There is a spiritual death that is going in in some church denominations. When women in these congregations seek to make a difference or dare to use their God-given gifts, they are silenced. Their silent heart cries reverberate as they suffocate spiritually in their closets of intercession. Rather than allow women a voice, these denominations adhere to the doctrines of men. Rather than seek the Holy Spirit for fresh manna, they hold on to their traditions. God is saying, “It’s time to let God’s people go.”
When the Holy Spirit first put it upon my heart to write a book about women in the traditional church and down through the ages. I said, “Whoa, not me!” (I am being honest.) I then asked, “Why me, Lord?” I did not want to do that! I felt that the subject was just too controversial. I tried to use my human reasoning on the Holy Spirit—imagine that! “Okay, why don’t you get a male pastor or some theologian to do this? They (the traditional church) will listen to them,” I mused. The Holy Spirit spoke to my heart that He had sought out men to expose the treatment of women in the church—some dismissed it immediately; some heard and yielded for a while only to eventually put it on the back burner because of the concerns and the fear of the faces of men; others rejected it altogether, saying that it was the devil talking to them; and then there were those who heard and believed. I asked the Holy Spirit to show me these people who heard and believed what He was telling me about exposing the restrictions on women in the traditional church. I asked the Holy Spirit to show me people, men, in particular, who believed that women were mistreated in some traditional churches. He began to show me men who believed, along with some women. I will not forget the providential research and the books that the Holy Spirit led me to—books by J. Lee Grady, Loren Cunningham, David Joel Hamilton, John Temple Bristow, Craig Keener and Rebecca Groothuis. I had only heard of, Craig Keener, so with the exception of Loren Cunningham, I knew nothing about these people that the Holy Spirit led me to research! I threw out other fleeces because this was a serious issue in the Body of Christ and few were willing to tackle it. With each fleece that I asked for, I was literally given an answer! (Remember Gideon’s fleeces in Judges 6:36-40) Like Gideon, I wanted to know if the Lord had my back! So, I continued to pray, fast and seek direction. To do this would take even more than prayer, hearing from the Holy Spirit and studying the Bible, it would take a spiritual boldness.
Before continuing, let me digress a little to bring more clarity to my role in writing this book. After becoming a Christian, I would seek the Holy Spirit about the truth of questions and concerns on sermons or teachings and it did not matter whether it was from a well-established leader or author or someone unknown. I believe God made me this way. Holy Spirit would always speak to my heart or show me the answers through the Word or some other source. There were times when I would see women passed over for ministry positions; women who ultimately became pew-dwellers when it was obvious that they were spiritually gifted and called to the ministry. I did not know it at the time, but I was being spiritually set up to tell about these revelations later. I honestly thought that the knowledge that I was getting from the Holy Spirit was for me personally. If I can be honest again, had I known (at that time) that I would have to reveal what I had learned from the Holy Spirit, I would not have sought answers to my questions. That is not the case now; I have matured and I accept the role that the Holy Spirit has given me.
After exhausting all of the reasons for not writing this book, I started the task and I began to get revelation both in the spirit and through research. I must admit, I was still was not excited about this mission; however, this was a serious mandate and I did not take it lightly. I embarked on it with fear and trembling because I had to get the heart of God for this thing. I was not about to put something in print that was not from the spirit of the living God. Don’t get me wrong, I have always known that I would write books; it’s just that I thought that the books would be on some subject with which I wanted to write.
Much of this commentary on women is taken from my book, Destiny Denied. This excerpt depicts the profound effect that Jesus’ birth and His earthly encounters had on women’s liberation, even before His death and resurrection.
