This teaching includes a free sermon outline to download for personal use, message preparation or Bible study discussion.
We are going to make our proclamation this afternoon from Philippians 1:9–11. I was checking the other day on books from the Bible from which we’ve made proclamations. I think we’ve made more proclamations from Philippians than any other book in the Bible. So here we are:
And this we pray, that our love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that we may approve the things that are excellent, that we may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. Amen
Now this afternoon I’m teaching the first session, and my wife Ruth will be speaking the second session. You will notice I carefully didn’t say, she will be teaching the second session. So don’t accuse me of that later. You will understand why I say that when we are finished.
Our theme is “Women in the Church.” I have to say, having moved around and met thousands of people from different backgrounds and different cultures, but especially in the Western world, I have discovered that many women feel bitter and resentful towards men. They feel that they’ve been cheated, oppressed, and wrongly dealt with. Now I don’t believe I’ve ever been guilty of that myself so far as I know. My own cultural background years ago didn’t include attitudes like that. I didn’t know anything about them until years later. But on behalf of all males, I want to ask forgiveness of all females who feel injured and hurt and oppressed. Undoubtedly through the centuries, many, many, many women have been oppressed. There’s no doubt about that.
However, women need to know that they’re not the only ones who have been oppressed. Unfortunately the history of the human race since the fall has basically been a history of oppression and unfairness. The strong have usually oppressed the weak. The rich have usually oppressed the poor. The educated have usually oppressed the uneducated. There are exceptions, but they are exceptions.
So when you consider, as a woman, that you’ve been wrongly treated or your sex has been wrongly treated, that’s probably true. But bear in mind, it’s only one dark corner of a dark picture. The reason for it all is the fall of man.
Somebody said, recently, something that just gripped me, a very simple statement, “We live in a fallen world.” The root cause of all our problems is that we are fallen from God’s grace. We have fallen into sin. We are at war with our Creator. Yet we have, somehow, in us a picture of how things ought to be. Then we feel frustrated time and time again when things don’t work out the way we feel they ought to be. But remember that it’s because we live in a fallen world. There are more unrighteous people than righteous—far more. In most of our life there are more sad days than glad days, if we face the fact. There are many, many things continually going wrong.
In the old stories they used to tell about the romantic couple, that they married and lived happily ever afterwards. That’s a lie. No one ever lives ever afterwards, and many don’t live happily. And even the happiest marriage, and I had one for thirty years, ends in a funeral. These are just solemn intractable facts that we have to face. So when you consider that you haven’t been fairly treated, bear in mind the same applies to many others. I’m sorry for any part I may have had. I certainly am not a woman-hater. That’s one problem that never troubled me.
Now my aim in this teaching is to be objective. How far I achieve that aim I leave it to you to judge. But before I enter the details of this subject, I think it’s very important that I give you, what I would call, a prophetic backdrop. In 2Peter 1:19, Peter says,
We also have the prophetic word which made more sure, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.
That’s addressed to all Christians. We have the prophetic word, we do well to give it heed, it is a light that shines in a dark place. If we do not give heed to the prophetic word, we will find ourselves in the dark without light.
At least one third of the whole Bible is prophecy. If you ignore prophecy and leave it out and take no account of it, you are ignoring at least one third of God’s Word. How can you expect to prosper? If you don’t avail yourself of the light that is given to us through the prophetic word, you will find yourself walking in darkness, and it will have two effects. First of all you won’t know where you are going. Secondly you will understand what is going on around you. Only those who have the light of the prophetic Scriptures have a clear idea of where we are headed and can understand some of the tremendously confusing things that are going on around us. So I want to turn to one particular passage of prophecy which has a lot to do with our theme here this afternoon. That is in 2Thessalonians 2:3. 2Thessalonians is dealing with the coming of the antichrist. Paul warns us that the antichrist will not come until something else has happened first. So if the something else has not happened first, we know that the antichrist is not coming immediately. In verse 3 of 2Thessalonians chapter 2, talking about that day, the day of the coming of the antichrist, Paul says:
Let no one deceive you by any means: for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of perdition.
The “man of lawlessness” is one of the titles of the antichrist. But Paul says don’t imagine that the antichrist will come until there has first been, what this version calls the “the falling away.” The NIV translates it “the rebellion” and the New American Standard translates it “the apostasy.” So there is going to be an apostasy before the final revelation of antichrist. The best translation, if you are familiar with the word, is apostasy, because that’s exactly the Greek word which is translated aspostasia. It’s only used in one other place in the New Testament in Acts chapter 21 verse 21 where Paul is accused of apostasy by his fellow Jews because he taught disobedience to the Law of Moses. So the meaning of the word is “turning away from revealed divine truth in rebellion and disobedience.” Until that happens, Paul says the antichrist will not come. In fact, the apostasy in the church is what will open the way to the antichrist, because God has ordained that to a great extent He will, through His church which is His governmental body on earth, he will restrain the lawlessness of man. But when the church throws off restraint and becomes lawless, then there is nothing else left to restrain lawlessness on earth. That’s why we have an ever increasing scenario of lawlessness in the world today because the church, by and large, has apostasized. It has turned away from the clearly revealed truth of God’s Word, and it has led the way into rebellion.
