The Role of Spirit-Gifted Women in the Last Days

Woman was created, as clearly and brilliantly stated by Free Methodist Church founder B.T. Roberts, not as "the servant of man, but as his companion, his equal. 'And the Lord God said: It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet [or appropriate] for him' [Gen. 2:18 KJV]." (link) (Thanks to Dr. Dale Wayman, of the website IRONSTRIKES, for this invaluable resource. Benjamin D. Wayman, Dale Wayman's nephew, recently edited and updated Roberts' work, Ordaining Women: New Edition with an Introduction and Notes, published by Wipf & Stock.) In the Garden event, both Adam and Eve maintain equality. He continues:
Dr. Adam Clarke [1760-1832: British Methodist Arminian theologian], in his comment on this verse, says: "I will make him a help meet for him; ezer kenegedo, a help, a counterpart of himself, one formed from him, and a perfect resemblance of his person. If the word be rendered scrupulously literally, it signifies one like, or as himself, standing opposite to or before him. And this implies that the woman was to be a perfect resemblance of the man, possessing neither inferiority nor superiority, but being in all things like and equal to himself."1
That Wesleyan Arminians ordain women to the priesthood derives from the historical term "Wesleyan," which means, according to Dr. Karen Strand Winslow, "a holistic methodology that widely embraces Scripture, tradition, reason, and experience and evaluates the applicability of each point of the quadrilateral [i.e., use of Scripture, tradition, reason and experience] to present concerns, such as women in ministry." (link) In the mid to late eighteenth century, at least fifty to sixty years prior to the women's suffrage movement for equality, Wesley ordains two women to the ministry: Sarah Mallet and Sarah Crosby.

Wesley believes that, during his own lifetime, people are becoming increasingly more comfortable with women preaching the gospel -- perhaps not among the Anglicans back home in the Church of England, but certainly among many in the southern states of America. However, as Dr. Winslow informs us, "Anti-feminist prejudice hardened in the decades following Wesley's death and nineteenth century Methodism was far less liberal on this matter than Wesley had been."2 Oddly enough, the Anglicans in America, the Episcopalians, become open to female ministers before the later Wesleyans. Prior to Wesley, however, the Quakers are among the first in America to ordain women as ministers of God's people.

The website, ReligiousTolerance.org, notes Margaret Fell's 1660 pamphlet justifying equality among men and women; the work is entitled, Women's Speaking Justified, Proved and Allowed of by the Scriptures, All Such as Speak by the Spirit and Power of the Lord Jesus And How Women Were the First That Preached the Tidings of the Resurrection of Jesus, and Were Sent by Christ's Own Command Before He Ascended to the Father (John 20:17). (link) The battle for women as ministers rages from the mid seventeenth century to the late eighteenth century, when the Quakers finally begin ordaining women to the ministry, just prior to the same from Wesley.

Objections from complementarians are a given. From our perspective, a faulty hermeneutic that ignores historical context of two or three passages in the Christian scriptures is the sole blinder for the support of the system, and egalitarians are asked to answer their objections. Again, Dr. Winslow, engaging objections and quoting B.T. Roberts, writes, "He answers an objection often raised against women ministers: 'If women are to preach, why did [Christ] not choose a woman among the 12? We ask, if gentiles are to preach, why did he not choose a gentile among the 12?'" (link) For us the real tragedy of complementarianism is how Christ's church is defrauded of the blessings of the God-graced female perspective. That, coupled with the lost opportunity for many women to express their Spirit-giftedness, which God Himself calls them to share.

Furthermore, the social stigma of complementarianism that breeds inequality as well as misogyny is tragic. Many women are abused physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually because of a perverse complementarianism that pervades evangelicalism and old-line traditional Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox customs. How dreadful and grievous for men, and especially men purporting to be Christian, to perceive of women as inferior, whether by physical constitution or metaphysical composition. Jesus has come to set women (and men) free (John 8:36; Gal. 5:1) from spiritual enslavement, and social restraint, while the system of complementarianism leads women back into servitude and a yoke of male domination.

