Wednesday, February 08, 2012


I read a major writer recently who based much of his position that women were NOT to be leaders of men on the fact that the gospels show that Jesus DID NOT call a woman to be one of the original twelve. He called only men. He's right. Jesus did not have a woman among the original twelve. But does that tell the whole story of our Lord's attitude toward women? I think not. You would need to be honest about the whole picture given in the gospels to fully understand our Lord's view of women in leadership I would think. That whole picture is rather telling.

To do just that, I'm going to share some insights that are not often thought about, or worse, are purposely not mentioned by those making a case against women being in leadership based on the original twelve. It might be wise to begin by reminding all of us that there IS NO recorded restriction in the gospels concerning women in leadership either. That in and of itself is not sufficient to draw a hard conclusion since building a biblical position from silence, on anything, is never wise, but it's worth mentioning.

You would think that with their culture the way it was in regards to women, as seen in the fact that women were not permitted to teach men in the Synagogue,  [Or to testify in a court of law for that matter.] and they CERTAINLY were not permitted to travel around with a Rabbi in an itinerant ministry, it would have to be of great significant that women were permitted to do BOTH by our Lord. You do recall that it was to a woman that Jesus gave instructions at the tomb when He said, "Go to the brethren, and say to them, I'm ascending to my Father and your Father and to my God and your God." [John 20:11] That smacks of teaching to me, at least as some would define it in our day.

Then, Luke 8:1-2 also clearly states this, "And the twelve were with him AND certain women, who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, [several are named] and MANY OTHERS." This passage is reporting how Jesus went into cities and villages with His followers which included a list of women who ministered with their substance. This traveling ministry was certainly an "in your face" kind of thing in that day regarding the place of women.

Talk about a contradistinction, there you have it. Our Lord's view of the value of women in ministry was far removed from one that did not permit such things. To say otherwise may be giving too much weight to a simple fact that one was not named in the original twelve. Maybe He was keeping the beginning of His ministry [this is pure speculation of course] close to the Jewish illustration of the tribes of Israel! Who knows!! But to say that fact shows that women are NOT to minister or teach men is way beyond the pale I believe.

Then don't forget that the narrative in the gospels also includes the two incidents of Anna's proclamation of Christ to all present in Luke 2, which would have included men, as well as, the incident of the woman at the well in John 4 proclaiming to EVERYONE in her city the same Christ who knew all things about her. These two incidents evidence that what was transpiring in the message and ministry of Christ was also breaking down racial barriers as well as gender barriers. The woman at the well was giving her message to people outside Judaism remember. [Samaritans]

One other thing needs to be said. What I'm about to draw attention to is not the gospel material, obviously, but it is so close it bears mentioning. Remember the book of Acts opens [You recall  Luke wrote the Acts narrative also] with the 120 disciples in the upper room and another list of women is said to be with them. [Acts 1:14] Then, the scriptures tell how "they" cast lots and appointed Matthias to take the place of Judas among the apostles.

There appears to be no reason to think the women didn't have a voice or say in that decision.  I won't make the same mistake as do those who oppose women in leadership based on no women being among the twelve and advocate that because of silence. But to say they DIDN'T have a voice in the decision of Matthias is to reflect the culture around that young church rather than the practice of our Lord Himself, as has been pointed out. I think it safe to think they did.

If you think otherwise, you would need to also explain how in Acts chapter two when the Holy Spirit filled those members of that young church on the day of Pentecost and they began to speak in other tongues [languages] and the crowd thought them drunk, Peter stood to explain what they were seeing and he said "They are not drunk...this is what was spoken of Joel....that your sons AND DAUGHTERS will prophesy...." [Acts 2:14-17]

So the ladies could be present but not participate? I think the scriptures speak of a different thing entirely and this is JUST the gospels and two chapters of Acts.

[My wife and I just returned from an all day driving trip where we discussed this post a great deal. She reminded me that it seems to her that Pentecost may have very well been a dividing line where the Holy Spirit drew a clear line in the sand, with regards to women in ministry, that may not have been as clear in the gospels in the context of Israel. Though, of course, it was abundantly clear Jesus viewed them differently. But since Pentecost, boy, things have been quite different concerning God's purpose for women in the New Covenant. I think she may be on to something.]

All this said, I know there are two places [1 Tim 2:12/1 Corinthians 14] that could be seen as telling a different story. I have my view on what those two passages are saying and what they mean, but you CAN'T honestly look at those without holding what has just been said in mind. If you do you would not be letting scripture interpret scripture. But that's a post for another day. 