There’s some dramatic historical examples of this. When the church fails, God’s restraint is withdrawn. I’ll just give you one example. At the end of the last century, in Germany, Christian theologians came out with what was called the “New Theology.” It’s no newer than the Garden of Eden, but that’s what they called it. In this “New Theology” the Old Testament is not to be taken literally or seriously, it’s a compilation of myths and history and poems and fragments, but it’s not the Word of God exactly.
Now that had a cataclysmic affect on Europe and furthermore on much of the rest of the world. When the church apostasized in Germany it opened the way for a flood of evil and lawlessness from which we are still suffering the effects today.
The second thing happened in 1910. The church leaders, the Christian church leaders in Germany published an official statement in which they refused the Pentecostal movement. They said it was from Satan. Now, thank God, a few years ago leaders of the church in Germany met together and publicly repented of that statement. In the mean while these two things, the apostasy of the theologians and the rejection of the Holy Spirit by the leaders of the church opened the way for a flood of lawlessness.
Let me give you just two products by name—Karl Marx and Adolph Hitler. The emergence of those two men, both from Germany, can be directly attributed to the apostasy of the church in Germany. So Paul says there’s going to be an apostasy, a falling away, a deliberate rejection of revealed divine truth. The apostasy is called today “Humanism.” And you know the feminine form of humanism, “Feminism.” It’s just the male and the female version of apostasy. It goes back to the first temptation of Satan of Adam and Eve. When he said, “You will be like gods, knowing good and evil.” And he tempted our two fore-parents to take upon themselves the responsibility of judging what is good and what is evil. That is precisely what humanism is. It takes away from God the right to set absolute standards of morality and righteousness and truth, and says, “We’ll set our own standards. We’ll decide what is good, what is evil, what is true, what is false, what is right, and what is wrong.”
I personally believe, this is my own opinion, that the most powerful satanic force released in the world today is humanism. If we had time we could trace the consequences of humanism in situation after situation. But the subtlety of it is that it does not appear immediately to be as evil as it is. As I’ve said, and I make no apology for this, feminism is the female version of humanism. You might say, “Well why doesn’t Satan ever think up a new temptation?” I’ll tell you why. Because the old one always works. Generation, by generation, by generation, he’s always succeeded by persuading man to take upon himself the responsibility that belongs alone to God. The character flaw which he exploits is always the same. It is PRIDE. I want to tell you all, pride is the most dangerous thing that can ever come into your life.
As a result of this apostasy and the lawlessness in the church, lawlessness has invaded the human race. Jesus predicted it would be so. In Matthew chapter 24 verse 12, Jesus gives a little list of things that will mark the close of the age. He speaks about persecution of Christians, many Christians falling away, many false prophets and then in verse 12 He says:
“And because lawlessness will abound, and the love of many will grow cold.”
The Greek word used for love there is “agape” which is normally restricted to Christian love. Jesus is warning that there will be such an atmosphere of lawlessness on earth, that even Christians will be affected by it and their love will dwindle and wither. So this situation of lawlessness is what we are confronted with today.
I don’t know how many of you ever read a little daily devotional call Everyday With Jesusby Selwyn Hughes. We read it, Ruth and I have read it regularly for years. In this particular passage he’s commenting on Romans chapter 12 verse 2, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” His comment is this and it’s exactly appropriate to what I am saying.
The Christian church has always stood in danger of being brainwashed by the world, but perhaps never so much as in this present decade. Secularism [which is another way of calling humanism] has spread its tentacles far and wide so that almost without realizing it we find ourselves thinking about the important issues of life with much the same mind set as the world. I am referring of course to those issues where there is a clear and distinctive viewpoint. J. B. Phillips translates the text for today in this way, ‘Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into it’s own mold, but let God remold your minds from within.’”
That’s a very serious and solemn warning. I see everywhere I go, but especially in the West, the church being squeezed into the world’s mold of thinking. When we think wrong, ultimately we will live wrong. We’ve all heard about translation of the Bible in modern English which is all right. I’m not the least bit opposed to it, but I used to say to Ruth. “Can you get modern language without modern thinking?” I believe you can, but it takes great discernment to do it. Some modern versions go beyond modern English to modern thinking.
This universal rebellion is going to call down the most fearful judgment of God that you could imagine. In fact, quite probably you can’t imagine it. I wonder how many of you believe that God is going to judge the world? You do? Because there are a lot of people that just act as though that was irrelevant, it’s not going to happen.
