Jesus Empowers Women
Dr. Valson Abraham
Organized religion has tended to devalue women and deny them power and influence. This includes organized Christendom throughout much of its history.
Christendom is never as radical as the Bible. When we read the Bible, it becomes clear that God has always had different ideas about women from most religious leaders.
In the beginning, when God created woman to become the “helpmate” to man, He did not create an apprentice or an assistant for the man. The Hebrew word for “helpmate” implies that the woman is equal to the man, even if God created the man first. Adam refers to Eve as “bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh,” meaning that Eve is equal to Adam. Both of them are dependent upon God.
The Fall separated man and woman from God and from one another. It brought a curse upon woman in which she became subordinate to the man. The world into which Jesus came was the world of the curse. That world put little value upon a woman. They held little social importance. Their testimony counted for little if anything.
It is not God’s intention to make that curse permanent. Women may be cursed through Eve’s disobedience, but Mary’s obedience to God, her willingness to bear the incarnated Son of God, indicates God’s desire to end that curse upon women.
Throughout the gospel accounts, Jesus shows an unprecedented respect for women. This is evidence that Jesus has come to rid the world of the curse. This had a profound effect upon women in the days ahead.
The first persons to whom the risen Christ appeared were women. Their testimony to men regarding the empty tomb and His personal appearance to them brought Peter and John to the empty tomb and confirmed the truth of everything the women told them. This verification of a woman’s testimony, countering the assumptions of the day, is the first sign that Jesus’ resurrection broke the curse upon women that has reigned from the Fall.
Because of Jesus Christ, His sacrifice upon the cross and His resurrection, we who put our trust in Him live in the Kingdom of the Second Adam that restores God’s original intent for women. Any hierarchical structure that makes men superior to women results from the Fall and is done away with in Christ (Galatians 3:8).
In the Upper Room, the Holy Spirit came upon men and women alike, with no distinction. From the earliest days, before the 1st century church degenerated into “Christendom” and “religion,” women played important roles as leaders, teachers and prophets. Leaders of the early church included women such as Lydia, Priscilla, Phoebe, Chloe, Nympha, all of whom Paul commends for their good and faithful work.
In Galatians 3:28, Paul says “there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” That is, male and female share one purpose, one calling. The gifts and fruit of the Spirit belong to all, including gifts of preaching and teaching.
God used a woman, Lydia, to establish a beachhead for the gospel in Europe. As Europe’s first convert through Paul, God used her to plant the church of Philippi which became a model for future churches. Her solid witness, hospitality, helpful spirit, spiritual gifts and practicality modeled how God intended both men and women to live. Her pioneering work made it possible for the Philippian church to grow and spread throughout rest of the continent.
Acts 18 records that both Priscilla and her husband, Aquila, became major instructors to Apollos, an eloquent leader of the early church, explaining the way of God “more accurately.” Priscilla is named first, indicating that she was Apollos’ primary teacher. Here, a woman enables a man to become a more able expositor of the Word of God.
Priscilla reminds me of Henrietta Mears, the outstanding Bible teacher, whom God used to mentor a generation of male spiritual leaders in the 20th century, including Dr. Billy Graham. She also mentored Bill and Vonette Bright, founders of Campus Crusade for Christ; Richard Halverson, chaplain of the U.S. Senate; Jim Rayburn, founder of Young Life; Dr. Daniel Fuller, professor at Fuller Theological Seminary; Dr. Frederick Bruner, Bible scholar and writer of commentaries on Matthew and John..
In some circles, much is made of Paul’s command in 1 Corinthians 14:34 for women to keep silence in the church. We do not have the space to discuss this in detail, but in the light of everything else said by Jesus and Paul, it is clear that this passage deals with a special circumstance that does not negate the overall message of the New Testament—God has ended the curse of women’s subordination and chosen women to places of ministry and influence. It is never right to interpret one passage of scripture so that it overrules everything else.
In other words, God’s special call upon women is part of the gospel message.
In a land like India, where women and girls still play subservient roles, and suffer from inferiority and degradation, we make a powerful witness for the gospel when we treat our wives, female children, female relatives and sisters in Christ with the respect that Jesus gave to all women.
* * *
Father God, thank you for the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ that rid us of the curse of sin and its effects on women. Help us to live in the light of our new position in Jesus Christ and encourage every person, female and male alike, to recognize and practice the gifts and abilities you have given them. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.