Before dealing directly with the subject of women and leadership in the Bible, we must first make two fundamental, biblical affirmations regarding gender:
- The Bible affirms that men and women are equal.
- The Bible affirms that men and women are different.
Men and Women Are Equal
Our first fundamental affirmation is that men and women are equal.
This is not to say that there are no legitimate distinctions between men and women, but that men and women are fundamentally equal in the eyes of God. From the time of Creation, men and women have been equal.
We were created equally in God’s image.
So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created Him; male and female He created them. (Gen. 1:27)
Men and women were equally given authority over the earth:
God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” (Gen. 1:28)
Outside of Christ, men and women are equally sinful and lost, and in need of a Savior. Neither is uniquely responsible for the other’s sins. Moreover, in Christ, both men and women receive the same eternal life and righteousness before God through faith by Jesus’ shed blood (Rom. 3:22-24). Men and women are equally valuable in the sight of God. He loves them both and desires to save them both (Acts 5:14, Acts 8:12).
Both Christian men and women are equally saved through the shed blood of Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit who transforms us into the same image of Jesus Christ:
You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal. 3:26-28)
In Christ, men and women are “one.” This does not deny male-female distinctions but affirms that we are equally accepted by God and welcome in His presence, equally able to grow by the power of the Holy Spirit into maturity.
There are no mediators between God and man other than Jesus (1 Tim. 2:5). Thus, the husband does not mediate between Jesus and his wife or between Jesus and his children. All can, and must, go to Jesus directly. Moreover, the man will not judge his wife and children on the Last Day. Jesus, alone, is the Judge; we’re all directly accountable to Him.
Men are not more inclined than women to be godly, and the profile of spiritual maturity for both male and female is the same list of character qualities: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23).
Christian men and women have equal access to God, and should live equally in the presence of the Holy Spirit. Men and women are called equally to know God, to love Him, to obey Him and to serve Him. We equally possess calling and purpose from God (2 Tim. 1:9) and we are equally gifted by God to fulfill our callings (Rom. 12:3-6; 1 Cor. 12:7).
God has given an important ministry to every man and woman; therefore, we must all serve Him and fulfill His purpose for our lives – not only the men.
Men and Women Are Different
As we have seen, men and women are equal. However, we are also different. This is our second biblical affirmation.
That men and women are profoundly different in many ways is a self-evident truth. Someone who refuses to acknowledge that is deeply committed to irrationality.
The erasure of distinctions between the sexes is not only the most striking issue of our time, it may be the most profound the race has ever confronted. (William Manchester, historian)
Men and women are equal but different. Consequently, there are distinctions in our roles in the family and in the Church.
Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. (1 Cor. 11:3)
This does not make the woman inferior to the man any more than Christ should be considered inferior to the Father simply because in the order of the Godhead He is subject to His Father. Jesus and His Father are “One” (John 10:30); they are equal. Yet they are different; they have different roles within the Godhead.
Peter gives the balance in 1 Peter 3:7:
Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers. (1 Pet. 3:7)
In this verse, “heirs with you” could have been translated as “joint-heirs.” Thus, men and women are different (“weaker partner”) but they are equal heirs of life in Christ ….
Peter affirms both: God created us fundamentally equal but also fundamentally different with different gender roles.
This was God’s design. This is not something that was unwise or inappropriate. It was God’s wise design that we should be equal but different.
God could have created everyone male or everyone female. He could have designed a reproductive process that only needed one gender so that humanity would endure and multiply. But He did not do so. He intentionally made men and women different so they could each fulfill their different purposes. That was wise of God to do so, and it is wise of us to recognize that reality.
Any theology that overemphasizes one of these truths will be imbalanced. Those who overemphasize “equal” end up having no distinctions at all, and losing the power of distinctly male leadership in the home and Church.
Conversely, those who overemphasize “different” end up with the women doing very little in the Church by way of ministry. Moreover, some women become bound with a fear of “getting out of their place,” while others become angry and resentful.
We must keep a balance: men and women are equal yet different.
With these two realities in mind, let’s now look at what the Bible teaches regarding leadership and ministry in the church as relates to gender …
About Women in Leadership, by Malcolm Webber:
The role of women in ministry and leadership in the Church is a very controversial issue about which much has been written. We can identify two major extremes of teaching and practice.
In some circles, women are not allowed to occupy any position of leadership or fulfill any formal ministry in the Church – except for those involving children or other women. This position holds that women are simply never called by God to leadership; leadership is exclusively a male domain.
In other circles, women are constantly found in the very highest positions of authority. This teaching maintains that one should find as many women as men in leadership roles including the very top positions – leadership is a 50/50 proposition when it comes to gender. Of course, between these two extremes are many shades and nuances. Furthermore, emotions run high on this matter – on both sides. It is an extremely important issue that directly affects everyone in the Church. Women and Leadership examines what the Bible says about the role of women in Christian ministry and leadership.
Women in Leadership is available for purchase here. To purchase more of our books, visit https://www.strategicpress.org/.