Gender in Church Leadership and Worship

Consideration of the question of female church leadership and the place of women in the communal worship of Christian assemblies is of increasing importance in Western churches and religious bodies.  As women have gained prominence and assumed positions of authority in secular institutions so have they advanced to leadership in religious organizations, albeit slowly and with more opposition.  Some denominations have endorsed and encouraged women to go into the “ministry”, while others have not permitted this at all.  Still others have concluded to allow a combination of husband-wife “pastor teams” or boards with both genders fully represented.  I have been asked before why the church doesn’t allow women to be ordained to office or to lead the congregation in its worship of God.  The simplest answer, which I still give, is, “the Bible doesn’t permit the ordination of women.”  Let us review a few passages and I will throw in my two cents on this important discussion.

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The Kingdom

Like most Jews at the time of Christ, the Apostles asked this question in anticipation of an earthly kingdom in which the Christ would reign over the Earth and restore Israel to its original majesty. Now, 2,000 years later, many people still wait for the day when temporal governments will be thwarted, the Kingdom will be established, and the Lord will rule on David’s throne from Jerusalem.

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The Resurrection: Fact or Fraud?

"All but four of the major world religions are based on mere philosophical propositions.  Of the four that are based on personalities rather than on a philosophical system, only Christianity claims an empty tomb for its founder” (McDowell, p. 205).  Followers of Judaism agree that Abraham died about 1900 B.C.  The earliest accounts of Buddha’s death declare that he died “with that utter passing away in which nothing whatever remains behind,” (Smith, p. 385) and make no mention of a resurrection.

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Citizenship

Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, had triple citizenship status. He was citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven, an Israelite of the tribe of Benjamin, and a Roman citizen. His subjection to the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, took precedence over the other two realms;“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Phil 3:20) In the world he was “of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews.”

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The Covenant Relationship

From age to age God has dealt with his creation in the same manner. He has framed his interaction and conveyed his wishes through the vehicle of a covenant. The beauty of God's interaction can be seen in the uniform simplicity of the format of His message. This concept of a covenant is so integral to the Bible that the two major divisions are named the Old and New Testaments. 

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One Faith

The New Testament writers use the word faith in broader terms than simple belief in Jesus. Following Paul's conversion, the brethren observed, "He who formerly persecuted us now preaches THE FAITH which he once tried to destroy." (Galatians 1:23)

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I did not come with excellence of speech.

Mankind has always been captivated by great public speakers. We can look through history and see those are remembered for their great oratory skills. To name just a few: Cicero, Patrick Henry, and Winston Churchill. These were men who inspired and persuaded others not only by their message but by their eloquence and charisma.

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Caught Up Together

Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (I Thessalonians 4:17).  What a day that will be!  When in Hebrews 8:6 the writer tells us that the better (new) covenant is established on better promises this day must have been in mind.  Every child of God watches and waits for this great day, hastening its coming (II Peter 3:12).  Everyone that has this hope in them endures every trial, even the passing of dear loved ones in the Lord, knowing that it won’t be very long until Christ returns to receive His own.  It is no wonder then that I Thessalonians 4:18 reads, “Therefore comfort one another with these words.”

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"Speaking to One Another"

Jesus said, “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him...” (John 14:21).  He also said, “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love...” (John 15:10).  Plain talk.  Hard to swallow, maybe, but not hard to understand.  Simply put, love and obedience are inextricably linked, each following on the heels of the other.  According to Jesusto love Him is to obey Him, and to obey Him is to be loved by Him.

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"Go and Sin No More" (excerpts from John 8:1-12)

Thus Jesus spoke to the woman caught in the act of adultery. Her accusers wanted to corner Jesus through this matter. After all, He had put them on notice concerning the righteous mercy of God and their own unrighteousness. Consider these previous events from the book of John:

  • Jesus drove the money changers and sellers of livestock from the temple.

  • He taught that God did not send His Son to condemn, but to save.

  • A Samaritan woman was given hope.

  • A man was healed on the Sabbath

  • The leadership of Israel was criticized for scratching each others backs while rejecting the truth.

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Few There Are Who Find It

No matter our religious conviction we share a common destiny.  By the Holy Spirit's inspiration Paul declared:

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. (2 Corinthians 5:10)

Whether we acknowledge Jesus in this life or not, we will stand before Him one day to answer for our life's activities. 

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“I am the bread of life.” John 6:35

The account of Jesus miraculously feeding five thousand men with five loaves of bread and two fish is recorded in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. John’s account alone gives us a look into the multitude’s response after they had been fed. The 6th chapter of John tells us that Jesus left the multitude after the miracle and crossed the Sea of Galilee. 

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The Thief on the Cross

One of the most beautiful and encouraging passages in the Bible is Luke 23:39-43.  In spite of the suffering and humiliation we see faith and humility from a repenting thief and mind-blowing love, mercy and grace from our blessed Savior.  It strengthens us because if a thief may enter into paradise with our Lord there must be hope for us!  It is saddening that it is misunderstood and misapplied to say baptism is a useless work and unnecessary for salvation.

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Faith and Works

“What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works Can faith save him?”  James 2:14

 This question presented in the Scriptures nearly 2,000 years ago remains for many Bible students a point of confusion and contention. What does God really require of those that seek to serve Him?  Is my faith enough, or is there something more?  Should I simply trust in God’s ability to save, or do the works of my life affect whether or not the Lord will redeem me by his grace?          

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The Gift of the Holy Spirit

From the beginning of time on this earth, the spirit has been connected with life. It was the Spirit of God breathed into man bringing him to life (Genesis 2:7). Jesus tells us plainly that it is the Spirit who gives life (John 6:63), and James further states that "the body without the spirit is dead." (James 2:26) If it is the Spirit that gives us life and keeps us alive, what is the significance of Peter's promise to those who would repent and be baptized in Acts 2:38, that they might receive the gift of the Holy Spirit? The Spirit already gives and sustains us physically (Job 33:4). Thus, there must be more than just physical blessings that God, through the mouth of Peter, was promising.

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The Apostles, the Prophets, and the Cornerstone

The word of God teems with imagery.  From Pharoah and Nebuchadnezzar’s prophetic dreams, to Revelation’s well-known apocalyptic symbolism, to Jesus’ many memorable parables (“The kingdom of heaven is like…”), God employs imagery throughout Scripture to reveal His will.  Speaking to the mind’s eye, the Bible’s imagery encourages us to first envision its truths that we might then be enlightened by them.

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