Women Leaders

The Bible is clear that men and women are equally God’s image bearers (Genesis 1:27) and therefore equal before God and in relationship with one another, and also that they are fellow-heirs in the Christian life, equal in their spiritual standing before God (1Peter 3:7; Galatians 3:28).

The Bible is also clear that men and women, who are equal with respect to creation and redemption and therefore share many things in common, are called to different and equally important roles in marriage and the church. God Himself has determined distinctive roles for men and women in order that thereby they may fulfill the creation mandate that He has given to mankind (cf. Genesis 1:28; 3:15-19). Within the creation mandate, God has called men to serve as leaders in marriage and the church, and women to submit themselves willingly to that leadership, as they labor together in their distinctive roles (Ephesians 5:22-24; 1 Peter 3:1-6; 1 Timothy 2:12; 3:1-13).

It is good to keep the perspective roles of men and women in light of Genesis 3. “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.’” In short, God speaks about what is unique to her as a woman, namely, being a mother and a wife. To the man He speaks of the difficulties he will have in his toil (i.e., while seeking to subdue the earth) to secure bread (Genesis 3:17-19) “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” Here God defines what is the main calling for man, namely, the responsibility of earning the primary finances for his wife and family (1 Timothy 5:8).

The Old Testament and Women.

As already mentioned, in the creation account of Genesis 1, God’s first word on the subject of men and women is that they were equally created in the image of God (v.27). Neither received more of the image of God than the other. So the Bible begins with the equality of the sexes. As a person, as spiritual beings standing before God, men and women are absolutely equal.

Despite this equality, there is in Genesis 2 a more detailed account of the creation of two human beings that reveals differences in their God-given functions and responsibilities. God did not create the man and the woman at the same time, but rather he created Adam first and Eve later for the specific purpose of being Adam’s helper. Eve was equal to Adam, but she was given the role and duty of submitting to him. Although the word “helper” carries very positive connotations--even being used of God Himself as the helper of Israel (Deut. 33:7, Ps. 33:20)--it still describes someone in a relationship of service to another. The responsibility of wives to submit to their husbands, then, was part of the plan from creation, even before the curse. The first books of the Bible establish both the equality of men and women and also the support role of the wife (see Exod. 21:15, 17, 28-31, Num. 5:19-20, 29, 6:2, 30:1-16).

Adam and Eve’s disobedience to God’s command resulted in certain consequences (Gen.3:16-19). For the women, God pronounced a curse that included multiplied pain in childbirth and tension in the authority/submission relationship of husband and wife, Genesis 3:16 says the woman’s “desire” will be for her husband but he shall “rule” over her. In Genesis 4:7 the author uses the same word “desire” to mean “excessive control over.” Thus, the curse in Genesis 3:16 refers to a new desire on the part of the woman to exercise control over her husband--but he will, in fact, oppressively rule and exert authority over her. The result of the fall on marriage through history has been an ongoing struggle between the sexes, with women seeking control and men seeking dominance.

Throughout the Old Testament, women were active in the religious life of Israel, but generally they were not leaders. Women like Deborah (Judges 4) were clearly the exception and not the rule. No woman was a priest. No legitimate queen ever ruled Israel. No woman wrote an Old Testament (or New Testament) book. Isaiah 3:12 indicates that God allowed women to rule as part of His judgment on the sinning nation.

Jesus and Women.

In the midst of the Greek, Roman, and Jewish cultures, which viewed women almost on the level of possessions, Jesus showed love and respect for women, Though Jewish rabbis did not teach women and the Jewish Talmud said it was better to burn the Torah than to teach it to a woman, Jesus never took the position that women, by their very nature, could not understand spiritual or theological truths. He not only included them in His audiences but also used illustrations and images that would be familiar to them (Matt. 13:33, 22:1-2, 24:41, Luke 5:8-10) and specifically applied His teaching to them (Matt. 10:30). To the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4), He revealed that He was the Messiah and discussed with her topics such as eternal life and the nature of true worship. He also taught Mary and, when admonished by Martha, pointed out the priority of learning spiritual truth even over “womanly” responsibilities like serving guests in one’s home (Luke 10:38).

Although men in Jesus’ day normally would not allow women to count change into their hands for fear of physical contact, Jesus touched women to heal them and allowed women to touch Him (Luke 13, Mark 5:25). Jesus even allowed a group of women to travel with Him and His disciples (Luke 8:1-3), an unprecedented happening at the time. After His resurrection, Jesus appeared first to Mary Magdalene and sent her to announce His resurrection to the disciples (John 20:1-18), despite the fact that women, it seems from studying history, were not allowed to be witnesses in Jewish courts because they were considered liars.

In Jesus’ treatment of women, He raised their station of life and He showed them compassion and respect in a way they had never known. This demonstrated their equality. At the same time, however, Jesus still did not exalt women to a place of leadership over men.

The Epistles and Women.

In the Epistles, the two principles of equality and submission for women exist side by side. Galatians 3:28 points to the equality, indicating that the way of salvation is the same for both men and women and that they are members of equal standing in the body of Christ. It does not, however, eradicate all differences in responsibilities for men and women, for this passage does not cover every aspect of God’s design for male and female. In addition, there are many other passages that make distinctions between what God desires of men and what He desires of women, specifically with family and within the church.

The Family and Women.

While Christian marriage is to involve mutual love and submission between a believing man and a believing woman (Eph. 5:21), four passages in the New Testament expressly give the wives the responsibility to submit to their husbands (Eph. 5:22, Col. 3:18, Titus 2:5, 1 Peter 3:1). This voluntary submission of one equal to another is an expression of love for God and desire to follow His design revealed in His Word. It is never pictured as demeaning or in any way diminishing the wife’s equality. Rather the husband is called to love his wife sacrificially as Christ loved the church (Eph. 5:25) and to serve as the leader in a relationship of two equals.

