Common objections to women in ministry

Common objections to women in ministry

Witness on Women in Ministry blog by Cheryl Schatz


Common Objections to Women in Ministry

One of the first objections to women in ministry is the fact that Jesus chose only males as his twelve apostles. If Jesus only chose men for this special “class” of people who were to be His witnesses of the resurrection, then didn’t Jesus show by this act that He does not allow women to minister in the church as men alone are to have a special position of authority?

I would like to suggest that Jesus deliberately chose men as part of the group of 12 who were to be witnesses to the resurrection since these men were to be witnesses to the world while Jesus assigned women to be the first witnesses to the church

In the culture of that day only men were considered to be credible witnesses. So a witness to the world would be most effective with the witness of those who could legally give testimony. It was the men who would establish a legal testimony to the world and go on to establish the integrity of their own witness by laying down their lives.

But Jesus considered the brethren to be different than the world as they were to accept the word and the witness of women without the world’s prejudice.

The angels at the tomb gave the gospel first of all to the women who spread the word by promptly giving the gospel to the men:

Luke 24:6  “He is not here, but He has risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee,

Luke 24:7  saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.”

Luke 24:8  And they remembered His words,

Luke 24:9  and returned from the tomb and reported all these things to the eleven and to all the rest.

In the book of Matthew, the angel commands the women to give the good news of the gospel to the Lord Jesus’ disciples:

Matthew 28:5  The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified.

Matthew 28:6  “He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying.

Matthew 28:7  “Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going ahead of you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you.”

Matthew 28:8  And they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy and ran to report it to His disciples.

While the women were on their way to report the good news to the disciples, Jesus Himself met them and it was Jesus who commissioned them as witnesses:

Matthew 28:9  And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him.

Matthew 28:10  Then Jesus *said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and take word to My brethren to leave for Galilee, and there they will see Me.”

In the book of John, Mary was also given the privilege of seeing the resurrected Christ and she too was commissioned by Jesus to give a message of hope to the disciples:

John 20:15  Jesus *said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing Him to be the gardener, she *said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.”

John 20:16  Jesus *said to her, “Mary!” She turned and *said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means, Teacher).

John 20:17  Jesus *said to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.'”

In Mark’s account an angel commands the women to take word to Jesus’ disciples telling them that what happened to Jesus and the resurrection was “just as He told you”.

Mark 16:5  Entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting at the right, wearing a white robe; and they were amazed.

Mark 16:6  And he *said to them, “Do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified. He has risen; He is not here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him.

Mark 16:7  “But go, tell His disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him, just as He told you.'”

But the men would not believe the gospel given by the testimony of the women:

Luke 24:10  Now they were Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James; also the other women with them were telling these things to the apostles.

Luke 24:11  But these words appeared to them as nonsense, and they would not believe them.

These disciples were acting like the world in that they would not receive the testimony of the women. Jesus Himself came to some of these male disciples on the road to Emmaus and keeping their eyes from recognizing Him, he questioned them about what had happened. The men answered:

Luke 24:18  One of them, named Cleopas, answered and said to Him, “Are You the only one visiting Jerusalem and unaware of the things which have happened here in these days?”

Luke 24:19  And He said to them, “What things?” And they said to Him, “The things about Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people,

Luke 24:20  and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to the sentence of death, and crucified Him.

Luke 24:21  “But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, it is the third day since these things happened.

Luke 24:22  “But also some women among us amazed us. When they were at the tomb early in the morning,

Luke 24:23  and did not find His body, they came, saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said that He was alive.

Luke 24:24  “Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just exactly as the women also had said; but Him they did not see.”

Even with the testimony of all these women saying that Jesus was alive, they did not believe the women. Jesus chided them because they had not believed the testimony of the women nor had they believed the testimony of the prophets of old who had prophesied about His death and resurrection:

Luke 24:25  And He said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!

Luke 24:26  “Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?”

The undeniable testimony of the women and their belief in the resurrection was designed by God to be the very first witness to the early Christians.  The command for women to testify was from angels and from the Lord Jesus Himself.  By this act, Jesus removed the stigma of women as unreliable witnesses and He prepared the heart of his own brethren to receive women with full acceptance of their gifts through the coming in-filling and commission of the Holy Spirit which would shortly come to pass.

We should be able to see that it was the unbelieving world that needed the witness of 12 men. In contrast it was Jesus’ disciples who were given the witness of the women. God’s people were to accept the witness and gifting of godly women.

While the world is prejudiced against women, it is not to be that way among you.  The world’s way is prejudice against women.  That is why Jesus sent 12 male witnesses to be the commissioned witnesses of the resurrection to the world.  Jesus was not prejudiced against women – the world was!  But Jesus completely changed things with the church by sending women to the unbelieving brethren, because the church is to learn from Jesus a better way that is love without prejudice.