In Isaiah chapter 24, verses 4-6, we have this picture of an impending judgment on the earth. If you start in verse 1 it’s the most amazing statement.
Behold, the LORD makes the earth empty and makes it waste, Distorts its surface And scatters abroad its inhabitants.
That’s the opening verse. Then we go down three verses, 4, 5, and 6,
The earth mourns and fades away, The world languishes and fades away; The haughty people of the earth languish. The earth is also defiled under its inhabitants, Because they have transgressed the laws, Changed the ordinance, Broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore the curse has devoured the earth, And those who dwell in it are desolate. Therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, And few men are left.
I don’t know how you feel about that. I feel it will happen exactly the way it’s described. So we need to find out why. What is it that’s going to provoke such terrible judgment from God on the whole earth? The answer is threefold. Verse 5,
The earth is also defiled under its inhabitants, Because they have transgressed the laws, Changed the ordinance, Broken the everlasting covenant.
There are three charges brought against the earth, or the people of the earth. Number one: We have transgressed the laws, and as a specimen of that we could simply take the Ten Commandments. We have broken the ten commandments. Number two: We have changed the ordinance. The ordinance, I believe, means the way God ordained that life should be lived. The pattern of life especially in home and family. And thirdly, we have broken the everlasting covenant, that is the everlasting covenant made in Jesus Christ. I would say probably, numerically, the majority of professing Christians today have broken that covenant. We are a covenant-breaking people. Probably, I thank God, that does not apply to those here. But if you consider that leaders of most of the major denominations have publicly denied such things as the virgin birth, the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ, and made provision for such things as marriage between homosexuals, you have to say we have broken the everlasting covenant. That’s the reason for the judgments of God which are set forth here.
I want to speak, and we’re coming now to the theme of this talk, about the ordinance, God’s pattern for life. There are two basic human relationships on which all others depend. The relationship between husbands and wives and parents and children. That’s really the basic ordinance of God. The way that husbands and wives should relate, the way that parents and children should relate. When that is broken, we release a cataclysm of this order of lawlessness and wickedness upon us. Anybody, in any way responsible for producing that result, will have a terrible time answering God. If what we are dealing with is the ordinance, the relationship between husbands and wives, parents and children, bear in mind it’s an extremely important, serious topic. In fact, our welfare depends on finding God’s will.
We hear today a lot about cultural. Things are all right because they’re cultural. Culture has changed. I would have to say it certainly has. But I want to point out to you that when Jesus spoke about these relationships He went back to God’s original purpose in creation. If you look in Matthew 19 verses 3-5,
The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?” And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them in the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ “and said, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they two shall become one flesh’?
Jesus said, “Have you not read, in the beginning.” Now most of you may not be aware, but the Hebrew title of the book of Genesis is exactly that, “in the beginning.” So Jesus was deliberately referring them to the record of creation in Genesis. And He said, “This is the starting point. This is the standard.”
And then again when Paul spoke about family relationships, and especially husbands and wives, he based it on the eternal relationships within the Godhead. In 1Corinthians chapter 11, just one verse. First Corinthians 11 verse 3,
But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman[ or the wife] is man, and the head of Christ is God.
So Paul went even further back than Jesus. For his pattern he went to relationships in the eternal Godhead. He traced the headship that descends from God the Father through Christ the Son, to the husband to the wife. There is no possibility of any of those factors being changed by culture. They are eternal, unchanging facts.
Let me point out that it’s ridiculous to advance culture as a reason for changing anything. People say, “Well, it’s a cultural affair.” The truth of the matter is, if you analyze the cultures of the world all over most of them are rooted in demonic practices and superstitions. So how can we turn to something demonic for a pattern for our lives as Christians.
I want to go to the original pattern. I believe we have to start here if we’re going to make sense and get something solid and reliable for our basis. I’m going to turn to the account of the creation of man and woman in Genesis chapter 1 verse 26 and 27.
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, [notice it was a decision of the Godhead—Father, Son and Holy Spirit together decided ‘Let Us’] according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
That’s the account of the original creation of the human race, man and woman, and they were created to exercise rules. We don’t know, I think, anything specific about the relationship between them, but the original pattern was for man and woman together to rule God’s earth.
Then we discover the specific reason for which woman was created. I, being a male, recognize that women are a mystery. I think most males will come to that conclusion. The creation of woman is one of the fascinating mysteries of the Bible. If you turn to Genesis chapter 2 and verse 18,
And the LORD God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” [or to complete him, I think that’s the best translation.] a helper to complete him.
That’s the first time in creation that anything was not good. Up to that time everything had been very good. But now the fact that Adam didn’t have a mate was not good. He needed a helper to complete him. And how did the Lord produce a helper? This is just wonderful. Verse 21,
And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, [that’s the first anesthetic in history] and as he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place, Then the rib which the LORD God had taken from man He made into a woman, [the Hebrew says He built it into a woman.]