Jesus, the Liberator
My biblical studies showed me that Jesus began the liberation of women through his personal encounters with them even while he was still here on the earth. Every single encounter that he had with women was purposeful. To get a full understanding of this, it requires a shift from the cultural viewpoint of the twenty-first century, even the twentieth century. We must revisit the culture of the first century and preceding centuries in Israel and the Middle East. It is only then can we get an understanding of the cataclysmic revolution that took place when Jesus encountered or related to a woman while he was here on the earth. Women of the previous centuries and at that time had very few rights if you can, visualize the life of a first-century Jewish woman. A good correlate to women’s lives during Jesus’ time here on the earth can be seen in the lives of some women today in some Middle Eastern and Muslim countries. Women were the legal property of men, fathers first and then their husbands. If the husbands died, their livelihood would lie with the next male kin. Most women were not allowed out in public, unless accompanied by a male relative. They could not associate with men—some men would even cross the street instead of walking pass a woman. Women were not considered reliable witnesses and their testimonies had to usually be verified by men. Men married to produce male heirs; daughters were insignificant. Women were often considered the evil ones and blamed for all of men’s sexual sins. Most women, especially the poor, were not educated because they were considered unteachable. Similar to many third-world countries today, female children had no value beyond motherhood. On top of all of that, Israel had been conquered by the Roman Empire, ruled by Caesar. The Romans were even harsher in their treatment of women than Judaism. These things are documented, both theologically and historically. (Boone Wooten, Chapter 7, pp. 105-119) In review, each of Jesus’ encounters specifically dealt with one of the areas of suffering that women faced throughout the centuries. Jesus’ encounters with women demolished every cultural degradation that had been placed on women down through the centuries after the Fall!
Mary and the Virgin Birth of Jesus
Women’s restoration, to some extent, began when the angel Gabriel spoke to Mary, the young peasant girl about becoming the mother of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Mary was probably between the age of 12 and 15. The choice of a poor young virgin girl to bear the Son of God was not only fascinating, but it also started the recovery from the curses of Genesis 3. Total deliverance occurred when Jesus died on the cross. Deliverance was needed because after the fall, the female Adam’s place as an image-bearer of God was no longer acknowledged. (Eve is the name Adam gave to his wife after the Fall. She did not have the name Eve before the Fall.) God knew that this would happen—that things would be turned upside down and that is why He told the couple in the Garden of Eden that they would die if they partook of the fruit. Now, contrary to what some have said God did not place curses on the couple. No! He told them that there would be consequences to their disobedience. It is their disobedience that resulted in the curses. It worked this way: in setting the world into motion, God made consequences for every action. Devastation results when someone or something does the opposite of what God set in motion both in the natural and in the spirit. So, everything that happened to the couple was not God’s will; it was the result of disobeying and getting outside of God’s will. Here is an example using gravity. With gravity, if someone or something goes up or is air bound, he/she/it will fall to the ground. So, if someone jumps off the Empire State Building, they will fall to the ground. God set the gravity pull into motion and determined that people are ground creatures. God set did not will that people should jump off of the Empire State Building (the cause) and fall to their death (the effect). So, when a person disobeys God and sins (the cause), they will die (the result). “The wages of sin is death.” (Rom 6:23) Thus, God did not curse the first couple; He told them what would happen if they disobeyed. They disobeyed and it is their disobedience/sin (the cause) that brought about both their spiritual and natural deaths (the effects). Their sin and resulting death cursed them.
Down through the ages, women have suffered greatly, even more than men, and they still are in dire predicaments in some places around the world. This has been explained in some churches by noting that the woman was the cause of the fall. In Genesis 1-3, they both sinned. There is another factor that has caused women to suffer so deeply. It has been constantly overlooked and it is right there in the Bible! God foretold that this would happen in verse 3:15. In speaking to the Serpent, God said:
I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring (seed) and hers (Her Seed, Jesus Christ); (NIV)
Because of the fall, Satan’s target was and has always been our Lord and Savior, but he also had a second target—women! Do not get me wrong, men are targets too, but Satan has unleashed catastrophic destruction upon women, even beyond that of men. Satan has hated womankind with a vengeance. Jesus Christ, her Seed, won the victory on the Cross and he will ultimately destroy Satan in the end. Satan has used everything and everyone at his disposal to bring havoc and destruction upon God’s second image-bearer. He uses demons, church doctrines, circumstances, men and even women, themselves—anything at his disposal!
So, when Jesus started his ministry here on the earth, he tore down those century old traditions of the mistreatment of women. He started the process before His death on the cross!
As we take a look at Mary, the mother of Jesus, we find a young virgin, most likely between the ages of 12 and 15. The angel, Gabriel, approached her and told her that she would conceive a child by the Holy Spirit. I am sure she was frightened and perplexed, but she obeyed, saying:
Be it unto me as you have said. (Luke 1:38)
She could have been stoned to death for a pregnancy out of wedlock. That’s what happened to women who got pregnant before they were married. She was not yet married to Joseph who was an older man. They were betrothed (engaged), however, so by law, he could have had her stoned to death or put away. That was the custom.
