Men and women equally bear the image of God, equally share in the mandate to have dominion over the created order, and have equal access to a direct relationship with God (Gen. 1:26-28).
In the New Covenant, all people are redeemed without regard to race, economic status, or gender. Through faith in Christ all (male and female) become new creations, sons of God, one in Christ, heirs of God and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 5:17; John 1:12-13; Romans 8:14-17; 1 Peter 3:7).
The New Covenant supercedes and nullifies the Old Covenant (Heb. 8:13) with its hierarchies based on race and gender. Ministry and leadership under the Old Covenant were restricted to those who were old, male, and Jewish. The New Covenant was inaugurated by the supernatural outpouring of the Spirit of prophecy upon the young as well as the old, women as well as men, the lowly as well as the mighty, Gentiles as well as Jews (Acts 2:1-4; 17-21).
In the New Covenant, men and women alike exercise the prophetic and priestly functions which previously were reserved for Jewish males (Acts 2:17-18; 1 Cor. 11:4-5; 1 Peter 2:9-10). The Spirit bestows His spiritual gifts on all members of the Church sovereignly, without giving preferential treatment based on gender (Acts 2:1-21; 1 Cor. 12:7,11). To prevent believers from exercising their God-given spiritual gifts is to quench the work of the Spirit.
God, as revealed in the New Covenant, is not a God of partiality (Acts 10:34) or a respecter of persons. He doesn’t show preferential treatment to anyone on the basis of race, age, economic status, intellect, social status, or gender. To make such distinctions in the Church makes us “judges with evil motives” (James 2:4,9).
Under the New Covenant, “there is neither Jew nor Greek…slave nor free man…male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:26-28). To be one in Christ is to be equal in Christ. We would not exclude someone from ministry or leadership because they weren’t Jewish, or because they were a slave. Why do we exclude women solely on the basis of gender?
Through His teaching and practice, Jesus continually challenged the sexist prejudices which prevailed in His culture. He rejected the practices of separation of men and women, the silence of women during worship, as well as the rabbinical teaching that women were not to be taught the scriptures (Luke 10:38-42; John 4:7-39; John 11:20-27; Matt. 27:55-56; Mark 15:40-41; John 19:25; Mark 15:47; Matt. 27:61; Luke 24:10-11).
Leadership, as taught in the Bible and modeled by Jesus, is servant-oriented leadership that empowers others for service rather than exercising power over others (Matt. 20:25-28; Mark 10:42-45; Eph. 4:11-16; John 13:13-17; Phil. 2:3-11; Gal. 5:13; 1 Peter 5:2-3). Leadership is not “lording it over” others but taking the lowly position of a slave, the position of humble subservience. One who understands biblical leadership as the exercise of power is not motivated by the Spirit of Christ, whether male or female.
Throughout the New Testament, women are involved in ministry and leadership at every level:
- Junia (a clearly female name) served as an outstanding apostle (Romans 16:7)
- Women were involved in prophetic speaking at Pentecost (Acts 1:14; 2:15-18)
- Philip had four daughters who were prophetesses (Acts 21:9)
- Women prayed and prophesied in the worship services at Corinth (1 Cor. 11:5, 10)
- Phoebe is commended by Paul as a deacon (“diakonos”) in the church of Cenchrea and leader (“prostasis” = to lead, govern, or ruls over) of the church (Romans 16:1)
- Euodia and Syntyche were co-workers of Paul (Phil. 4:2-3)
- Priscilla was a gifted teacher and one who instructed Apollos (Rom. 16:3-5; Acts 18:2,18-26)
The three problematic texts that seem to restrict the full redemptive equality and leadership of women (1 Cor. 11:2-16; 14:33-36; 1 Tim. 2:12-15) should not be interpreted in contradiction to the clearly revealed teaching of scripture but with careful consideration given to the specific problems they were written to address and the cultural context in which they were written. These difficult texts must be interpreted in harmony with the greater teaching of scripture on the issue and the example modeled by Jesus.