In my blog entry called “Are women’s gifts secondary?” I documented the complementarian teaching that women’s gifts are secondary to men’s gifts and that women to use their gifts outside the church.
The question for this post is, are women’s gifts really meant to be used outside the church or are they to be used for the purpose of growth for the body of Christ?
To answer this question our most important resource will be the bible. Although there are several women mentioned who are co-workers with Paul, complementarians who refuse to allow women to minister in the church will tend to disregard these women co-workers because they say there is no documented evidence of their public ministry. So let’s look outside the box for a minute and look at the documented public ministry of a woman few people have reason to consider. The reason we will study this woman is not just for what is said about her, but also what is not said. In Revelation 2:20 we read:
But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.
Revelation 2:20 was written to the church in Thyatira. In this church is a particular woman named Jezebel is leading and teaching those whom Jesus calls “My bond-servants”. These men are committing adultery with her in seem by verse 22.
Now let us pay close attention to what Jesus says about Jezebel.
Revelation 2:21 ‘I gave her time to repent, and she does not want to repent of her immorality.
Jesus gives Jezebel time to repent of her immorality.
20 ‘But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.
Jezebel calls herself a prophetess or an inspired woman prophet and she was teaching and leading men to sacrifice to idols and to commit adultery with her. Now there is something missing here that is very important. Did you notice that Jesus did not reprove Jezebel for the act of teaching but rather for the content of her teaching? It was her teaching and leading into adultery and leading people to eat things sacrificed to idols (teaching about the “depths of Satan”) that Jesus reproved her for. But wouldn’t this have been the perfect opportunity for Jesus to have given a second witness to the “law” that stops women from teaching men? This would have been the very best place to repeat the “law” if one existed since here we have a case of a woman publicly teaching men. But Jesus says nothing against a woman teaching men but he only stands against the substance of her teaching. Jesus also doesn’t rebuke Thyatira for letting her teach men publicly. He rebukes Thyatira for tolerating immorality.
In verse 22 Jesus gives Jezebel’s punishment along with the punishment of those who practiced immorality.
Revelation 2:22 Behold, I am throwing her into a bed, and those who commit adultery with her into great affliction, unless they repent of their deeds.
The extent of this woman’s ministry is shown by God’s judgment against her:
Revelation 2:23 And I will kill her children with pestilence, and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds.
All the churches will know that God is the one who searches the minds and hearts because of what he will bring upon this woman. Again notice that it doesn’t say that God will kill her children with pestilence because she is teaching men. Her punishment is because of her immorality.
Now that we have seen an example of a woman teacher inside the church who was a bad leader, where are women’s gifts shown to be good gifts inside the church? 1 Corinthians 14 talks about the gifts and the assembling of the church.
1 Corinthians 14:23 Therefore if the whole church assembles together and all speak in tongues, and ungifted men or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are mad?
1 Corinthians 14:26 What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.
1 Corinthians 14:31 For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted;
When the whole church assembles together, Paul says that they all are allowed to prophesy. This is body ministry and this includes the women in the church.
Where does it say that women’s gifts are not allowed in the church and not allowed for men’s profit? And where does it say that women are not allowed to pray with the men in the church as some prominent complementarians teach? The practice of the early church was that they were all together devoting themselves to prayer.
Acts 1:13 When they had entered the city, they went up to the upper room where they were staying; that is, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James.
Acts 1:14 These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.
When we are challenged that God has forbidden women from having any kind of public ministry, it is time that we answer back from scripture. God does not forbid his women “sons” from having a public ministry or from preaching the gospel of Christ to every creature!