Jesus desired to teach his male disciples that they could accept the testimony of a woman sent by God.  She was just as worthy a witness as they were. Today Jesus is still sending a message to the church.  We are to be different from the world.  We are to be salt and light showing a different way.

I believe that when we love God enough, we will accept His gifts through female vessels without prejudice.  We as the church need to humble ourselves to embrace and encourage God’s commissioned witnesses and God’s commissioned gifts even from women whom God calls and gifts.  When we stop acting with prejudice as the world acts, the world will take notice that we have been with Jesus and we are changed.  Truly they will know that we are His disciples by our love for one another.  Let no man grieve the Holy Spirit by rejecting God’s gifts that flow through his sister in Christ.

19 thoughts on “Common objections to women in ministry

  1. I enjoyed reading this article and agree with the argument about women as the first witnesses of Christ’s resurrection. I believe the Scriptures provide a broad array of evidence that women are called by God to minister in every capacity within the Church.

    A few other things worth considering (which you may have covered elsewhere on the blog; I haven’t read everything here):

    1. The revelation of Jesus as the Christ was given not only to Peter (Mt. 16:16-17), but to Martha also (John 11:27).

    2. The women were among those who Jesus commanded to wait for the baptism in the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8), in which God also included men and women (Acts 1:12-14, 2:1-4), and which was a fulfillment of a prophecy that included women (Acts 2:17-18). The Holy Spirit empowers believers to witness for God (Acts 1:8).

    3. Women were cast into prison for the gospel (Acts 8:3). This indicates that they were important enough to the Church that their enemies hoped to discourage the Church by imprisoning them.

    Author, Troubling Her: A Biblical Defense of Women in Ministry (2010)

  2. Correct me if I am wrong. Is Anna the first person in the NT to be identified as a prophet?Luke 2:36. I and a lot of others were always taught it was John the Baptist. If it is Anna, then the 1st prophet God used after 400 years of silence is a woman? Would like to know.

  3. Cheryl, your article is a wonderful reply to that old saw: “If Jesus were really counter-cultural in his treatment of women, why didn’t he choose any women to be his apostles?” And a complementary response to this question, which you might interested in, is the article by Aida Besancon Spencer’s column in MUTUALITY, “Short Answers To Tough Questions.” I quote in part:

    LET’S REPHRASE THAT QUESTION: “If Jesus were really counter-cultural, why didn’t he choose any Gentiles to be his apostles?” or “Why didn’t he choose any slaves as apostles?” Jews thanked God that they were not born a Gentile, an untrained person (or a slave), or a woman, so wouldn’t Jesus have been really counter-cultural if he had Gentiles and Jews, untrained and trained (or slave and free), and women and men among his twelve disciples. Paul refers to the equality of all believers (Gal. 3:28), and recognized the ministry leadership of Titus, a Gentile; Onesimus, a slave; and Pheobe, a female. Were Paul and Jesus’ other disciples more counter-cultural than the Lord they followed? I think not. Perhaps we need to understand further the significance of the twelve for Jesus. Twelve Jewish men symbolized the patriarchs of the twelve tribes of Israel (Luke 11:30). Jesus’ own call to ministry was focused on reaching Israel (Matt. 10:5-6; 15:24; John 1:11; Rom. 15:8-9), because the earlier covenant was made with Israel (see Gen. 35:10-12; 1 Kings 18:31). The twelve were a witness to Israel, representing God’s first covenant with them and reminding them of God’s promises that were about to be fulfilled through Jesus…Building on this Old Testament symbolic base of the twelve, Jesus began expanding the numbers for the new covenant. The new covenant was begun by the apostolic witness of women and men. An apostle is someone sent with orders, an eyewitness of the resurrected Jesus…After the resurrection, “apostles” were comprised of many who “had been” with Jesus and were now also witnesses to the resurrection (Acts 1:21-23; 4:33), including the women at the tomb (Matt. 28:1, 7; Mark 16:1, 6-7; Luke 24:5-10) and the more than 500 brothers and sisters (1 Cor. 15:6). In the post-resurrection, post-Pentecost new covenant community, apostles are no longer limited to the twelve, but are multi-numbered because Jesus’ ministry has refocused from the Jewish people, the twelve tribes, and the old covenant, to the Gentiles, the nations, and the many tribes. At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit became a permanent indweller of every believer–both male and female–to be priest or intercessor between humans and God (1 Peter 2:9).

    Well, it is a good article, and it certainly complements all that you have said, Cheryl. I would recommend it to both you and everyone else. And if I may make an analogy, your article and Dr. Spencer’s would, together, like a twelve-gage shotgun, would be more than adequate to bring down this old partridge, named “The Twelve” that complementarians like to let loose in their discussions. Anyway, you’ve written a great article.

  4. Jessica,
    I am sorry that I have not had time to come to the blog and welcome you. I hope you feel at home here.

    You are absolutely right in that Jesus did give a revelation to Martha as well about being the Christ. Your other two points were very well reasoned. Good thoughts!

