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FIRST-PERSON: The Bible, women & ministry

DALLAS (BP)–For believers, ministry is not an option. Ministry is our privilege and our responsibility. God calls each of us to serve Him, and He gifts us and empowers us to accomplish the task to which He has called us. The starting point for any discussion is not societal standards or cultural norms — it is the authoritative Word of God.

As women, we want to serve as effectively as possible, with authenticity and integrity, being diligent to preserve biblical parameters. So what does the Bible say about the qualifications for women in ministry?

As we look at Scripture, we see that women are:

— Qualified to serve on the basis of creation.

Adam and Eve were created in the image of God and are equal in value, though distinct in role. God’s design is for the man to lovingly lead and the woman to voluntarily submit to him as a helper who corresponds to him. The distinction of role is rooted not in woman’s incompetence or inferiority, but in God’s created order for manhood and womanhood. The Apostle Paul understood this truth, extending the application to the roles of men and women in the church.

— Qualified to serve on the basis of redemption.

As those who profess faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross, we are now joint heirs with Christ. The context of Galatians 3:28 makes clear the sense in which men and women are equal in Christ:

They are equally justified by faith (verse 24)

They are equally free from the bondage of legalism (v. 25)

They are equally children of God (v. 26)

They are equally clothed with Christ (v. 27)

They are equally possessed by Christ (v. 29)

They are equally heirs of the promises to Abraham (v. 29)

Redemption in Christ gives men and women an equal share in the blessings of salvation; nevertheless, some governing and teaching roles within the church are restricted to men.

— Qualified to serve on the basis of commission.

According to Matthew 28:19-20, each of us is commissioned to “go and make disciples.” One compelling illustration of this calling is seen in Titus 2:3-5. Titus had a mammoth task. The believers in Crete were living in the midst of a pagan environment, surrounded by gross immorality. Of all the instruction Paul could have given Titus on how to combat that decadence, Paul bore down on the importance of older women encouraging and equipping younger women to live godly lives.

— Qualified to serve on the basis of spiritual gifting.

The Holy Spirit has bestowed spiritual gifts on all members of the body of Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 indicates that various gifts have been distributed to all believers. There is no reason to believe any gift is limited to men. Within the parameters set forth in Scripture, women have made tremendous contributions to the Kingdom of God. Sprinkled throughout Scripture are examples of women God honored because they honored Him. Though these women were unique in personality and varied in their ministries, there is one common denominator — their motivation.

And their motivation should be ours! Our motivation for ministry should be to honor the calling of God on our lives by utilizing the gifts He has given for the express purpose of building up the body of Christ.

Therefore, ministry always should be seen as a sacrificial gift, an act of “service,” rather than as a position or office. It should never be for personal gratification or self-exaltation.

What the world needs today is women whose lives are centered in the Word of God, whose hearts are inflamed with the love of God and whose ministries reflect the glory of God as they give themselves in service to the One who came “not to be served, but to serve.”
Kathy Sibley is assistant to the president of Criswell College and a former Southern Baptist missionary.

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  • Kathy Sibley