While husbands and fathers have been given the primary responsibility for the leadership of the children (Eph. 6:4, Col. 3:21, 1 Tim. 3:4-5), wives and mothers are urged to be “workers at home” (Titus 2:5), meaning managers of the household. Their home and their children are to be their priority, in contrast to the world’s emphasis today on careers and full time jobs for women outside the home.

The Church and Women.

From the very beginning, women fulfilled a vital role in the Christian church (Acts 1:1- 14, 19:36-42, 16:13-15, 17, 10-12, 18:1-2, 18:24-28, Romans 16, 1 Cor. 16:19; 2 Tim. 1:5, 4:19), but not one of leadership. The Apostles were all men; the chief missionary activity was done by men; the writing of the New Testament was the work of men; and leadership in the churches was entrusted to men.

Although the Apostle Paul respected women and worked side by side with them for the furtherance of the gospel (Romans 16, Phil. 4:3), he appointed no female elders or pastors. In his letters, he urged that men were to be the leaders in the church and that women were not to teach or exercise authority over men (1 Tim. 2:12). Therefore, although women are spiritual equals with men and the ministry of women is essential to the body of Christ, women are excluded from leadership over men in the church.

Men and women stand as equals before God, both bearing the image of God Himself. However, without making one inferior to the other, God calls upon both men and women to fulfill the roles and responsibilities specifically designed for them, a pattern that can be seen even in the Godhead (1 Cor. 11:3). In fulfilling the divinely given roles taught in the New Testament, women are able to realize their full potential because they are following the plan of their Creator and Designer. Only in obedience to Him and His design will women truly be able, in the fullest sense, to give glory to God.

Now in the book of Judges we see Deborah, a prophetess (4:4). Deborah was the wife of Lappidoth. He didn't hinder his wife from being a judge. He sat beside her with a meek and quiet spirit and encouraged her in her ministry! Perhaps he helped to look after the children at home. God could not use Lappidoth, but he could use his wife.

In the Acts of the Apostles, we read of a couple – Aquila and Priscilla. It appears as though Priscilla knew god and the Scriptures better than her husband Aquila. I say that because in the five times that they are referred to together in the New Testament, four times they are referred to as “Priscilla and Aquila”, and not as “Aquila and Priscilla” (Acts 18:18, 26; Romans 16:3; 2 Timothy 4:19)! The order there has significance.

It is plain fact that there are many wives who know God and the Scriptures better than their husbands.

Priscilla, however was a wonderful women who knew how to submit to her husband Aquila. When she heard Apollos once in the synagogue and realized that he did not understand the truth fully, she invited him home and sat down with her husband and explained the way of God to Apollos, and thus revolutionized Apollos' ministry (Acts 18:24-28). She didn't get up in the synagogue and correct him. No. she called him home. That's a beautiful example of a women of God who knew her place as a woman, but who had the anointing of God upon her life to bless even men. Apollos finally became a co-worker of the apostle Paul. But the one who set him on the right path first was a woman- Priscilla!

Deborah used to sit under a palm tree and the sons of Israel would come to her for judgment (4:5). Perhaps her husband Lappidoth was cooking food at home, while she was judging Israel. God had to do it like that, because all the men in Israel were so effeminate. Then she called for the bravest man in Israel -Barak- to lead Israel into battle. She recognized her limitations and knew that, as a woman, she could not go to battle. She needed a man, just like Priscilla needed Aquila.

Deborah told Barak, “Take 10,000 men with you and go and fight against Sisera and the Lord will deliver him into your hand” (4:6-7). That was such a ckear and specificprophecy from the Lord. But what does the bravest man in Israel reply? Barak said, “If thou wilt go with me, then I will go: but if thou wilt not go with me, then I will not go.” (4:8). He was scared to go without her! So Deborah agreed to go with Barak. How effeminate the bravest man in Israel was! And he was typical of all the others. But because Barak was so effeminate, Deborah told him “the victory shall not be attributed to thee, because Sisara shall be delivered into the hand of a woman.” (4:9) Finally, it was a woman, Jael, who killed Sisera (4:22)

There is a lesson here for all men.

God is disappointed when He cannot find a man to lead his people. But God's work will not be hindered just because the men fail Him.

He will use women instead. God has used many women, through the centuries, all over the world, to do His work. God is not limited to men to get His work done.

After Israel was liberated form Sisera, Deborah and Barak sang a song. It is called the “Song of Deborah and Barak” (chapter 5). In 5:16, we read about the different tribes that came to fight in the battle. And then in 5:23, we read “Curse Meroz.” Why doe Meroz have to be cursed? Because they did nothing. They did not commit any sin, but they did nothing. They did not come to the help of the Lord when the enemy was coming.

Maybe you have not committed any sin. But if you don't go out to spiritual battle, to fight for the Lord, you are sinning. It is a sin to sit back and do nothing, when others are fighting the battles of the Lord. That's not a sin of commission. It is a sin of omission.

There are two types of sins- sins of commission and sins of omission. Sins of commission are those where we do something wrong. Sins of omission are those where we did nothing, when we should have done something. In the parable of the good Samaritan, the priest and the Levite did nothing. Theirs was the sin of Meroz. When there was a need for warriors to fight for the Lord, Meroz did nothing. So when you don't support the Lord's soldiers and don't go out yourself and fight, you are sinning.