Why Not Women Leaders In The Church?
Mr. G. Fred Hamilton, formerly of England, is a teaching elder at Valley Bible Chapel, Westwood, N.J. This is his third and concluding study on the subject of the place of women in the local church.
The Meaning Of Galatians 3:28
Some comments on this statement may be of help to many readers because the verse, like several others, is misused by those who claim that women should be allowed complete freedom to participate, like men, in church activities and leadership.
In Galatians, chapter 3, the inspired writer shows how the blessings of the gospel come to all, Jew and Gentile alike, not through the works of the law, but on the principle of faith in Christ. Christ has removed the curse of the law for those who were under it. He brings Jews and Gentiles who believe into the same relationship with God, as children —even more, as sons. Chapter 4 goes on to show how the wonder of this position and relationship with God is made a practical reality to us — God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, and we enjoy Him as “Abba, Father.”
All in Christ Jesus have these blessings (3:26). No earthly distinction, which separates men and women in their positions in this world, affects God’s work for us in Christ. Thus, verse 26 of chapter 3 underlines the spiritual blessing of all believers in Christ Jesus: God does not regard those differences which have arisen through birth, or through human arrangements — we are all one (as sons) in Christ, and there is neither Jew, nor Gentile, slave or freeman, male nor female. We are also Abraham’s seed and heirs of the promise.
Some commentators proceed to interpret this statement as intended to mean that all such distinctions should therefore be disregarded also in church fellowship. With God, there is no respect of persons, and as James shows (James, chapter 2), to show preferences to rich or well-clothed people, in contrast with poor and ill-clad, is foreign to His thinking. This clearly would apply also to masters and servants. But does this same principle apply also to male and female? If it did, what of the Scriptures examined earlier in this paper which state that God does make a difference? All Scriptures indeed, which show that men, and only men of certain qualifications, should act for Him in local church situations, and that women, or men who lack those qualifications, should not, would be irrelevant.
It is a grave insult to divine inspiration, or to the spiritual stature of the Apostle Paul, to state, as some do, that he was a victim of contemporary prejudices, especially Jewish, and that he reflected these traditional views of woman’s inferiority in writing 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy. Some even say that he had changed his mind when writing Galatians. But it happens that Galatians was written before the other epistles, and in any case, it is absurd to suggest that the apostle, writing consciously as he did as the vessel of divine inspiration, would not have been fully aware that he was contradicting other writings, as these erroneous interpretations would necessitate. Is it not evident that, when we recognize the divine inspiration of all these Scriptures, there can be no contradiction and that whatever Galatians 3:28 means, it does not mean that we can disregard these differences where practical behavior is concerned? The same inspired writer tells us that servants are to obey their masters; that women are to be subject to their husbands (Eph. 5:24; 6:5-7). Through this vessel also, God tells us that it is improper for a woman’s voice to be heard in the public gatherings of the church. Many sections of the News Testament emphasize the different roles and responsibilities of male and female in their conduct and relationships with one another, and with all other human beings, while living in the world. It would be an absurdity to force the interpretation of Galatians 3:28 to the point of ignoring all these directions because we are “all one in Christ Jesus,” as before God. In that case, marriage would cease to be necessary, and in those days when slaves were their master’s property, they would have been justified in running away — something of which the apostle evidently thought very differently when he wrote his letter to Philemon.
We must recognize that the term “in Christ Jesus” has a special significance in the context of Galatians 3:28. It is not in conflict with the rest of Scripture. On the contrary, those who seek to find in it authority to reject as “uninspired” those other Scriptures which direct unambiguously that men and women should occupy different roles than each other in practical conduct, are joining company with the many in Christendom who have little respect for the “sound words” and the “deposit” committed to the saints through the ministry of the Apostle Paul (2 Tim. 1:13,14). These writings are not “Pauline” in the sense sometimes implied by this unfortunate modern concoction, which treats them as if they were merely his thinking and ideas. They are “the Word of God” and we are directed to honor them as such (1 Cor. 14:36, 37).
History down the centuries shows, as illustrated in both Old and New Testaments, that in general, women tend to respond more readily to God’s revealed truth than do men. They thus make better use of opportunities to serve Him, often where men have failed to respond to His call. In Israel, the inspired records provide many examples of women taken up by God and used for the blessing of His people, sometimes bringing about deliverances which were not deserved by the nation, at times when men ought to have been His instruments but were not available to him (e.g. Judges). This does not negate the general principles which God has revealed, in both Old and New Testaments, regarding the subjective place of women.
In Christian times, many women have responded to the call of God to serve Him in mission fields, and have worked in unevangelized areas in many practical ways to reach souls, while there has been a marked scarcity of men. 1 Corinthians 11 appears to have a decidedly plain application to situations of this kind, especially when men have been totally lacking. Many godly missionary sisters have shown this. Few, if any, have presumed to be “preachers,” but many have found unique opportunities to “teach” in different ways. Some of the most significant have been brought under the sound of the gospel and have been taught the Scriptures. The association of medical, nursing and midwifery activities with these openings has proved to be very fruitful.
When, after much patient labor, souls have been won for Christ, and indigenous converts have learned the pattern of New Testament church gathering, many of these godly pioneer sisters have kept loyal faith with the principles described above, and have rejoiced to sit in “quietness” while men, raised up of God from what had been “raw” heathenism, ministered the Word and led in praise and prayer in the local church gatherings. The Second Epistle of John has surely a very special application for all such, and for those, too, in the homeland, who follow in their train, however limited. The Lord will surely reward such faithfulness, and that of all godly women who treasure His words and remain loyal to His revealed will. The Judgment Seat of Christ, where obedience, not earthly prominence, will count for eternity, will make manifest the counsels of the hearts, and every soul shall have due praise of God (1 Cor. 3:13; 4:5).