So how did God do that? We have no idea. It is a mystery. We just know we see the product. It happened. I have been married, altogether, 48 years. Thirty years to my first wife and 18 years to my second wife. I have learned that woman is a mystery. I gets me out of a lot of problems. I mean a wonderful mystery. As I said I have never been a woman hater. I just recognize I am dealing with something I don’t fully understand.
Now what was the role of woman? Now we are coming to the basics. What was she created to do and to be? In one word, a helper. That is the key to understanding fulfillment in a woman’s life. A woman’s nature is to be a helper. Now in our contemporary thinking that’s prejudiced. “There you are. They’re putting us down. We are to be helpers.”
Let me point out something to you that will be encouraging. In John 16:7, Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit and He called Him the Helper. So you women have got the same title as the Holy Spirit. Do you think the Holy Spirit feels inferior to the Father and the Son because He’s the Helper? Do you think that Jesus feels inferior to the Father because He’s the Son? God spoke about Jesus in His earthly ministry and said, “Behold my Servant in whom I delight.” Do you think that Jesus is inferior to the Father because He’s the Servant? You see we’ve got this totally wrong mind set which is the root of many of our problems that it’s inferior to be a servant. That’s not true. It’s not. Jesus is the Servant to the Father. The Holy Spirit is the Servant to the Father and the Son. What matters is to find your particular place and fill it. Don’t argue with God. He made you that way, whether male or female, whether black or white, or any other color in between. That’s the way you’re going to be, so you might as well make the best of it. Not fight it, not argue about it.
I have a dear friend, a brother in the Lord, who was born a Muslim background in Algeria, had a dramatic personal encounter with Jesus and has become a committed believer in Jesus. Well because of his Muslim, he began to argue with God about the way God had chosen the Jews, and the privileges that appeared to be granted to the Jewish people and why should they, and why should they, and why should they. And eventually God spoke to him and said, “Ali [that isn’t his name] your problem is not with the Jews. It’s with Me.”
And I say to you ladies, your problem is not with men, it’s with God. And He’s not going to change. He’s sovereign. You can argue with Him, plead with Him, get angry with Him, but He is not going to change. Thank God, because He’s perfect.
Now, what we are seeing now is the result of the fall. Bear in mind we don’t know exactly what life would have been like if man had not fallen. But we, as I said, live in a fallen world. It’s a wonderful thing that Christ has redeemed us from the curse that came upon us through the breaking of the Law of Moses. I just want to read that. It’s one of my favorite Scriptures. I preached on it countless times. Galatians 3:13,
Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us...
So Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, that is the breaking of the Law of Moses. If you want to know what that curse is like you can look at the last 54 verses of Deuteronomy 28, which lists countless curses of every kind that comes through breaking the law. Thank God, on the cross, Jesus was made a curse that we might be delivered from every one of those curses. But, we are not yet delivered from the curse that came through the fall. That is still in force.
Let’s look for a moment what the curse of the fall was, and you’ll see it’s very much in force. Genesis 3:16, this is God speaking,
To the woman He said: “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children;”
I know there are a lot of theories about painless childbirth, but most of you ladies here know they just don’t work, and they won’t work because the Lord said it will be painful. It will be painful until that curse is lifted. It is not yet lifted. Then he went on to say to Adam,
“Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you,”
So as long as you see thorns and thistles around, you know that that curse has not yet been revoked. It will be, but not yet.
So we are talking now about God’s order in a creation that is under a curse. As I said, we don’t know exactly what the relationship would have been between man and woman before the fall. There is no way of finding out as far as I know. What we do know is what the relationship is to be after the fall. It’s stated in Genesis 3:16. I’ll quote it again.
“I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you.”
We’ve already commented on the fact the child birth is painful. It then says, “Your desire shall be for your husband.” Now my personal thinking is that’s not so much a sexual desire as the expression of a desire in every woman, not always fulfilled, to bear children. People can switch sex to homosexuality, but no one has yet devised a way by which a woman can have a baby without a man being involved. So that basic desire of woman causes her always to be dependent on man. I don’t believe it’s ever going to change. Then He says, and this is the crucial verse which makes some people so angry,
...And he [the husband] shall rule over you [the wife.]