Now, note that the angel came to Mary; he approached Mary directly. Now this did not negate Joseph’s importance in Jesus’ life; it just establishes Mary as a free agent to obey or disobey God for herself and on her own terms.
When Jesus started his ministry, the process of women’s restoration continued with every encounter that Jesus had with women. He revolutionized women’s lives by interacting with them at a time when they had no rights. Remember, Jesus did not come to earth at that particular time to overthrow the dictatorial Roman Empire or the patriarchal Jewish culture. He came to bring salvation and reformation to the hearts of men and women.
In looking at some of Jesus’ encounters with women, we get a better understanding of just how significant those encounters were. Jesus affirmed women when He encountered them, taking away their centuries old shame, reproach and degradation.
Restoration of Women from One-dimensional to Multi-dimensional Beings
In ancient times, women were viewed as one-dimensional and Jesus restored their multidimensional natures. He showed them that they were not just mothers of male children. After the fall, Adam named the woman Eve, which meant mother of all living. Remember: Eve was not the original name of the woman—that was her name after the fall. She was initially the female Adam and she was one with the male Adam. The male Adam took dominion over the female Adam after the fall, not because it was God’s will. Jesus, however, did something that was absolutely different from the customs and traditions. Remember, when the woman became Eve, she was no longer granted the status of image-bearer and co-dominion taker with Adam. God foretold this. She was now under Adam’s dominion. Eve, the name that she received from Adam, means mother of all living. Bearing children was her function. Neither the male nor the female any longer walked as God had intended for him/her to walk; however, she became subjected to him and her purpose was to bear male heirs. That was not so at the beginning of creation.
Luke 11:27-28 speaks of Jesus’ encounter with a certain woman in the crowd. She hollered out to Him, “Blessed is the womb that bore You and the breasts which nursed You!” She must have thought that she said something very significant and it must have come as a shock when Jesus said this to her, “More than that (more than being a mother), blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” Jesus was not denouncing mothers, but he wanted the woman to know that hearing, obeying and practicing the Word of God are more important than even motherhood, which heretofore, had been the only role of women.
Women Restored from Depiction as Sexual Seductresses
The second stereotype that Jesus destroyed was that of women being blamed for all sexual sins. Heretofore the sexual sins of both males and females were attributed to what they called woman’s innate sexual libido. Jesus cut to the core of the issue in Matthew 5:27-28 when He placed the sexual sins of men squarely on their own shoulders. He said that “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” The stereotype was shattered even more profoundly when the Scribes and Pharisees brought to Jesus a woman who had been caught in adultery in Matthew 8:3-11. Their purpose for bringing the woman to Jesus was their hope that His answer would enable them to bring charges against Him. However, the incident also brought to light the insignificance of the person-hood of women of that period. They continually questioned Him about what to do with the adulterous woman until He finally answered by pointing to the evil in them. Here is what He said, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” He then continued by writing on the ground with His fingers. (John 8:7-8) Now it was not clear what He was writing on the ground. In speculation one can conclude that He may have been writing down the sins that He saw in each of these men who had brought the woman to Him. Maybe He was writing about their hypocrisy—men who had sins themselves bringing to Him a sinful woman. Or perhaps He was writing about these men who had brought to Him an adulterous woman, but refused to condemn the man who participated in the act of adultery with her. One of these scenarios is plausible because the Bible states that they began to leave one by one as if they had been convicted of their own sins. After revealing the hypocrisy of the men, here is what Jesus did:
Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then Neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:10-11, NIV)
Women’s Unclean Status Removed
In addition, women were viewed as unclean during their monthly menses cycle and Jesus moved them from an unclean status—He healed the woman with the issue of blood. (Mark 5:25-31. 33-34) The woman who came out of the crowd seeking Jesus was desperate; she had been to so many physicians and had spent all of her money to no avail. Now remember, women were not allowed to be out in the public, especially without a male relative. This woman was trying to communicate with Jesus; by doing this, she risked being punished. She said, “If I could only touch His garment as she moved through the crowd. Can you imagine her fear as she approached Jesus? As she touched Jesus, her flow dried up. Then something else happened; Jesus did several things:
