I have been a major supporter of women’s rights to minister in the church for a very long time. This subject has been a “parking lot” discussion for me because I know that Jesus Christ came to set people free, not shackle them to cultural norms from pre-Christian traditions.
Recently I was in a conversation with someone who brought up a valid point of logic on the debate of women ministering in the church, or more particularly, within the five-fold ministry of Ephesians 4:11. We were discussing the interpretation of 1 Corinthians 14:35 and 1 Timothy 2:11ff which seem to forbid women to minister in the church. He said that those who will not let women minister in the church must by deduction allow for slavery too. Good point!
Upon closer examination of these verses, it’s evident that they are not referring to women in general, but to wives of ministers who were trying to crowd in on their husband’s place and authority.
And if they (the wives of the prophets) will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands (the prophets) at home: for it is a shame for women (the wives of the prophets) to speak in the church. ~1 Corinthians 14:13
Let the woman (wife) learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman (wife) to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. ~1 Timothy 2:11–13
Neither of these verses were meant for women in general but were specifically addressing the wives of ordained ministers. They were being admonished for disrupting their husbands’ messages and being told to discuss them at home instead. These words were not meant to shackle women or limit their authority but to address a problem that was occurring at these churches with the ministers’ wives.
My friend and I were also discussing the cultural norms of the communities to whom these instructions were given—communities that were based upon sex and idol worshiping and that considered women as “property,” rather than as human beings. We were also discussing the evolving revelation of liberty, beginning with Christ’s earthly ministry. Churches who forbid women to minster in the church often say that they are literally interpreting the Scriptures. First of all, if they were literally interpreting them, they would need to point out that the context identifies “the women” in these verses as the wives of the ministers, and not women in general. Second of all, a literal interpretation would also take into consideration the truth that Christ came to set us free, not to keep us bound.
My friend then made the dazzling deduction that the title of this posting is based upon. He said, “If those who disallow women to minister in the church are justified by their ‘literal’ interpretation of the Scriptures, then by the same logic they would have to accept and legitimatize slavery because that culture also allowed slavery, as shown by the Scriptures that deal with how a servant (slave) is to act towards his master and vice versa” (Ephesians 6:5–8; Colossians 3:22–24). In other words, to be logically and deductively consistent, if women cannot minister in the church then it must also be okay to own slaves.
My friends, Jesus Christ came to set us free, not to laden us with heavy burdens in order to justify our flesh. Jesus came to set slaves free and He came to set women free (which, in some cultures, would be relevant to both). Properly interpreted, there is no restriction on women ministering in the church. According to Galatians 3:28, in Christ Jesus, there is neither male of female. We are all set free to serve him regardless of race, sex, country and/or culture.
He who the Son sets free is free indeed (John 8:36).