Equality in the Kingdom #2 The Woman -- Mother’s Day

 


Mother’s Day May 9, 2021

Equality in the Kingdom #2 The Woman

 We’ve been exploring the equality of the Kingdom.  Today is Mother’s Day we are going to look at the status of women in the Kingdom.  We’re going to consider scripture that seems to relegate women to some kind of second-class status.  We are going to consider scripture that reveals that there are no second-class citizens in the Kingdom.  We are going to see that in the Kingdom of God men and women are equals.

 First, a shout out to Moms.  Mom, You gave me life, you nurtured me, washed me, taught me, dressed me, disciplined me, fought for me, held me, nursed me, kissed me, counseled me, cheered me on, held me accountable, you have loved me unconditionally.  To say thank you seems so inadequate.  Regardless thank you and to those words, I will put actions that make you proud that you’re my mom.

 Consider this if you didn’t have a good enough mom, one that you still may be having issues with over their inability to meet your needs as an infant, a child, a teen, or an adult, there still is a deep heart connection.  Try to make peace with the mom who brought you into this world.  Maybe, just maybe, you don’t know the whole story, maybe, just maybe, she did the best she could.  Maybe, just maybe she has changed just as you have changed.  Now late in the game, there might be reconciliation.

 My mom died.  There are times I want to talk with her.  Hear her stories, listen to her viewpoints, even shake my head at some of her old fashion ideas.  When mom’s gone there really is no going home.  So today I especially honor her memory, her sacrifices for me, and most importantly her love that was a stepping stone to understanding God’s love. I am glad she was, or should a say, is, a believer, because we have great and precious promises about those who have died in Christ. 

 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 (MSG)

The Master himself will give the command. … He'll come down from heaven and the dead in Christ will rise—they'll go first. Then the rest of us who are still alive at the time will be caught up with them into the clouds to meet the Master…  And then there will be one huge family reunion with the Master. So reassure one another with these words.

 “One huge family reunion.”  Want to make sure you get in on that?  If you want to make sure you get invited to that family reunion you have to be in Christ.  To be in Christ, believe the gospel:

 John 3:16 (MSG)

"This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.

 Believe that Jesus has accomplished His mission for you, with you, in you.  Believe that Jesus has accomplished the one He calls His Father’s desire.

 John 6:40 (MSG)

This is what my Father wants: that anyone who sees the Son and trusts who he is and what he does and then aligns with him will enter real life, eternal life. My part is to put them on their feet alive and whole at the completion of time."

 Your desire to be His disciple aligns you with Him.  Ask God to make you part of the family.  Acknowledge the fact that you are not in alignment with Jesus.  Believe that Jesus is the one who can align you.  Commit yourself to learn how to live in alignment and ask God to empower you to do it.  If you do ask, let me know I want to encourage you as the newest member of the family, as a new member of the Kingdom of God. Let’s look forward to that family reunion together.

 While we wait let’s reason together about kingdom equality and do our best to bring it to everyone.

 We all interpret what we read.  When we do we use our experience to help us decide what words mean.  Suppose someone asks “How are you?” and you give them the thumbs up.  What does that mean?  Well, here in the USA it means OK.  In some middle eastern countries, it's equivalent to what we call “giving someone the finger.”  Please be careful in France, flashing the OK hand symbol means something very different than what you intend.

  Let’s say you run into an ole female friend and say “Hey you’ve gained weight.”  Not the smartest thing you can say here in America, but in Africa, you just paid her a compliment.  You might read “I’ve certainly never tasted chicken cooked that way before!” and not know if the words were a compliment or criticism. Context, the regional and historical setting, make a huge difference in understanding what is meant.   

 In the Church, religious oppression of women is non-biblical.  There are groups of Christians who ardently believes that women are not to be preachers, deacons, leaders at all, in the church, they are to be silent.

 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 (KJV)

Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.

 In researching 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 getting behind the scenes and into the historical setting isn’t easy.  I have not been able to confidently break into the situation that prompted the great Apostle Paul to write this instruction.  I have read many speculations, but nothing solid to refute what seems to be an injunction upon women to speak in the church.  There are a lot of “perhaps” in the literature as we can only guess at the societal conventions of the day. 

 For instance, in the work of Kenneth  Bailey [Bailey5 women in 1 Cor 14 and I Tim 2 - Bing video ] he reports that in middle eastern culture men and women sat separately.  The minister would teach in the proper language of the culture.  In Paul’s time, it was not uncommon that men were more educated than women.  Men would understand the official language of the culture.  The women would most likely only know what is termed the marketplace language.  Women would catch bits and pieces of what was being said but not understand fully so they would begin to ask questions and talk amongst themselves, basically not paying attention and their voices making hearing the speaker difficult.  Having sat in a Swedish service I can tell you I had no idea what was being sung or said.  My mind wandered.  Just a sense of propriety kept me from asking my Swedish friend “What did he say?” Bailey suggests that this is the cultural background that prompted Paul’s instruction.

 The religious understanding of “women keep silent” means what the words say.  No women in leadership positions within the church, ever, under any circumstances, madam be silent.  Is this understanding supported anywhere else in scripture? 