Now I want to say a little bit from my knowledge of Hebrew which is not perfect but is helpful. The preposition “over” doesn’t correspond what is in the Hebrew. Oversuggests, in a way, suppression, domination. At least to some people’s minds. But the Hebrew preposition is just a one syllable, is translated in or with or by or many different things. It’s one of the most fluid prepositions in Hebrew, and it does not really express what is understood in English by the word “over.” It’s interesting that the word that’s translated “rule” the verb gives us the Hebrew noun for “government.” And, interestingly in modern Hebrew the word for the prime minister is “the head of the government.” So this idea of rule is greatly connected with headship. You could translate “he shall be your governor, he shall be your ruler, he shall be your head, he shall be your protector.” You see, it’s got a very different suggestion from the way it sounds to most ears in English. And actually, and I’ll give you my opinion, women need protectors. And the ones that think they don’t are the ones that need it the most.
I tell you I have such a picture today out of my own experience of the terrible frailty of human life. I want all the protection I can get. I want all the protection that I can give my wife. I don’t always do just as well as I should, but I try. And, dear ladies, you need protection. The truth of the matter is, it may not flatter you, but you need protection. We all need protection. I need protection. Protection in the Bible comes from being under authority. I am a man under authority. When I am here in Fort Lauderdale I am answerable to the eldership of this church. When we live in Jerusalem we are part of a Christian congregation under the authority of the rector. And in addition to that, in the United States we have a Board of Directors to whom we are answerable. We also have an International Council drawn from different nations to whom we are answerable. So I am a man under authority. I am so grateful for it. I don’t fight against it. I don’t feel that it makes me inferior. I feel that it makes me safe. I tremble when I see Christians who resist divine authority. Be sure, my dear brother or sister, you’re headed for disaster somewhere.
That’s the basic picture of the relationship between man and woman. When the Bible introduces a particularly significant concept, usually the seed thoughts are in first use of it. I believe that’s true here. “He shall rule over you, he shall be your head, he shall be your governor.”
Now I’m going to move into interpretation. I believe what I have been saying up to now is just clearly establish scriptural facts. At this point I’m going to give you my interpretation of various relevant passages of Scripture. I am sincere. I have studied it and meditated on it and prayed over it a lot. But I offer it to you as my interpretation. You can turn it down and still get to heaven, provided you go on loving me.
I’m offering you one aspect of the difference between male and female, and we know there are many differences. We’re talking now about what I call governmental authority, rule. I want to introduce the word “government” because I think it’s clearer. As I understand it, in the ministry of the Word of God and, as a matter of fact, in all areas but let’s confined ourselves to the Word of God, governmental authority requires a comprehensive grasp of God’s redemptive plan rightly relating the main elements.
It’s interesting that in James 3:1 a passage very little quoted today in the Charismatic movement but it’s still in the Bible, it says,
My brethren, do not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.
That’s a significant thought. I find a lot of people are somewhat ambitious to be teachers. They’ve missed out that verse. Why are we told not to become teachers? Because the responsibility is so great, and you will have to answer to God for what you teach.
Now you say, “Brother Prince, are you a teacher?” The answer is “Yes, I am.” You know why? Because God called me specifically, in words, to be a teacher. A long time ago, before some of you were even born, in 1944 near Haifa, in what is now Israel, God spoke to me and He said, “I’ve called thee to be a teacher of the Scriptures in truth and faith and love which are in Christ Jesus for many.” And if I have ever tried to comprehend how many the many would be, I wouldn’t have been able to begin, because modern communication hadn’t reached the stage which it has now. I don’t want to be boastful, but I say basically, I’m teaching millions of people almost every day through the different media—print, radio, television, video, personal ministry. Now, I am a teacher. Whether I am a good teacher or not, that’s for God to decide. I know that I will have to answer to God. Do not plan to be a teacher if God hasn’t called you to be a teacher.
I think there’s a difference between the way that men and women think. This is why there’s a division between those who are eligible to be teachers and those who are not. You can question this, but minds of men and women operate differently. Men excel at comprehensive assessment. Women at details. I couldn’t handle all the details that my wife handles every day. I would be a wreck, but she does it. She’s a wonderful woman, but I have seen that’s where women are good at. I’m not saying that that’s the only thing that women are good at. Please understand that, but they do excel at handling details. They can change the baby and heat the bottle do all these other things almost simultaneously. I couldn’t. I would be a wreck if I tried to do that.
As an historical illustration of what I’m trying to tell you. As far as I know historically, women have not achieved success in composing an opera or a symphony or in formulating a mathematical or philosophical system. I don’t think there’s a record in history because it’s not the area of women’s gifting. When you have to put all those parts together to make a comprehensive whole and see the one thing as a whole, it’s not the way a woman’s mind works. But when she walks into a room and sees something out of place, she sees it ten times faster than her husband, because her mind is created to deal with details. We need both. I need a woman and a woman needs me. It’s not a competition. It’s not that one is inferior and the other superior. The truth of the matter is we are different. You know why we are different? Because God created us different and nothing that ever happens can change that difference. We can fight it, we can argue about it, but it still remains. God has the last word.
