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That is a Great Question -Week 2: Is Christianity Against Gender Equality?
Richard Root
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That is a Great Question -Week 2: Is Christianity Against Gender Equality? Sep 20, 2020
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Richard Root 1Corinthians 11:2-16 Sunday Online
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Sermon -Sunday Online -2020/09/20 11am -Richard Root
-"That is a Great Question -Week 2: Is Christianity Against Gender Equality?" -1 Corinthians 11:2-16

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2. Is Christianity Against Gender Equality?

1 Corinthians 11:2-16 — September 20, 2020

One of the core teachings of Jesus is that God is spirit, which means that God does not have a body. God transcends gender just as God transcends all ethnicities, races, nationalities and other human categories. According to Genesis, quite uniquely in the ancient world, men do not bear or reflect the image of God any more than women do. Together they bear God’s image in its fullest form. “Male and female he created them.” (Genesis 5:2)

Egalitarians and Complementarians
Broadly speaking, Christians have approached the question of gender equality in two different ways. Both are rooted in scripture, though different in their interpretations.
• Egalitarians believe that the church was born to be an equal, egalitarian community where women and men serve and partner together on the basis of giftedness and not gender hierarchy. They believe those values are modelled in the life and practice of Jesus and of the early church and best reflect God’s intent for human flourishing.
• Complementarians believe that women and men are equal in dignity and worth, but different in role and purpose. They were created to complement one another. In their different roles, men are called to exercise positions of leadership and authority that are not available to women. This would not be seen as inequality, but a difference in purpose that reflects God’s design.
• Complementarians understand the father to be the head of the family, the household. And they believe that this design for the family should be reflected also in the church, where women may hold positions of leadership, so long as those positions do not place them in authority over men.
• Egalitarians respond that household roles and practices in the ancient world may not be the best or the only guide for leadership in the church, and indeed, that the modern church as we know it, including its leadership structures has few parallels in the ancient world. For the first three centuries, Christianity was a house church movement, and more than half of those homes were hosted and led by women.

Scriptures supporting complementarianism
The complementarian view is grounded in about half a dozen passages, including the one we will work through today, 1 Corinthians 11:2-16. (ref. Genesis 2:18, Ephesians 5:21-25, 1 Timothy 2:11-13, 1 Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 2:3-5)

Scriptures supporting egalitarianism
Egalitarians would point to many of those scriptures as household codes and counsel for specific situations in the early church, and note that in actual practice, the early church recognized and named lots of women in positions of senior leadership: Deacons, Elders, Prophets and Apostles. Women like Phoebe, Priscilla, Lydia, the Apostle Junia, and more. (ref. Romans 16:1-7, Colossians 4:15, 2 John 1:1&13, Acts 16:13-15, Galatian 3:28)

1 Corinthians 11:2-16
Paul writes about a particular cultural situation in Corinth that we clearly don’t know all about, but we can make a few key observations from this text and the Bible as a whole.
• Public ministry is for both women and men. Paul is expressly saying this in verse 5,
“Women must pray and prophesy before the congregation.”
“To prophesy” in that context meant to deliver God’s message to the congregation. It was a term that overlapped with teaching.
• Complementarians would argue that women should only do this for other women, which would mean that in public gatherings where men and women are present, the teaching Pastor or Elder would be male. They point to passages like 1 Timothy 2:11-12:
“A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to
teach or to assume authority over a man.”
• Egalitarians would draw attention back to 1 Corinthians 11, because it seems quite clear from the context that Paul is talking about women speaking to an audience of both men and women.
• We get hung up a lot on head-coverings and hair length. But the most striking teaching of this text is that women are teaching, praying, and prophesying in these early gatherings of Jesus followers. This is a radical new way of forming and leading a community.
• This is what Paul is teaching to the church at Corinth. The ministry of women is to be honored in the church.

From Household Codes to Church Structures
• As we already noted, the household formed the basic infrastructure of the early church. For several centuries the church did not have buildings, staff, officers, or nominated leadership structures. They did not have organizations like we think of them.
• What you may not know is roughly half of the households that Paul mentions in the New Testament are headed by women. That was a staggering percentage in the ancient world. That means that the influence and leadership of women in the early church was disproportionately very high. All of this flowed out of the way Jesus dealt with, treated, and honored women.
• One of the key words in the household codes, as complementarians rightly point out, is “head.” In Greek, it’s the word kephalē (from which we get the word encephalogram)
“…the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of
Christ is God.” (1 Corinthians 11:3)
• In English, when we hear the word “head” used metaphorically, we think about the boss or the person who is in charge. We think it means authority and hierarchy. Complementarians take their understanding of male authority from that reading.
• Egalitarians would want us to have a closer look at that word kephalē. There is a lot of discussion among scholars and linguists about how that word was used in ancient Greek. The word was often used to describe the source of something—like we’d talk about the headwaters of a river.
• If this is the case, Paul is saying, in Jesus’ incarnation, he (Christ) came from God, and Adam was created by Christ, and the woman came, as you might remember from the Genesis story, from the side of the man. The idea is not hierarchy, but dependency.
• Ultimately, not a lot hinges on this debate and here’s why. If we accept the interpretation of headship as “authority” we are left with two possibilities:
1) Male authority is cultural. In the ancient world men were in charge. So, the question is: What does it mean to have a Christlike marriage and a Christlike home in that culture? The teaching is timely, not timeless. Similarly, in Ephesians 6:5, Paul says: “Slaves, obey your masters as unto the Lord.”
Paul here is not validating the system of slaves and masters. He’s simply acknowledging the way things were and providing counsel for living within that fallen system.
2) Or, if we accept that male authority is absolute, it should look like Jesus who taught us how to lay down our authority and sacrifice for those we love. Jesus himself said in Mark 10:42-44:
“You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead,
whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant…”
• Either way, a household should look, feel, and function egalitarian, and so should the church. Women and men are to treat one another with great dignity. Jesus’ community ought to be a place where women and men find great respect and honor. As Paul says, “...woman is the glory [reflection] of man.” (1 Corinthians 11:7)
• People will sometimes wonder, “Does that mean she’s lower than him?” It doesn’t mean that. The idea that somebody has to be domineering in a relationship is not only not God’s plan, but it is demeaning, and often gets worked out in kind of destructive ways.

Counsel for the Church
• Let’s be a community that teaches our children how to honor and revere all human beings regardless of gender.
• Let’s teach our children that God made women and men alike to serve in their giftedness with humility and joy, to live heroically with courage and faith, to love one another with servanthood and respect.
• Let’s be a community where we honor marriage, where spouses are devoted to sexual faithfulness and integrity and mutual submission and healthy relationships.
• Let’s be a community that prays and works for the protection and elevation of women in the home, in education, in the workplace, where we live and all around the world.
• If you’re a man, I charge you: cheer the women in your life on. They are your mom, your sister, your friend, your wife, your daughter. Pray that God uses them to their fullest potential.
• If you are a woman, know that you are made and cherished by God. You bear God’s image. You carry God’s calling. Be courageous. Be energized as you use the gifts God has given you.
• Together, let us show a world that is still broken by gender what a community looks like when men and women serve, befriend, challenge, and cherish one another in Jesus’ name.

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