Exploring the biblical theology of Christian egalitarianism

reign on earth, priesthood, revelation 5, gender

“You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God people from every tribe and language and people group and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” Revelation 5:9-10

I always get a thrill when I read the words of this song. I love how the church is described as being wonderfully universal and inclusive of all God’s people around the world who have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ.[1] Interestingly, while the lyrics of this song go into some detail to show that the people purchased for God come from every nation, tribe, people group and language, the lyrics do not distinguish between men and women, even though this multitude, described in Revelation 5, almost certainly includes women as well as men. Gender doesn’t seem to be an issue.

I am disappointed by some Christians who, instead of working towards uniting the church, are intent on separating and dividing the church along gender lines. It is obvious that men and women are different in some fundamental ways, yet an ideology that divides the church into two distinct groups and excludes women from certain roles and functions, purely on the basis of gender, is an ideology that does not take into account the complexities and range of human abilities and talents. Nor does it take into account the empowerment, gifts and resources the Holy Spirit provides to believers, seemingly regardless of gender (1 Cor. 12:11).

“In the last days”, God says, “I will pour out my Spirit on all people, and your sons and your daughters will prophesy, your youths will see visions,  your seniors will dream dreams. Even on my male servants [ministers] and on my female servants [ministers], I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.” Acts 2:17-18

While men and women are different, there are also profound differences in individual temperaments and abilities between people of the same gender. On the other hand, most men and women, despite their different genders, share many things in common. I cannot think of a single non-biological trait that is either exclusively male or exclusively female. Can you?

One thing that Christian men and women have in common is that God has incorporated us all into a royal priesthood (1 Pet. 2:4-5, 9; Rev. 1:6; 5:9-10). And both Christian men and women are included in the astounding promise that one day we will reign on earth (Rev. 5:10; 22:5b cf. Matt. 5:5; Gen. 1:26-28).[2]

If God does not exclude women from the amazing roles of serving him as part of a priesthood and of reigning on earth, then we need to be wary about excluding godly, capable women from the roles and functions that complementarians currently see as set apart for men only.

Footnotes

[1] It is not entirely clear whether this group represents the entire Church or is a subset of the Church (especially when you compare Revelation 5:9-10 with Revelation 7:9-10.) However, it could well be that the 144,000 symbolises all redeemed humanity.

[2] Both men and women are regents of God. At creation, they were given the same status, the same authority and the same purpose (Gen. 1:26-28). This purpose is to reign.

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4 thoughts on “Gender Division Divides the Church

  1. Thank you, Marg.
    1 Corinthians 12:11, “But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.” NASB
    The gifts are distributed to each person – the Spirit is so very personal with us.

    1. 1 Corinthians 12:11 is one of my favourite verses. According to Paul’s theology of ministry it is the giftings and grace of the Holy Spirit, and faith, which are the qualifications or the means for ministry, not gender (Rom. 12:6-8).

      1. Genesis 2:18, ESV: “Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.””

        1. Genesis 2:18 is another favourite verse. It’s not good for men to do things on their own, to shoulder the responsibilities of life and Christian ministry alone, when God has made woman as a compatible partner, an ezer kenegdo. Men and women need each other.

          Furthermore, we need to work together and share the creation mandate given in Genesis 1:26-28 where we learn that men and women have the same status, the same authority, and the same purpose. Our purpose at creation was to reign (“have dominion”) as God’s regents, and this is our purpose given in Revelation 5:9-10 also.

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