Today, I simply want to register my thoughts that the narrative of the gospels will not permit me to think that the fact that there were no women among the original twelve is sufficient, by itself, to hold that Jesus believed that women could not teach, lead and minister, as can men. Jesus revealed Himself to have a totally different idea than that.

Paul B.


    Aussie John said...


    We may be a long distance aart, but you ought to have heard my "Amens" from where you are.

    Great stuff!

    I have been convinced for many years that the culture, in which Jesus ministered, a culture spiritually snared in bondage to tradition, an Old Covenant religious mentality of patching wine-skins, was, in God's economy of time, meant to be a prelude, a time to stop and consider.

    These people had been promised a Messiah,and God Himself,had audibly spoken audibly spoken to Peter, James and John, Moses and Elijah,"This is my beloved Son,with whom I am well pleased, LISTEN TO HIM".

    He continually pointed to a New Covenant. We would do well to interpret the rest of the New Testament with Jesus teaching in mind, rather than interpreting, Jesus' teaching through Paul, Peter, etc.

    Maybe we will then understand His words when He said, "Behold, I am making all things new."

    I know I am sticking my neck out, but......!

    Rex Ray said...

    Good post!

    There are two trains of thought expressed in (Luke 10:38-42)
    1. Women are to be in the kitchen.

    2. Women are free to choose the best way to serve Jesus.

    One was the custom, while one was from Jesus: “Mary has made the right choice and it will not be taken away from her.”

    Except by the 2000 BF&M—“Our doctrinal guideline” which excludes women from being pastors under the disguise that God prevents women from teaching men.

    Also, women must submit to their husbands.

    Paul Burleson said...

    Aussie J,

    I think I did hear those "amens." LOL


    Are you saying SBCers don't want women in the forefront of ministry? No...really! LOL

    Let me create a pretend conversation here.

    SBCers would say.."Fiddle sticks Rex, women can minister, just NOT as Senior Pastors."

    Rex would say..."Yea, but you 2000 BF&M SBCers wind up making it say that women can't preach, teach theology in SBC seminaries, or LEAD men in any fashion."

    SBCers would say.."Rex, it's an UNFAIR generalization for you to say the 2000BF&M is NOT totally supportive of women in the ministry"

    Rex would say..."It's an INACCURATE generalization for you SBCers to say that all Southern Baptists and the 2000 BF&M support women in the ministry, they don't."

    Rex, I would have to agree with you in this pretend conversation between you and SBCers.

    Rex Ray said...


    Did I say THAT? My goodness! Somebody may be washing my mouth out with soap. Smile

    Harry Truman wrote:
    “I never give them [the public] hell. I just tell the truth, and they think its hell.”

    ‘Paul Burleson never gave the 2000 BF&M hell. He just told the truth, and they think its hell.’

    Of course we’d have to add Aussie John also as he wrote:

    “We would do well to interpret the rest of the New Testament with Jesus teaching in mind, rather than interpreting Jesus’ teaching through…[I don’t dare repeat it; smile] “

    Aussie John, your statement is in the 1963 BF&M as “The criterion by which the Bible is to be interpreted is Jesus Christ.”

    I believe that statement means we are to interpret the Bible through the eyes of Jesus.

    But this 1963 statement was deleted by the 2000 because they prefer to interpret “I” to be ‘God’ in this verse: “I do not allow a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; instead, she is to be silent.” (2 Timothy 2:12)

    To me that makes as much sense as three verses later: “She will be saved through childbearing…”

    Yea, Aussie John, my neck is out there with yours.

    I believe churches should have some women deacons to better represent and help lead their church instead of just being “silent”.

    Aussie John said...


    I apologize that my words in my last comment weren't very relevant to what you wrote, except maybe the first couple of paragraphs. I'm still struggling with gathering my thoughts. The doctors told me that would be most likely the case after the operation.

    You mentioned Jesus attitude towards women, a fact that so many ignore. In fact, over all, He was neutral when it came to gender.

    What I wanted to point out was that traditionally we have been indifferent towards Him, apart from His essential role in our salvation.

    Apart from that, this One who is God incarnate, of whom the angel prophesied,
    "He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”(Luke 1:32-33)

    His life, which separated the Old Covenant from the New, and introduced the New Covenant,His words and example (in this case towards women),has been relegated almost to oblivion. His endless kingdom,of which the angel prophesied, has become the kingdom of religious mankind and his traditions. The King didn't abdicate, He is dethroned!

    Paul Burleson said...

    Aussie J,

    No apology needed and within the context of any conversation we ever have no apology will ever be needed

    I'd rather hear your comments when you are "still struggling with gathering your thoughts" than I had so many who think they are speaking clearly and correctly and the rest of us have to suffer through their inability to do either.

