Image from National Catholic Reporter, July 13, 2019. Artifacts show early church women serving as clergy. “What’s a Woman of Grace Doing in the Priesthood” presented at Central Christian College of the Bible, April 5, 2018.
In these next three posts I discuss the question: What’s a woman of grace doing in the priesthood? The question can be perceived negatively – a woman of grace has no business or biblical permission to serve in any capacity in the priesthood (serving communion, teaching, preaching, etc.), OR it can be perceived positively – that every Holy Spirit gifted woman of grace has much to contribute as a full participant (teaching, preaching, etc.) within the priesthood of believers.
My presentation follows the positive perspective: that women and men are equally called to participate in the work of the priesthood.
I. The Early Church – A New Beginning
a. At Pentecost Peter quotes Joel, an OT prophet:
“In the last days … I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female slaves, in those days, I will pour out my spirit.” (Acts 2:28-29).
Celebrate! The Last Days are here! The God of all creation is once again dwelling in the midst of His People!
There’s no doubt folks today are concerned about Last Days.
- When times are unsettling …we look to the future and dream of a better day!
- Times were difficult when Joel wrote. He longed for last days when God’s Spirit would pour out and when God would again dwell on the earth with all creation.
b. Last days frighten us because we fear judgment! And rightly so.
- But interestingly we note that when Peter preached at Pentecost – it was time to celebrate.
- The events of Pentecost revealed God/HS was still here, even though Jesus had ascended!! The last days ushered in a new age.
- Men and women worked together in “one accord” in prayer, in the work of evangelizing, teaching, and reaching out to others.
II. Old Identity: People of God – A Dispersed People
a. The book of Acts records the birth of the early church
- It records its fellowship, unity, and the struggles experienced by those early followers who believed Jesus to be the Christ.
- Persecution caused them to scatter, becoming a people on the move (Acts 8).
- The deportation/diaspora was in the past a keen part of Jewish identity.
- Before Jesus’ ascended into heaven he told his disciples: “Lo, I am with you always – predicting an ongoing exilic-status for the new believers until his return.
b. Persecution, struggles, and dispersion persist.
- History records centuries of religious, political, and social upheavals which have reshaped the church and its theology and has reshaped countries and communities
- Currently, 65 million peoples have been forcibly displaced from their homeland. “The Human Flow.”
- The video “The Human Flow” by Ai Weiwei is available on Netflix or Amazon and it gives insight into the gravity and impact deportation and exile imposes on people who are on the move.
- There is plenty of work for WOMEN OF GRACE
III. A New Identity: A New Temple
a. Paul changes their identity:
“You are no longer strangers and aliens, BUT you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In [Christ] the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God” (Eph 2:19-20).
- Christ-followers were not to view themselves as strangers/aliens, but as members of God’s Household
- Household concept: The church is new family with Christ as the Head/Older Brother with responsibility to provide, protect, etc., the brothers/sisters in God’s household.
- The Hebrew Family was unlike the modern, nuclear family.
- It is significantly broader and includes blood relatives and even those who are not blood-related: in-laws, slaves and their children, adopted orphans, widows, etc.
b. The new temple is a movable tabernacle:
- Paul reimagines the people on the move as a new mobile tabernacle, as a dwelling place for God on earth.
- Today’s church is (or should be) a church on the move. It is moving through villages, communities, and nations in order to be a blessing in the same manner as the original tabernacle did long before Solomon’s temple was built.
IV. A New Identity: Priesthood of Believers
a. Peter is more realistic:
“[L]et yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Pet 2:5).
- They really are displaced believers – strangers far from home, scattered to unfamiliar territories & peculiar cultures.
- Folks were not metaphorically scattered but were literally strangers & literally scattered.
Peter’s language links to the events recorded in Exodus 19 when (men and women) formed the redeemed, Israelite nation who were called to fill the role of priesthood.
Yet, even in their difficult circumstances, centuries later, Peter reminded them to “be holy, for I (God) am holy” (1 Peter 1:15-16).
b. Peter reimagined the dispersed believers as a new priesthood:
- Peter found purpose for the 1st century “human flow” by drawing from the ancient priesthood established at Mt. Sinai (Exodus 19: 5-6).
- Now, the 1st century dispersed-believers – like the ancient redeemed Israelites – were expected to be to be Holy and to function as priests in the new priesthood of believers.
V. Why the Church Should Be “On the Move”
Lessons Learned From Ministry: My personal experience of 40+ years working within various locations in the Church: International (Vienna; Eastern Europe); Metropolitan (Denver); Midwest (Missouri & Nebraska); Rural village (pop. 104; missional-minded)
a. Benefits for being a ‘Church On the Move’:
- Forces us out of comfort zone.
- We develop new relationships with people unlike us.
- Participate in genuine, everyday circumstances
- This causes us to rethink our ideologies & religious practices
- We reevaluate and reexamine doctrinal & evangelistic endeavors.
b. Benefits of Living as Strangers:
- Draws attention to our differences when we stand out from the norm.
- Neighbors engage in conversation
- Natural relationships develop in contrast to artificially contrived relationships for the sake of discipleship.
c. Cautions for the Church on the Move:
- Discernment is needed to determine which cultural practices we should or should not participate in or adopt as normal.
- Wisdom and humility allows for means of interaction that contributes to transformation of individuals and culture by our transparent and genuine engagement with it.
In Part 2, I discuss God’s purpose for humanity. Here I briefly show how the ancient philosophical views of humanity continue to distort and obscure the Biblical view of men and women. These ancient ideas – masquerading as Biblical truth in the Church – continue to shame and place many females at risk in every walk of life.