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The Important Role of Women In The Church

When considering the difference between the role of men and women in the church, a good place to start is their similarity. The apostle Paul wrote, “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. ...There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:26-28) From God’s perspective every Christian is an equally important member of the universal church - the one spiritual organism called the Body of Christ. While people tend to focus on the idea of women submitting to men, the fact of the matter is that both men and women are called to submit to each other and most importantly to submit to God (Ephesians 5:21, Philippians 2:3-4, James 4:7). Jesus Christ is the Head and all Christians are simply different members of His spiritual body on earth – hand muscles, leg muscles, back muscles, and many other muscles... all specially designed to work in concert under the direction of the Head. Our differences should be overshadowed by the profound similarity of simply being equally important parts of the body of Christ. The right hand shouldn’t focus on the left hand but rather it should focus on the Head of the Body - Jesus Christ!

The historical and cultural context of the Bible must be carefully considered in order to properly understand the Bible’s instruction about the different roles of men and women in the church. For example, the instruction about women covering their head in church (1 Corinthians 11:5-6) may appear demeaning at face value, but in the cultural context of the Bible the meaning was exactly the opposite; it was demeaning for a women to have her head uncovered in public, much like it is in the middle east today. In the Old Testament, a women suspected of adultery would be stripped of her veil (Numbers 5:18). Translated to our culture today, Paul’s instruction about head coverings in church simply means decent and honorable clothing. Men are extra sensitive to visual stimuli, and when women wear clothing that is too revealing it makes it very difficult for men to keep their thoughts pure, which in turn impacts the way men treat women.

Another example is the instruction about women being silent in church. This was first written by the apostle Paul when addressing both men and women in the church of Corinth about unruly behavior that was occuring in their worship services. (1 Corinthians 14:34, 1 Timothy 2:12) It is noteworthy that this instruction is given right after the famous love chapter. Christian love that both men and women are called to demonstrate towards each other is a heavenly contrast to the harsh treatment of women in the Roman Empire where the church of Corinth was situtated. Not only did Roman culture forbid women from speaking in public assemblies, but it required all women to be under the guardianship of a male, giving either their father or husband total control over their life. Paul's words in Galatians about there being "neither male nor female..." become even more revolutionary when seen against this cultural backdrop! (Galatians 3:26-28) A survey of the New Testament shows that in spite of their Roman culture, women often played strategic roles in ministry (Mary Magdalene in John 20:18; Priscilla in Acts 18:26; the women who prophesied in Acts 21:9; Phoebe, Priscilla, Mary, and Junia in Romans 16:1-7; Chloe in 1 Corinthians 1:11; Euodia and Syntyche in Philippians 4:2; Apphia in Philemon 2). The biblical guidelines for women in the church must be carefully translated from the Roman culture to our culture. The aim of all the specific commands of the Bible is to walk and speak in love (Matthew 22:40), without which we sound like “a clanging cymbal...” (1 Corinthians 13:1)

When we walk in love we reflect Jesus Christ to the world. The submission of a woman to her husband is meant to be a Spirit-filled activity that reflects our submission to God, and the way a husband should love his wife is meant to be a reflection of Christ’s love for the church! When a husband loves his wife in this manner, it makes submission a wonderful experience. “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church... Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her.” (Ephesians 5:22-25). Relationships thrive when we follow God’s design.

also see animated tract: The Love Triangle