One of the great missionary heroines of Protestant evangelicalism is Mary Slessor of Calabar. A woman who was mighty in the Word, she braved the wilds of Africa to bring the Gospel to often hostile people, to rescue abandoned infants, to minister to the deepest spiritual needs of those without Christ. She is credited with having opened a significant part of Africa to a reception of the Gospel.
Beside I Tim. 2: 12 (I suffer not a woman to teach or usurp authority over a man) she had pencilled in her Bible, “Nay, Paul laddie. This will na do!” Like many another woman who seeks to respond to God’s call, she was perplexed and frustrated by this passage. How was she to reconcile this troubling verse with the command to go into all the world and proclaim the Gospel? She was fully convinced that God had called her, and she had staked her very life upon the promises and commands of Scripture. She could not bring Christ to Calabar unless she was ready to teach men and women alike of His grace and love.
Her dilemma is still ours today, and it requires our best efforts at resolution. How are we to uphold the Bible as the Wad of God, our only infallible rule of faith and practise – and yet come to terms with a precept which seems to contradict other commands such as Romans 12: 18; Matthew 28:19-20? We are commanded to compare Scripture with Scripture, and certainly the Bible reveals women in many types of leadership roles. Part of the answer appears to lie in diligent searching and researching of the “hard sayings.” We need to encourage vigorous scholarship and a variety of approaches. It is not necessary that these be entire agreement between the various scholars, but it is necessary that the work be done.
We honor God best by delving into the Word, by handling it honestly, by understanding the time, place, and circumstances in which each part was given. In this way I believe that we shall gain a better understanding of the whole and of God’s purposes for our lives and ministry. “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”