I’m going to say something and I wonder if you will agree with me. God is always right! He never makes mistakes! Can you say that with a whole heart? God is always right! He never makes mistakes! Amen. If you can get over that you’ve come a long way.
Now, I’m going to enter into what is a somewhat controversial subject. I’m going to speak about the ministries that are open to women and the ministries that are not open to women, whether single or married. One of the questions that’s very much to the fore in the church is should women be ordained? My answer is that’s much to vague a question. My answer is ordained to do what? Personally, I don’t attach too much importance to a religious ceremony of ordination. Jesus said, “I have chosen you and ordained you. I have set you apart. You are Mine.” That’s what really matters. I’m not saying there shouldn’t be an ordination service, but I think it is secondary to God’s ordaining.
So, if people say to me should women be ordained, I say ordained to do what? To do some things and not to do others. Excuse me, I think I’d better blow my nose while I’m about it. Ruth, with her attention to details, tells me that I should blow my nose rather than wipe it.
Now, I’m going to go through four lists of ministries in the New Testament and discuss briefly which of them are open to women and which are not, bearing in mind that women are not eligible for governmental authority. There’s a Bible teacher in Britain names David Polson, maybe known to some of you. He and I are not close, but we are friends. He has published a book which says Leadership is Male.And basically, I think, that’s true. He’s not very popular in some quarters, but I think he spoke the truth. I want to suggest to you that when it comes to governmental authority normally it is not open to women.
Now let’s look at Romans 12:6–8. Here’s a list of different ministries.
Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or serving, or teaching, or exhorting, or giving, or leading, or showing mercy.
I think there are altogether seven ministries mentioned. I would say of those, five are open to women. Prophecy, serving [which is translated ministry in this translation] exhorting, giving, showing mercy. Two that are not normally open are teaching or leading. When I speak about teaching, I mean teaching that is the administration of governmental authority. If you don’t get that concept you really can’t get clarity.
Then in 1Corinthians 11:5 Paul says,
But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head...
Let’s leave out the question about the head covering for the moment, and just point out that it’s all right for a woman to pray or prophesy provided she fulfills the requirements. So those two ministries are open to women. Praying and prophesying.
Then in 1Corinthians 12:28–30, Paul gives a whole list of ministries.
And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracle? So all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?
If you analyze that list, here are the ministries that I believe are open to women. Prophets, miracles, healings, helps, administrations, tongues, and interpretations. That is six. The two which would not normally be open are apostles and teachers.
Then in Ephesians 4:11, the fourth list it says,
And He Himself [Christ] gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers,
There are five ministries there. Of them, I would say, prophets, and evangelists are open to women. Apostles, pastors and teachers are not normally open to women, because they all involve governmental authority.
Then this is one of the passages that many of you will find hard to swallow. In 1Corinthians 14:34, Paul says,
Let women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive as the law also says.
Now, I’ve already pointed out in the same chapter just a few verses higher up, Paul says a woman may pray or prophesy. So he’s not saying that women have to sit with their mouths closed all the time. I think the key to understanding this is understanding the word “church,” which in Greek is ecclasiafrom which we get the English word ecclesiastic, and so on.
In Greek culture ecclasiawas the word to describe the governmental body of a Greek city/state. It is essentially a governmental word. This brings out the fact, as I have already said, that God governs humanity in a large measure through His church. But when it comes to what I would call, governmental assemblies women are to keep silent. They are not to usurp the function of governing. That’s my understanding.
Now we’ll go on just a little further, because all these passages I believe are consistent. 1Timothy 2:12, Paul says,
And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.
Notice teaching is directly connected with authority. So Paul says, “Where teaching implies the exercise or authority, government, I don’t permit it.” Now that’s Paul’s personal statement, but I think we need to give attention to what Paul says. After all if we compare his results with the results of the feminists, he’s a long way ahead.
Then in 1Timothy 3:2 & 4,
A bishop [which is an overseer and without going into it there are three different names for the same office—overseer, pastor, and elder. So we’re talking about someone who is a pastor.]an overseer must be blameless, the husband of one wife, [but it never says the wife of one husband] ...one who rules his own house well.... [Notice again the word “rule”]
My personal conviction is that in every family the man should be the ruler. That’s not popular everywhere, but God hasn’t changed. Ruling is a tremendous responsibility. Don’t compete for it if you are not qualified for it.
Let me suggest to you the three functions of a man who rules his family. He represents Christ to his family in three main ministries. Prophet, priest and king. As prophet he speaks on behalf of God to his family. As priest he speaks to God on behalf of his family. And as king he rules his family on behalf of God. Remember, the first man that God chose, out of all humanity for Himself, was called Abraham. Why did God choose Abraham? Because He could trust him to rule his family and his children. That was the first requirement of Abraham.
There’s a strange silence.