  5. Mabel,
    Although John was prophesied to come as a prophet to make the way straight for the Messiah he wasn’t mentioned in the NT first as a prophet. Anna was listed as the first named prophet in the NT although Simeon did give a prophecy about the baby Jesus, he was not said to be a prophet. It is certainly astonishing that God would use a woman in so many “first” ways. It proves that He values women enough to use them and in special ways He sets them up as “first”.

    Mabel, that was a good challenge for us to think about!

  6. Frank,
    Thanks for the warm thoughts and for sharing the thoughts from Aida Besancon Spencer’s column in MUTUALITY. I do think that we can set up a strong defense where we cover each other’s backs. One faces one way and has a defense there and another faces in the other direction and covers that line of defense.

    I like to look at things frontward and backward and upside down and sideways because there are many good things that we can miss if we only look at a “problem” from one angle. When we present a strong defense in a difference way, we are like water buffaloes who stand back to back with our heads and horns pointed towards the opposition and our vulnerable “back ends” meeting together in the inner circle. I never think that having one good answer is enough. If we can look at the problem through many different angles we are likely to reach people who have dismissed one line of reasoning and have never thought through another line. Together we are much stronger than we are separately. That is what is so wonderful about the body of Christ! We are in this together.

  7. Cheryl, thank you for your nice articles. They are really interesting! As I said once here, there is no stuff about women ministry in Italy.

  8. *Off Topic
    We have just had a State of Emergency issued here due to an ice storm. I would really appreciate your prayers that lives and electrical power will not be lost. dv – Thank You

  9. I have also heard that Jesus called 12 men to draw parallels to the 12 tribes of Israel (12 sons of Jacob). What is your opinion on this?

  10. Nicole,

    The 12 twelve also correspond to the 12 in the OT. All building stones in a patriarchal society. I have no problem with that and I do see that God makes some concessions like polygamy and slavery were not fully condemned as they could be helpful during evil times when widows would starve without a husband.

  11. Thanks Cheryl! How you “northerners” put up with this snow and ice is beyond me. I did a lot reading by flashlight.

  12. Kay,
    I complain when we lose power for a few hours. That happens often here in the mountains as our electricity is unreliable. I think we had four outages in one week with some of the outages for five or six hours. It means that I cannot work on my ministry work on the computer. I am blessed though to have a gas range so I can still cook. But we have not yet lost power for days at a time so I feel compassion for those who have suffered through that experience. I guess it helps us to be thankful for what we have when we lose it for a time.

  13. It’s such a blessing to know the truth about women in ministry! For years I stayed away from this type of website thinking people just didn’t want to accept the Scriptures! What darkness there was in my life at that time. Thank you for taking the time to share on this subject. Perhaps you are already familiar with Stephen Gola, but in case you aren’t, here is an excerpt from his article:
    Women In Ministry? Absolutely!
    He gives an explanation that he received from The Lord about 1 Cor. 14 earlier in the article and then why men were in key positions initially. Perhaps someone can benefit from this:

    Why has it been a mandate within the (male) church (community) in general to strictly forbid or set great limitations against and even ostracize women from being appointed to and or being accepted as called by God as an apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, teacher or to move in the gifts of God? The answer is simple: not only have they not understood the Scriptures we just went over, but even more importantly, that THE LORD ALWAYS LAYS A NEW FOUNDATION WITH SPECIFIC MALES FIRST:

    * The beginning of the human race, with the first person, a male.
    * The foundation of the nation of Israel, the twelve sons of Jacob.
    * The foundation of the Church, the twelve (male) apostles.
    * The first marriage, the man Adam.
    * The Lord Jesus as Head (Bridegroom) of the church.

    God ALWAYS uses specific males first when He establishes a new foundation, THEN the females, males and their children are added as God calls:

    * God added to the human race after the first man, a woman, then their children.
    * To the twelve sons of Jacob, their wives and then their children both males and females.
    * Upon the foundation of the twelve apostles, the beginning of the Church as the Lord adds daily both male and females.
    * Given in the first marriage to Adam, He built him a female mate.
    * And the Bridegroom, the Lord Jesus, His Father is presenting Him with a beautiful Bride without spot, wrinkle or blemish ? us! (See 1Corinthians 11:8-12.)

    Therefore, “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 3:28).
    All Rights Reserved, © Copyright 2009 by Stephen Gola

    Blessings on you,

  14. Mercy,
    Welcome to my blog!
    The foundation was indeed set as male first and the reasons can be many. However what we should not do is add a restriction onto women from God using the male first model. For example God created Adam first, but His plan was that Eve was to come from his body yet Eve did not have restrictions placed on her regarding her rule over God’s creation just because she was made after the man. The original design was for unity, not for division, restriction or prideful claiming of a sole “role”.

    I have communicated with Stephen Gola in the past and if I remember correctly he has a copy of my DVD set.

    Thanks for your comments and the link to Mr. Gola’s site.

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