That women feel trapped in this system is heart-wrenching; that men imbibe complementarianism, and call it biblical, only adds to the problem -- viewed by many of us egalitarians as being no better in nature than when slaveholders in the States, prior to beating their slaves, quoted from passages of Scripture in order to justify their heinous behavior, like this verse, "That slave who knew what his master wanted, but did not prepare himself or do what was wanted, will receive a severe beating." (Luke 12:47) This is unthinkable. So is, I think, complementarianism. Is that too strong of a position? Consider the following.

There are women gifted by the Spirit of God within complementarian settings (e.g., Southern Baptist, Calvinist) to the proclaiming of the gospel of Christ and expounding upon the scriptures as they intersect with our lives. Many of these same women are stifled by complementarian men (and some women who have been convinced of their arguments). I wonder who, then, will give an account for this at the Judgment Seat? Will the women who are silenced by men give account for not using their gifts when they were not allowed to do so? Or will the men who silence women face the stern hand of God for oppressing their equals -- women -- and lose some of their reward?



Even if some men hold to complementarianism, they could at least rejoice that women are advancing the kingdom of God through the word of God like the apostle Paul, "What does it matter? Just this, Christ is proclaimed in every way, whether out of false motives or true; and in that I rejoice." (Phil. 1:18) Would to God that we had more complementarians with a biblical and godly view like that of St Paul! Consider the words of John Piper:
So what Paul seems to be saying here [at 1 Timothy 2:13] is that there should be male elders in the church; not all teaching and not all authority are restricted from women in that verse. It is over men. There is a kind of authoritative teaching over men that is referred to there. And it compromises the way God has wired men and women when women over time become the authority in a man's spiritual life. I really believe that. (link) (emphasis added)
Yet, in the very next letter to Timothy, St Paul contradicts Piper by mention of Timothy's sincere faith, a faith that "lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice." (2 Tim. 1:5) So, Piper wants women to minister, but not to men, like young Timothy's mother and grandmother practiced. Complementarians like Piper have control or authority issues. If women are viewed as authoritative in any sense imaginable -- like Moses' sister the prophet Miriam (Ex. 15:1-18; Micah 6:4), the prophet and judge Deborah (Judges 4:4), the female prophet Huldah (2 Kings 22:14; 2 Chron. 34:22), the deacon Phoebe (Rom. 16:1, 2), the teacher Priscilla (Acts 18:2, 3, 26), the apostle Junia (Rom. 16:7) -- then their perceived "authoritative" manhood is threatened, as is their presuppositional framework that supports their (faulty) interpretation.

But, for egalitarians, authority is not the issue. For complementarians authority seems to be the primary issue; which indicates that these complementarian men intend to place women under their authority. In a sense, then, they explicitly disobey Jesus' command against lording over people (Matt. 20:25), as that of St Peter (1 Pet. 5:3), as well as the apostle Paul (Gal. 3:28). As to the latter: Because of what Christ has accomplished, even purchased on our behalf, each believer is equally a child of God. (Gal. 3:26) Each believer is equally clothed with Christ. (Gal. 3:27) God is no respecter of persons. (Acts 10:34) Hence, the cultural and religious distinctions that separate men and women, as well as Jew and Gentile and bond-servants and free people, no longer exist in Christ; so that, as we learn from Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers, "In Christ the whole penalty, as St. Paul teaches, has been abrogated (Galatians 3:28), and the Christian woman is no more inferior to the man than is the Gentile to the Jew, or the bondman to the free." (link)

Not so among complementarians! Women are still inferior to men in that system. Note Piper's statement: when women teach men, it "compromises the way God has wired men and women." This view assumes a faulty creation narrative -- that, when God created a woman he "wired" her in a different fashion, one that would desire to serve a man. Therefore, women were created by God as inferior, and subservient to men. Piper, then, advocates the fall and not redemption. God informs Eve one result of her and her husband's free decision: "yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you." (Gen. 3:16) Prior to this state, both Adam and Eve maintain equal dominion over all of life (Gen. 1:26, 28; 2:24). Piper and other complementarians want women to retain their fallen state: "and he shall rule over you."