Now I’ve heard some very strange theories advanced about Phoebe. Probably you haven’t heard them, but I had some questions from somebody about them. Let me turn to Phoebe for just a moment. In Romans 16:1–2 Paul says,
I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the church in Cenchrea, [That would be a deaconess. She’s a servant.] that you may receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and assist her in whatever business she has need of you; for indeed she has been a helper of many and of myself also.
Now, somebody, I read this most mixed up argument, said that Phoebe took charge of Paul and taught him what he ought to preach. So let me just point out it doesn’t say that. I checked the best Greek lexicons, the best translation for “helper” is “protectress.” So Phoebe was a protectress. After all, you remember, Paul was beaten five times with 39 stripes. It is almost incredible to think he received 195 stripes in his life. I think sometimes he needed someone to look after him. A woman to take him into her home and care for him, nurse him, feed him. Maybe Phoebe was one that did that. But she didn’t tell him what to preach.
I’ve had some of the strangest arguments that you could ever imagine in favor of women doing things that they are not supposed to do. The arguments are put forward by men, but usually there’s a woman behind the man.
Now, let’s come to the requirements for married women. There are certain special requirements. Ephesians 5:22.
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.
That’s very clear isn’t it? There’s no mistaking the meaning of that. You may not like it, but it’s obvious what it says. You will say, “But, Paul is unmarried. He didn’t really understand.” But I have to point out to you that Peter said even more as a married man. If you turn to 1Peter 3:1–2,
Likewise, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear.
Now Peter begins that chapter with the word “likewise.” You need to find out what that refers to. If you go back to chapter 2, verse 21 it says,
For to this you were called because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: “Who committed no sin, Nor was guile found in His mouth”; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously;
Then the next chapter says, “likewise” — like who? Tell me. Like Jesus. That’s right. That’s a pretty high calling, isn’t it? But there’s a lot of responsibility goes with it. “Submit to your husbands whether they are believers or not.”
I dealt years ago with a dear woman. She was a very committed, fiery Christian. She was out ministering and her husband was at home, an unbeliever. She told me this personally. She said, “I used to think that because my husband wasn’t a believer, he wasn’t my head, I wasn’t answerable to him. One day God showed me out of the Bible that he was still my head whether he was a believer or an unbeliever. I was so shocked that I actually fell out of bed.”
I think of another couple. I had been ministering deliverance and at the end a woman came up to me and said, “I need deliverance.” God gave me wisdom and I said, “Where’s your husband?” She pointed backwards. “He’s at the back,” as though he really wasn’t a significant figure. I said, “Call your husband.”
Very reluctantly she did so. Then I said the Bible says that your husband is your head and your priest. I’m not the one who should pray deliverance for you, your husband should pray deliverance. Well, that did not suit here the least bit. But I pressed the point. I said, “Are you willing to ask your husband to pray for deliverance?” So very reluctantly she said, “Will you pray for me for deliverance?” And when she said that she was instantly delivered. She had met God’s condition.
Let me tell you a delightful incident that happened in a family that we know well, that are friends of ours. I won’t name them. The woman was a Baptist. She knew the Lord and she married an unsaved man because, she said, “I knew he would let me have as many children as I wanted.” And actually they ended up by having ten. But he was not saved and he was a pretty riotous character. He drank and all sorts of things. She would bring evangelists and preachers to the house and he just didn’t want to listen to them.
Then she read 1Peter chapter 3, “...let them observe the chaste conduct of the wife...” and so she decided to change. So she smartened herself up, had her hair done nicely, put on attractive clothes. Her husband was a fireman and he would come back at all hours of the night and normally she would say, “There’s something in the oven for you.” Now she was there with a nicely cooked warm meal. Her husband thought, “Something’s happened to my wife.” He thought, “She must have a boyfriend.”
So he got one of his friends who was a fireman, not on duty at the same time, to watch the house and see who was the boyfriend. Well, no boyfriend came. Now at times he was actually violent. One time he pushed her head through a partitioned wall, held her by the neck and said, “Aren’t you afraid?” She said, “No.” Well, it worked. Today they are both believers, raising a family of believers. But she took the Lord seriously. How many people would take that risk today? This is a true story. They have a lovely family. So, when you obey the Bible, it works.
Now, we have a lot of trouble about this word “submission.” I have a background in a movement which is well known to many of you where “submission” was one of the key words. We heard it so often, we nearly threw up when we heard it. Mind you, there was a lot of good in that movement I want to tell you. Actually, their aims were good. Their means were not right. I want to point out to you there are two words; submission and submissiveness. I do not believe that a wife is obligated to obey her husband if her demands something that is contrary to Scripture and contrary to her conscience. I think she has a right to say, “I honor you as my husband, but I cannot do what you ask because this, this, and this.” But, she can still maintain a submissive attitude. So let me suggest that even when submission may seem impossible, submissiveness is your role.