Jesus asked, “Who touched my clothes?” He recognized that power had gone out of Him. (Mark 5:30) This baffled His disciple for there were many who were pressing against Him. Jesus knew who had received the healing—He just wanted the woman to publicly announce her healing so that it could be sealed. She must have been petrified to have been exposed. Jesus was also legitimizing her status as a child of God. He said, “Daughter, your faith has restored your health.” (Mark 5:25-34)
Women Proclaimed as Disciples
Fourthly, women had heretofore been prevented from learning the Torah, but Jesus moved them beyond that and toward being His disciples (and disciples of the master teachers). What I picked up in my studies was that Jesus was not just a friend of Lazarus, he was a friend of his sisters, Martha and Mary. Jesus, though, went even further in defying limits when He visited the sisters, Martha and Mary. Mary sat at His feet as disciples did with the Master teacher. (Luke 10:41-42) Mary sat down at the feet of Jesus to hear His teachings. (Only disciples sat at the feet of the rabbis. as they taught.) Martha hurried about fixing and preparing food for Jesus. Some might say that Martha with her busy and frantic behavior was doing the good, the laudable, the right thing. Dorothy Sayers notes that every sermon she has ever heard has tried to explain away these verses because many in the church prefer the Martha scenario. You see, Martha was doing the feminine thing–what was expected of women. Sayers notes that it was unheard of for a woman to sit at the feet of a Master teacher as Mary did. Why—she was acting like any other disciple! That was then and still is now a hard pill for some to swallow in the church today. (See Destiny Denied. Boone Wooten, p. 113) Most people would have thought that Jesus would have sided with Martha, but here is what Jesus said about the matter:
He chastised Martha gently, saying, “Martha, Martha, you are troubled about many things. But one thing id needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” The Amplified Bible says that Mary has chosen “that which is to her advantage (or benefit).” (Luke 10:41-42) Mary had defied the traditional role for women–to serve and not be seen. Martha was uncomfortable with Mary sitting at Jesus’ feet and being taught, but Jesus was not.
It is important that we notice Jesus’ treatment of Martha–He lets her down easily. He did not tell Martha to stop bothering Mary. After all, Martha was serving and that is honorable virtue. He did tell her that Mary had chosen “the good part, which will not be taken away from her.” In essence, listening to and being taught the Word of God trump all things for all people, including women!
Jesus Declared Women Teachable; the Samaritan Woman Was Taught the First Salvation Message
The fifth stereotype shattered by Jesus was His direct encounter with the Samaritan woman–the teachable moment. In this instance Jesus is leaving Judea to go to Galilee. The Bible states in John 4:4 that Jesus said that “He needed to go through Samaria.” Why did He need to go through Samaria? He needed to go through Samaria to make a divine encounter with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well. This encounter was not happenstance.
So, Jesus went through Samaria to meet this woman who was alone at the well. He came to a town in Samaria call Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was noon. John (4:5-6 NIV) Now the woman had come to the well to draw water. Jacob was the ancestor of both the Jews and the Samaritans. Samaritans were half-breeds—half Jews and half foreigners. The Jews called them dogs.
She had no idea of the divine encounter that awaited her at the well. Jesus asked her to give Him a drink. This surprised her because He was a Jew. Obviously, she, as was the case with all Samaritans, had no social contacts with Jews. Jesus noted to her, “if only you knew who it was that ask you for a drink—you would have asked Him to give you living water. (John 4:10) The woman had no idea about what this Jew was talking—she was just trying to draw water from her ancestor Jacob’s well. She thought that maybe this water He was talking about would eliminate her having to come to the well to draw water again.
Jesus identified Himself as the Messiah and began to teach her the salvation message. He told her that those who drink the water from Jacob’s well will thirst again, but those who drink from the living water that He provides will never thirst again. He continued by saying that His living water gives life eternally. The woman began to understand and asked Jesus for this living water. When she asked Jesus for the eternal living water it gave Jesus the opening to address her living arrangement and this gave her the opportunity to reevaluate her life. Jesus began to tell her about her life. He told her of her five husbands and that she was now living with a sixth man.