 There are conflicting verses.  Earlier in Paul’s letter, he writes this:

 1 Corinthians 11:10-11 (MSG)

“Don't, by the way, read too much into the differences here between men and women.  Neither man nor woman can go it alone or claim priority…”

 Paul goes on to explain that both men and women are to pray and prophesize.  Both men and women are on equal footing.  That certainly is a glaring contradiction to be women being silent in the church.

 Further calling in to question this command to be silent is that Paul also writes of women as partners.  Just speaking to a woman was against cultural norms yet we see Priscilla (Romans 16:3, 1 Corinthians 16:19, 2 Timothy 4:9), Julia (Romans 16:15), Phoebe (Romans 16:1), Junia (Romans 16:7), and Chloe (1 Corinthians 1:11) are all important players in making ministry happen.

 Pricilla is part of a team; Paul, Aquila, and Pricilla.  In three separate letters guess who is listed first?  Pricilla.  In Acts 18 Priscilla is one of the teachers of a prominent male preacher named Apollos.   Paul refers to Phoebe as a deacon.  Junia for instance is referred to as a leader, and the Greek word used can also be translated as apostle.  In Philippi, Lydia starts a house church (Acts 16:11-40).  Lydia was a successful businesswoman, do you think she would have been attracted to a teaching that women be silent?  The man who wrote, “women be silent in the church” also commends the leadership roles of women in the church.  To muddy the waters further, Paul wrote to his protégé Timothy

 1 Timothy 2:11-12 (MSG)

I don't let women take over and tell the men what to do.  They should study to be quiet and obedient along with everyone else.

 There is a different situation for this letter [Women should not teach men what? 1 Timothy 2 in context (reenactingtheway.com) ].  Timothy is in Ephesus, not Corinth.  Fortunately, we have a little better idea of the culture in Ephesus at this time.  In Ephesus, there was one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world, the Temple of the goddess Artemis, or if you prefer the Latin name Diana the daughter of Zeus.  The entire religious structure of the cult was run by women.  There is also a lot of Gnostic thought flourishing in Ephesus.  We know from our study in 1 John Gnosticism is a heresy that crept into the church (1 Timothy 4: 1-3).  We know from history that in later centuries there were several prominent female leaders in the Gnostic movement, Helen of Tyre, Marcellina, Maximila, so it is not too far a stretch to believe that there were women in the Church that were seduced by Gnosticism in a culture where women controlled the worship of the local deity influencing the congregation into error.  It’s to this circumstance that perhaps Paul is writing.

 When there is a seeming contradiction in scripture as we have seen in Paul’s mandates women to subordinate roles in the Church while commending women for their leadership roles in the Church; dig into the historical context of what is written, you may have one of those aha moments, and discover there is no contradiction at all.  Having speculated on the cultural, regional, and historical background of what Paul wrote perhaps keeping women from leadership roles, pastors, deacons, missionaries, evangelists, may not be a good idea.  Perhaps.  Let’s ponder this letting woman have leadership roles.

 We know that there is equality in the Kingdom of God.  Women are not second-class citizens.  No, they are on equal footing with men.  Consider what happened on Pentecost, the day we commemorate the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on believers.

 Acts 2:1-4 (NIV)

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

 We have to slip back into Acts 1 to see who was among the gathered.

 Acts 1:13-14 (NIV)

Those present were Peter, John, James, and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.

 There were men and women in that upper room and the Holy Spirit rested on all equally.  Luke, the writer of Acts, informs us that Mary the mother of Jesus was present along with the women.  The women may refer to the women who went to the tomb of Jesus that first Easter Sunday morning: Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna, Mary the mother of James, and Salome (Mark 16:1, Luke 8:2-3, Luke 24:10).  The women received the same gift from God as the men, the gift of the Holy Spirit.

 Later that morning when Peter preaches to the crowds he references the prophet Joel (Acts 2:14-41, Joel 2:28-32).  Peter proclaims:

 Acts 2:17-18 (MSG)

"In the Last Days," God says, "I will pour out my Spirit on every kind of people:

Your sons will prophesy, also your daughters; Your young men will see visions, your old men dream dreams.  When the time comes, I'll pour out my Spirit On those who serve me, men and women both, and they'll prophesy.

 Here the word prophesy (προφητεύσουσιν) doesn’t mean telling the future, it means preaching ("speak forth") the Word, forth telling the mind of God in a particular situation. The Holy Spirit empowers both men and women to preach.  The Church doesn’t dictate what gifts, what job descriptions are given to believers, the Holy Spirit does (1 Corinthians 12:7).

 It has been the cultural patriarchal character of religious Christianity that has oppressed women.  Not what is revealed in scripture.  Women are gifted the same as men.

 If a woman wants to take a pilgrimage to the place of her emancipation, the place is the upper room where and when both men and women received the Holy Spirit the same way, in the same terms, at the same time.  It is here that woman’s freedom began and oppression of women by religious systems ends.  This is the way of the Kingdom of God, the way of equality.  All we have to do is go back to an upper room where women and men both receive the Holy Spirit on the same terms.  There women’s freedom began.”  (Jones p 52) Emancipation from a system of cultural standards that made women little more than property.  It is biblical Christianity that raises women to be co-equal with men, it is together as we see in the Eden Garden that they are to rule together.

 Real Christianity puts men and women on equal footing.  Equality is the way of the Kingdom.

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