Now, let me ask you, dear married sisters, first of all are you really ready to submit to your husband? Because, if you want Him to be your head, you have to submit. Every place where this is discussed, submission of the wife comes first, then headship of the husband. Why? A husband cannot be head of an unsubmissive wife. Then he is a dictator. So if you want headship, you must practice submission. The choice is yours.
Then I want to ask you one other important question. You, dear wives, those who are maybe more spiritual than your husbands, do a lot of praying for your husband. Will you be satisfied to see the good you do manifested in another person’s life? This is the example. There’s a very spiritual wife and a rather unspiritual husband. But the spiritual wife spends hours in prayer for her husband and eventually prays him through into a ministry in which he is successful. So everybody sees the good the husband does, and very few people are aware of the good the wife does. Would that satisfy you or do you demand to have your good recognized?
But let me tell you there is a PS to that. In eternity it will be recognized, be sure. I picture this husband and wife arriving before the throne to receive their rewards, and he gets a crown, but her crown is twice as bright as his. One angel says to another, “Why did she get a brighter crown than he?” “Well,” the other angel replies, “if she hadn’t got a crown, he wouldn’t have one at all.” So, postpone your crown until eternity. Amen?
Now, I am coming near the end. I want to say this. I’ve said it already, but I’ll say it again. Women are different but not inferior. Okay? Some of the areas in which women excel as I’ve seen it. They are quick to recognize and respond to the Holy Spirit. Much quicker often then men. They often excel as evangelists. Much of the progress of the church in China today is due to teenage girls who work as evangelists and bring the gospel to whole villages. I believe evangelism can be a primary call for a woman. They are compassionate, they are brave, and they are loyal.
Let me just give you four examples of women’s loyalty. In John 19:25, these are the last moments of Jesus at the cross.
Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.
There were the three Marys closer to the cross than anybody else but John. And then you read in Matthew 27:55–56. This is the crucifixion.
And many women who followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to Him, were there looking on from afar, among whom were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.
Many women. Most of the men had left, but the women were still there.
Then Mark 16:9. This is one of my most exciting passages in the Bible. I suppose one of the greatest privileges ever granted to a human being was to be the first witness of the resurrection of Jesus. To whom was it granted? Let me read.
Now when He rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven demons.
No other human being has had a privilege that excels that. To be the first witness of the resurrection. Who was it? Not an apostle, but Mary Magdalene. And it is stated specifically in that context that Jesus had cast seven demons out of her. I tell people who’ve been delivered of demons, you never need to be ashamed. You never need to hang your head. That was her proud testimony. “Jesus cast seven demons out of me.” And when He rose from the dead it was to her that He appeared first.
And one more passage in Matthew 28:5–7. Again it’s the resurrection.
But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly and tell His disciples...”
So the women were the messengers to the apostles. You understand, it’s not a question of rank. It’s a question of your function, your calling, how faithful you are. And many, many women are more faithful than many, many men. As I say, if there’s one characteristic that I have noticed in women it’s loyalty. They’ll hand in when all the men have disappeared. Dear sisters, believe me I am not interested in putting women down. I’m interested in helping women to take their God-appointed place and function in it.
Now, everybody comes up with exceptions. One of the favorite exceptions about women in leadership is Deborah. Well, that’s true. She was a leader because there was no man to do it. Shame on the men, not on Deborah. But bear in mind she was an exception. There are 13 persons mentioned as judges in the book of Judges and 1 Samuel. Only one of them was a woman. The problem is when we make the exception to the rule, then we are outside God’s blessing.
Let me close now with a statement about America. America has two critical problems. One of them I have spoken about for at least thirty years. It is delinquent males. That’s problem number one. Males who have reneged on their responsibilities.
Problem number two is rebellious females. The problem is they each make the other worse. Every time a man is delinquent it tends to make a woman rebellious. And every time a woman is rebellious it gives a man an excuse for being delinquent. This is the critical basic problem of this country. Let us not contribute to it. Let us be part of the solution, not part of the problem.
Now turn in closing to Malachi 4:5–6. The last two verses of the Old Testament. Chronologically these are the last verses written in the Old Testament. Notice the last verse is a curse. Thank God for the New Testament. If the Old Testament was the end, God’s last word to us would be a curse. This is what it says. God is speaking,
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. And he will turn The hearts of the fathers to the children, And the hearts of the children to their fathers, Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.”
And that word translated “curse” means “something that is totally rejected by God.” There is nothing more to do about it. It’s gone. And if we do not solve our family problems, we do not have reconciliation between husbands and wives, and parents and children, the result will be a curse. It’s a serious topic. We each need to take it seriously. You may not agree with everything I’ve said, but seek God for yourself, and ask Him to show you what is your role, and ask Him to make you faithful in fulfilling that role. May God bless you. Amen.