    Keep those comments coming is my thought. All the rest of us are the ones who benefit from them.

    Rodney Sprayberry said...

    Remember the Wedding at Cana?

    Mary: Son, they are out of wine!
    Jesus: What does that have to do with me?
    Mary: (to servants) Do what he tells you to do.

    Jesus being told what to do....sounds like leadership to me!

    No matter what culture, century, or church body (at least one that is spiritually healthy...regardless of complementarian or egalitarian leanings) woman have always been able to influence and lead.

    Maybe churches need to honestly line up official doctrinal stances with actual practice...just sayin'

    Of course if churches would recognize that the NT speaks of leadership more in terms of function than office many of the gender (and power) issues would likely dissapear.

    For that matter if we would look for leadership qualities(function) rather than a list of qualifications (office)...we might be surprised at who God is using in the Body......IMHO...of course

    Paul Burleson said...


    The entire comment is good...this is exceptional... "Of course if churches would recognize that the NT speaks of leadership more in terms of function than office many of the gender (and power) issues would likely dissapear."


    bella said...

    very nice blog...

    Rex Ray said...

    I’ve got an idea…how about putting our blog beliefs in action and open our near election for new deacons to include women?

    The deacons have discussed this issue and if I remember right you were not against women deacons but thought our church would probably not be ready for it.

    Well, there’s one way to find out—let the members vote and if women get the most votes, so be it.

    Some time ago, the deacons agreed we needed two more deacons to replace those that left the church.

    To inform the church to be thinking of whom they’d like; something like this could have been put in our church bulletin:

    Since we need two more deacons, please be thinking about these additions as qualified by our bylaws to be voted on at our next business meeting x-xx-xx.

    Our bylaws state: “When more deacons are needed, church members will be given a ballot…”

    But for the last two weeks every church bulletin had a ballot inside, and the vote is still several weeks away.

    “…a ballot” does not mean many or a handful.

    Rodney, what you said sounds good: “If we would look for leadership qualities (function) rather than a list of qualifications…”

    So why does the ‘ballot’ have 21 qualifications that come from scripture?

    I mean, what deacon or anyone is “holy”? I get the feeling we’ve been beat on our heads with the Bible.

    ‘Deacon additions should have qualifications as set by our bylaws’ is all that is needed.

    I believe the ballot heading: “Recommendations for Deacon-leaders” is misleading because our bylaws state a deacon is a “servant-leader”.

    In my opinion that means a deacon is to help lead the congregation to be led by the Holy Spirit in keeping with ‘individual priesthood’.

    BTW, since the time deacons recommended two additions, I was told for my 80 birthday next month I’d be removed; so the ballot should say three recommendations.

    If that’s what the church wants, do you think our bylaws should be revised?

    I agree with Paul in liking your “function” over “office” is what the NT teaches.

    Briley said...

    My heart rejoices to read this post and comments from so many brothers in Christ. As a woman about to start at Southern Seminary in the fall, I've been stressing (ok perhaps obsessing is a better term) about my place or role as a woman in ministry. I'm a complimentarian and have no issue with that men and women are created equally but differently. All you have to do to figure that out is talk to a married couple for 10 minutes about their last conflict ;). Where I was getting frustrated was reading materials from women and men that suggested I shouldn't even be in charge of a worship band because that would be me having authority over men. I think sometimes the language we use serves to fence sisters in and it really makes us feel as if we have to find the areas where we're "allowed" to play rather than fulfilling our God given roles. God given doesn't equal cultural either. I have no problem with hierarchy (we observe it in daily life in everything else) and the idea that a man should be the senior pastor of a church doesn't threaten or frustrate me at all. I'm not a "demure" lady either, but I sure wouldn't want that job. But the idea that a woman couldn't serve as worship director or "minister" seems oppressive and restrictive. I read an article yesterday that said a woman should only be allowed to "sing" or "play an instrument" in a mixed gathering because any words she might speak would be considered "teaching' or be "perceived authority". To this I say, what about hymns? If I sing a hymn (texts that are full of rich theology beyond what I hear in many sermons) then what am I doing? Aren't I "teaching"? Anyway, thank you for this post. I know SBTS falls on the more conservative end of things on this front, but it is good to hear that there are churches within my own beloved denomination that would still hire me even though God made me a woman. I'd love to read a post on 1 Timothy 2, though I've probably read that and 1 Cor 14 enough for a lifetime over the past few weeks. I'm not simply searching out someone that agrees with me, but a perspective that isn't so..."man hunt, woman make dinner" would be refreshing. Not that there is anything wrong with hunting or making dinner (I'd rather do the ladder than the former).