Now, in many traditional churches, this Samaritan woman has been portrayed as a prostitute or a woman who was completely amoral in every sense. But this woman’s life bears reviewing again: firstly, she had been married to five men,. The thing is she could not have possibly been able to divorce those five men. At that time—she would not have even been able to divorce one man. Men were the ones who could get a divorce. It was no way that she would then be a candidate for another marriage—certainly not a second, third, fourth or fifth marriage. This just was not a plausible alternative at that time in that culture! In addition, men of that time would have hardly found a multi-divorced woman marriage material. Women had to be virtuous, even when men did not. There had to have been another reason to explain the five marriages. The most plausible answer to this was that her first husband must have died and each of the other four without siring children, especially sons. A more appropriate answer was that the second, third, fourth and fifth husbands were kinsman redeemers. Let me explain: During ancient times, there were what they called kinsman redeemers, men who would marry the widows of their deceased kinsmen and sire the first child for the dead man if the deceased man had no male heirs. Jesus spoke of no children in the Samaritan woman’s relationships. In this case, more than likely, kinsman redeemers married her each time a husband died without heirs. Remember: Women could not divorce their husbands at that time and if her husbands divorced her those five times, no man, including the one with whom she was living would have married her! Now, there is a moral dilemma here with this sixth man; she was not married to him. ; more than likely she was just tired of marrying or the sixth prospect decided that he was not going to marry her and provide an heir for his deceased relatives. Anyway, they were living in an immoral relationship and that was certainly a sin.
We know the rest of the story. The woman ran to tell the others, “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” (John 4:28-29). She presented then with the salvation message. John 4:39 states it this way: “Many of the Samaritans…believed in Him because of the woman’s testimony.”
Jesus exposed the myth passed down through the ages that women were irrelevant and unteachable. More importantly, He taught her the first salvation message and identified himself as the Messiah. This miracle of that day sends an even greater message today that Jesus uses men and women for kingdom purposes and a person’s past does not even disqualify her/him!
Mary Magdalene, the First Witness of Jesus’ Resurrection
The sixth stereotype that Jesus debunked was that of women not being considered reliable and therefore, unreliable as witnesses. Mary Magdalene was the one from whom Jesus cast out seven demons. She was also one of the women who traveled with Him and contributed to His care. Jesus did not think Mary was an unreliable witness; she was the first person that He appeared to after rising from the dead. (Mark 16:9) In fact, He tells Mary to go tell Peter and the disciples to meet Him in Galilee. He appeared to Mary in John 20:14-17 when she returned to the tomb. He could have appeared to Peter and John while they were at the tomb earlier in John 20: 2-8, but he made a choice to appear to Mary when she returned. (John 20:14-17) In fact, He told her to go tell Peter and the disciples that He had risen. It was the first gospel message and it was delivered by Mary Magdalene, the first evangelist. Jesus found her reliable and thus, a credible witness.
Women as Apostles
There is one more thing not directly related to Jesus’ time here on earth, but has directly influenced church doctrine: women have been prevented in many churches from becoming apostles of Jesus. Some in the church have used flawed scripture interpretations to deny women apostolic leadership roles. They have been told that only men can be apostles. The irony here is that those who say this have been Gentile men. The original twelve disciples were Jewish males from Galilee who spoke Aramaic. They were also the only ones who were eye-witnesses to Jesus’ ministry here on the earth. Those criteria would eliminate those very Gentile men who restrict women from the apostolic ministry—Gentile men are not Jewish males from Galilee; they do not usually speak Aramaic, and they were not eyewitnesses to Jesus’ ministry here on the earth. (Boone Wooten, Destiny Denied)
I realized that there is just no excuse for the ill treatment of anyone in the church today, whether it is the poor, the homeless, the person of a different racial-ethnic group, the uneducated, or women because Jesus died for all and there are no exceptions! But not only that, He also died that all of His people would fulfill kingdom destiny and be equipped to go into the world, to teach, make disciples, baptize in the name of the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit. (Matt. 28:28) Each person is free through the death and resurrection of Christ to seek God’s face about his/her God-give destiny and purpose.
Jesus has already paid for everyone’s destiny on the cross at Calvary. Although some in the church continue to saddle women with grave clothes, tradition and the doctrines of men, God is supernaturally opening doors that have heretofore been closed. He has heard the heart-cry of women who have sought to make a difference. Women who have been restricted and have been suffocating spiritually because their voices have been silenced and their spiritual gifts have been ignored. God is calling those people, ministries, churches et al., to let His people go! It is time!
Truly awesome and insightful! Your research of this topic is both needful for the Body of Christ to fully mature and come to a place of empowerment for all of God’s children. Keep up the good work. It is time!
J. E. Houston
Truly awesome and insightful! Your research of this topic is needful for the Body of Christ to fully mature and come to a place of empowerment for all of God’s children. Keep up the good work. It is time!