 19 – 33), divisions and dysfunctional relationships (1 Corinthians 1: 10 – 15, 1 Corinthians 11: 17 – 19), improper observation of the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11: 20 – 33), and misunderstanding of the use of spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12).

In 1 Corinthians 11: 1 – 2, Paul recommended that members of the congregation should follow his example, that included a common set of Jewish traditions that would serve to unify the congregation and clearly define the Corinthian church in a multi-cultural city.  Some of these traditions included the covering of women’s hair, relationships between husband and wife and the role of women in worship.  (1 Corinthians 11) By recommending the roles and responsibilities for men and women to follow, Paul intended that harmonious relationships in marriage, family and in the church would be established.

I do not believe that women are by any means marginalized or relegated to any second-class status in the Bible – either in the Old Testament or in the New Testament and even within Paul’s Epistles.  I support my opinion because of what Paul says and does in regard to women and their role in his ministry.

  •  He says in Galatians 3:28 that there is no distinction between male and female and we are all one / equal in the sight of God.
  • Paul included women in his ministry.  He cites several examples of women who ministered alongside him – Euodia and Syntyche, Phoebe the deaconess in Cenchreae (Romans 16:1) and Prisca and Aquila who risked their lives for Paul in spreading the gospel (Romans 16 v4).
  • There are also many other examples of women ministering with Paul and who he commends for serving in positions of leadership and influence in the early church.  A fairly complete list is in Romans Chapter 16.

I do not believe that Paul’s writings in 1 Corinthians contradict the teachings of the Bible on women and their status in God’s sight.

Christian men and women need to work together as equals, doing God’s will and responding to His specific call to serve Him in the world, and bring glory and honour to Him.

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Confront what is false, receive what is true

In an earlier post, I used the story of Naaman’s healing in 2 Kings 5, to highlight how God can use people, considered unlikely sources, to bring His blessings to people in need.  I also pointed out that material things and psychological and social barriers can threaten the flow of God’s blessings.  Continuing with the story of Naaman’s healing, I want to encourage you to disband distorted and wrong beliefs that you may have so that you can receive God’s blessings.  Remember, it is God’s good pleasure to give you all that is good.

Let’s look at 2 Kings 5: 8 – 16 and the takeaways / lessons we can learn.

Verse 8 – Elisha the man of God (prophet) heard what had happened, that the king of Israel was so distressed that he’d ripped his robe to shreds. He sent word to the king, “Why are you so upset, ripping your robe like this? Send him to me so he’ll learn that there’s a prophet in Israel.”  (The Message)


  • The faithfulness of God’s people is crucial for His will to be done on earth

It is the faithfulness of the prophet Elisha that prompts him to speak up when he hears of Naaman’s need and the anguish of the King of Israel.  So Elisha invites Naaman to “see that there is a prophet in Israel” – physical healing as well as divine revelation are offered.  We’re reminded that God’s people must not, as St. Paul says to the Galatian Christians, “grow weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap” (Gal.6 v 9).

Verses 9 – 12   So Naaman with his horses and chariots arrived in style and stopped at Elisha’s door.  Elisha sent out a servant to meet him with this message: “Go to the River Jordan and immerse yourself seven times. Your skin will be healed and you’ll be as good as new.”  Naaman lost his temper. He turned on his heel saying, “I thought he’d personally come out and meet me, call on the name of God, wave his hand over the diseased spot, and get rid of the disease. The Damascus rivers, Abana and Pharpar, are cleaner by far than any of the rivers in Israel. Why not bathe in them? I’d at least get clean.” He stomped off, mad as a hornet.  (The Message)


  • False beliefs have to be admitted and confronted first before we receive God’s revelation – we can’t expect to receive God’s blessing and continue to live in deception.

Naaman’s desire to be healed lets him respond favourably to Elisha’s offer.  However, it is his distorted beliefs about people of lower social rank that present problems for him and get in the way of his healing.  Naaman expects to be treated with ‘honour’ by the prophet Elisha. He is disappointed that he is not invited into Elisha’s house. To make matters worse, Naaman is appalled that it is Elisha’s servants who give the healing message instead Elisha himself.  It gets even worse when Naaman’s ethno-centric biased belief emerges. In an angry rage, he questions whether the rivers in Israel – the nation the Syrian army plundered, could be better than the rivers of Damascus in the land of Syria.

Verses 13 – 16 But his servants caught up with him and said, “Father, if the prophet had asked you to do something hard and heroic, wouldn’t you have done it? So why not this simple ‘wash and be clean’?”  So he did it. He went down and immersed himself in the Jordan seven times, following the orders of the Holy Man. His skin was healed; it was like the skin of a little baby. He was as good as new.  He then went back to the Holy Man, he and his entourage, stood before him, and said, “I now know beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is no God anywhere on earth other than the God of Israel. In gratitude let me give you a gift.”  “As God lives,” Elisha replied, “the God whom I serve, I’ll take nothing from you.” Naaman tried his best to get him to take something, but he wouldn’t do it.


  • We all need to face our own distorted and wrong beliefs in order to accept the Truth of God

In the midst of Naaman’s rage, Naaman has an epiphany, a moment of truth when he confronts not only the truth about his own distorted beliefs, but the truth of God’s unrelenting desire to heal him and make him whole. This moment is made possible from an unlikely source – Naaman’s own servants. His servants point out his biases and beliefs about social status, saying that had the prophet spoken directly to Naaman, Naaman would have accepted the same message that the prophet’s servants gave in regard to his healing.  Desiring to overcome his own biases and prejudices, Naaman puts his ego aside and follows through on the instructions from Elisha’s servants. He dips seven times in the Jordan River and is healed – so much so that his skin is like that of a little child. WOW! A physical and spiritual rebirth occurs when Naaman embraces God’s grace and healing power.

All of this happens only after he is prepared to disband his beliefs about social status and human power, to release his ethno-centric bias and to submit to the advice and wisdom of persons of lower rank, who admittedly are God’s chosen conduits.

  • Seek spiritual revelation first, physical and material blessings flow after

Naaman, now forever grateful for God’s healing grace, commits himself to serve the God of Israel. Naaman steps into another realm of spiritual revelation. God’s power works through the oppressed, those of lesser rank, the marginalized to heal him, a man of military might and power. Naaman now has a testimony and he appreciates those who have led him to his physical healing and spiritual revelation.

  • Blessings come from unlikely sources

But then, he offers a gift to Elisha the prophet. Elisha refuses, because he sees himself only as a conduit of God’s grace to Naaman. I wonder, is the desire to give a gift an act of “noblesse oblige,” a remnant of Naaman’s old beliefs about status and power? I don’t quite know. But I certainly am reminded that our richest blessings very often come from people who we perceive to be in a disadvantaged position. Some of the most materially disadvantaged and oppressed people in this world are far more spiritually rich than many of us and will give the best of what they have, with the expectation of nothing in return.

The best blessing you can give to others is the Truth of God’s Word and acts of kindness.  This is how God is glorified through us and how He uses us to bring His blessings to others!

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