Notice that "your desire shall be for your husband" and "he shall rule over you" are statements rather than commands, i.e., "your desire is to be for your husband" and "he is to rule over you" respectively. God did not create Eve to serve and obey Adam: she is in no sense an inferior creation. That woman is different from man no more indicates that she is inferior to him than he to her. Appeal to a man's innate physical strength over that of a woman is a fallen perspective. Might does not make right. But what shall we do with physically weak men and physically strong women? Is God betraying Himself? What of the resilient daughters of Zelophehad? (Num. 27:1-7; 36:1-12; Josh. 17:1-6) What of the valiant Jael, who drove a tent peg through a man's head, requiring great physical strength and a courageous inner character? (Judges 4:21) What of the story of Judith, who, with two great blows cut off the head of a man? (Judith 13:6-8) There are so many women in the Bible, to say nothing of thousands of years of history and non-canonical reality, who betray the complementarian portrait of the subservient, meek, quiet wife.

The complementarian position is riddled with problems -- most notably its historical view of women in general that gives birth to is hermeneutic. Consider the following views, noting carefully the first one quoted, originating from the father of Roman Catholicism and the novel theories of Augustinianism and, much later, Calvinism:

  • What is the difference whether it is in a wife or a mother; it is still Eve the temptress that we must be aware of in any woman. . . . I fail to see what use women can be to man, if one excludes the function of bearing children. -- St Augustine
  • Woman in her greatest perfection was made to serve and obey man. -- John Knox
  • . . . Woman is defective and misbegotten, for the active power in the male seed tends to the production of a perfect likeness in the masculine sex, while production of woman comes from defect in the active force. -- Thomas Aquinas3

What incredibly despicable views. J. Lee Grady reminds us of the daughters of Job. When Job lost his original children, due to a storm, God later restores his fortunes; he has seven sons and three daughters. Interestingly, the sons' names are not mentioned, while the girls' names are listed. What is also mentioned is their beauty and the fact that Job grants them an inheritance. (Job 42:12-15) Grady comments: "Again, the Holy Spirit is showing us God's heart for women. Although men have abused, marginalized, and oppressed women -- even in the church -- God will have the last word on this subject. This passage in Job, one of the oldest books of the Bible, offers a glimpse into the last days. It signifies a day when women who are empowered by the Holy Spirit will be fully restored to their place of spiritual authority."4 To that end we are hopeful.

After all, the Holy Spirit prophesies through both Joel and St Peter that women will be endued by the Spirit of God with spiritual power to prophesy -- to foretell, to tell forth, to set forth matters of divine teaching (link) -- in "the last days," i.e., the time prior to Christ's second advent. (Joel 2:28; Acts 2:17, 18) Notice, too, that the Holy Spirit longs to break through barriers of inequality within class caste systems in our culture: "Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy." (Acts 2:18) The word "even" captures our attention: no one would expect God the Father, through Christ, to pour out the Holy Spirit in prophetic nature upon lowly slaves. But God does not look upon people through the fallen lens of class caste systems, ethnicity, or gender: He is gifting men and women, poor and rich, of any tribe from any nation with the Spirit of God to the gracious proclamation of the inestimable and liberating gospel of Christ for the salvation of anyone who will believe!

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1 Rev. B.T. Roberts, Ordaining Women, (Rochester: Earnest Christian Publishing House, 1891), 34.

2 Ruth Tucker and Walter Liefeld, Daughters of the Church (Grand Rapids: Academie Books, 1987), 240.

3 J. Lee Grady, 10 Lies the Church Tells Women: How the Bible Has Been Misused to Keep Women in Spiritual Bondage (Lake Mary: Charisma House, 2006), 20.

4 Ibid., 25.