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Published Date: September 11, 2013

Published Date: September 11, 2013

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Male Rule a Biblical Ideal? (Part Two)

Last week I considered the flawed logic coupled with the lack of biblical support of those who advance male authority as a biblical ideal. This week I will offer a brief response to the more detrimental aspects of these errors. For each assertion ascribing “masculine” qualities to leadership, we’ll consider the biblical evidence.

1. Jesus was Male 

To begin with, we must remember that Christ represents your flesh and mine. It is not Christ’s gender that is essential, but his humanity. According to the ancient church, Christ was born as a male to represent males, and also born of a woman to represent females (Gregory of Nazianzus, “Epistle 101,” Hardy, Christology, p. 218. Migne, P.G. 37:181). Conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of a woman, Christ’s two natures, human and divine, never comingle so as not to impose divinity onto humanity, or human qualities (like gender) onto God who is spirit (John 4:24).

2. Jesus Prayed to God as Father

In the ancient world, it was fathers who extended inheritance and identity to their children. We pray to God our Father, because in Christ we are all heirs and member of the New Covenant—the family of God. For this reason, many ancient baptismal fonts were shaped like a womb and inscribed with Galatians 3:28: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Our truest identity is not our gender (male or female), our ethnicity (Jew or Greek), or our class (slave or free). Our truest identity and inheritance come through our rebirth in Christ, whereby we are adopted into God’s family.

3. Men are Leaders in Scripture

The very first leadership team in Scripture included both male and female. In Genesis, Adam and Eve shared dominion because both are created in God’s image (Gen 1:27). God calls Eve, ezer in Hebrew, which means “strong help” (Gen 2:18). Women lived this out in the Bible as prophets who corrected kings and priests. Women also served as apostle, deacon, teacher, and house church leader. Phoebe is the only person in the New Testament identified by name with the title of a local church office, “who is deacon of the church of Cenchreae” (Rom 16:1). These women, and others, show that the spiritual gifts are not bound by gender.

4. Christ Called Twelve Males as Disciples

The twelve disciples represent a reconstitution of the twelve tribes of Israel into the New Covenant, as God had promised. However, the twelve disciples consistently fail where women in the gospel succeed. It is outsiders and women whose faith, courage, wisdom, and initiative exceed that of the twelve apostles, despite the privilege the Twelve possess as males and Jews.

5. Man is Head of Woman

There is no compelling evidence that the word kephale, or “head,” meant authority or leadership in Greek as it does in English. It does, however, seem to carry a meaning of “source” or “originator.” Because of this, 1 Corinthians 11:3–5 rehearses the chronology of the second creation account: Christ is the source or originator of man (John 1:1), just as man was the source of woman’s body (Gen 2:20–23), and God is the source of Christ’s incarnation (Luke 1:35). However, all males are now born from women, yet all things ultimately come from God. Therefore, both males and females are interdependent—relying on each other and, primarily, God, for a fruitful existence (1 Cor 11:11–12, Ephesians 5:21–33).

6. Wives, Submit to Your Husbands (Eph 5:21–33)

It is important to note that Paul begins his discussion on submission in verse 21, where the verb “submit” appears. Here he asks all Christians to submit to one another (Ephesians 5:21). In various ways, Paul calls husbands ten times to love and care for their wives as they love and care for themselves. Ephesians 5:28–33 places the burden of nurturing a one-flesh relationship—not male rule— squarely on the shoulders of husbands. The bold words make clear Paul’s emphasis:

“In the same way, husbands should love their wives as they dotheir own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hates his own body, but he nourishes and tenderly cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, because we are members of his body. ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two will become one flesh.’ This is a great mystery, and I am applying to Christ and the church. Each of you, however, should love his wife as himself, and a wife should respect her husband.”

Paul’s instruction to husbands to love their wives sacrificially was considered radical for the first century.

Fortunately, Christian faith is neither masculine nor feminine. Rather, in Christ both males and females are equal heirs of God’s New Covenant community. Both are born of the Spirit, and both are gifted for leadership which is first and foremost service. A distorted view of gender and faith weakens our theological credibility. It also makes us morally anemic, depriving us of the spiritual teeth needed to advance the gospel in word and deed, here or anywhere.