Monday, January 16, 2012
The Worth of a Woman
The Worth of a Woman
A considerable part of the backlash against the teaching of Yahweh’s role and purpose for women is that many people equate status in this world with a person’s value, or worth. Many women fear that, if they subject themselves to men, they will be viewed and treated as having a lower intrinsic worth, or value, than the man. Some even fear that in accepting the testimony of Scripture, that woman was created for man, that Yahweh might esteem the woman to be of less value than the man. This latter conclusion is surely false. Yahweh loves women with a perfect love, but where man makes judgments he is prone to grievous error.
Many men do treat women as if they were of lesser value, but it is in patiently and humbly bearing up under injustice that women (and men) find the fruit of the Spirit being formed in their lives. Accepting patiently the injustices of others finds great favor with God.
I Peter 2:18-20
Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable. For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.
These words apply to women in their relationships to their husbands, as well as servants with their masters. Peter segues from these words directly into an admonition to women in the church.
I Peter 3:1-2
In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.
A master is not manifesting behavior that is pleasing to Yahweh by acting in an uncompassionate, or harsh manner, to his servants. Similarly, a man is disobedient to the word of God if he treats his wife as if she is of less worth than himself. Rank is not an indicator of value in God’s sight.
I Peter 3:7
You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.
In this present age Yahweh has established a governmental order that places man under the rule of Christ, and woman under the rule of man. Women likewise have a sphere of authority in which they rule, for they are placed in authority over their children, and may have servants under them as well. This gives both men and women an opportunity to practice conformity to Christ as they learn how to humble themselves under divinely appointed authority, and to demonstrate the gentle and meek nature of Christ as they exercise authority over others.
It will often happen that a person under authority is found faithful and pleasing to the Father even while the one who rules over them is disobedient. This does not cause the one under authority to be disadvantaged. In truth, they have more opportunity to demonstrate faith and obedience to God as they bear up patiently when suffering unjustly. A woman should never declare that she will be a submissive wife only when her husband gets his act together. I have heard numerous women say that they will honor their husbands when they begin to act honorably. This is great error. It is the will of Christ that servants prove themselves faithful when they have wicked masters, and that wives remain chaste and respectful when they have disobedient husbands. As they do so, the wives can gain great favor with God even while their husbands are heaping up judgment upon themselves.
The apostle Peter declared that women are “fellow heirs of the grace of life.” The word “heirs” reveals that Peter is speaking of inheritance. In the Law women did not receive an inheritance with the men. If a man had sons and daughters, the land of his forefathers was to be passed onto his sons. His daughters were not to receive an inheritance in this way. The only exception was when a man had no sons. Then the man’s property went to his daughters (Numbers 27:1-8).
When it came to inheritance, the Law treated women no differently than slaves. Slaves did not receive an inheritance in the land of Israel, neither could a Gentile. Only male descendants of Abraham received the promised land as an inheritance.
The apostle Paul declared that the rules of inheritance have changed. In the kingdom of God all may share an inheritance in Christ. In the third chapter of Galatians Paul establishes this truth. Both at this time, and in the age to come, men and women, slave and free, Jew and Gentile, can all be accounted as heirs of the grace of life that is found in Christ. When the subject of inheritance comes up, Yahweh makes no distinction based upon gender, societal status, or natural descent. The Law does not determine who will inherit the promises of God in Christ.
For if the inheritance is based on law, it is no longer based on a promise...
As Christians, me must not confuse a person’s status in this life with their worthiness in the eyes of God. Christ declared that many who are first at this time will be last in the age to come, and many who are last now will be first in the resurrection of the dead (Luke 13:30).
"And behold, some are last who will be first and some are first who will be last."
It is important to note that Christ said “some” who are last will be first, and “some” who are first will be last. A person’s status in the age to come is dependent upon whether they walked humbly and faithfully before God and man in this age. Many servants cannot escape their servitude, but neither do they accept it with grace. Similarly, many women do not accept their role as helper to their husband with grace. Those who manifest complaint, murmuring, rebellion, clamor, envy, and discontent will not only be last in this age, but in the age to come as well.
Yahweh’s instruction to wives and to servants are the same. Even as wives are exhorted to be subject to their own husbands in everything, servants are commanded to be subject to their masters.
Urge bondslaves to be subject to their own masters in everything, to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith so that they will adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect.
Does God view those who are the last in this age as of lesser worth than those who are first? Absolutely not. If a man or woman proves themselves faithful in service to God and others they will be approved by Yahweh and honored in the age to come. Joseph’s life provides a type and testimony of this truth. Joseph was sold into slavery in Egypt. Joseph’s enslavement was unfair. His brothers had sold him due to jealousy. Nevertheless, Joseph proved himself to be a faithful servant seeking the welfare of his master. No one was more faithful than Joseph, and his master promoted him.
When Joseph was falsely accused of trying to rape his master’s wife, he was cast into prison. Now he was as low as a man could possibly go. He was not a free man. He was a slave. Yet, he was less than a slave. He was a slave in prison. Joseph had been doubly abased, but even in the prison he manifested an excellent spirit and everything he did prospered. After years of patient and humble service Yahweh placed great honor upon Joseph. He was promoted to the right hand of Pharaoh.
Joseph’s life serves as a parable for all those who would receive promotion and honor at Yahweh’s hands. If we prove ourselves faithful as servants, the day will come when we receive great honor. The woman should consider the call to serve her husband a great opportunity to exhibit that humility and faithfulness that is pleasing to God. Yahweh has told the woman what His will is. The way before her is clearly marked. Those who manifest an excellent spirit in serving their husband, continuously seeking his welfare, will receive a glorious inheritance and great honor in the ages to come. There will be no distinction at that time between male or female, slave or free, Jew or Gentile.
For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Yahshua. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Yahshua. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's descendants, heirs according to promise.
Notice the word “heirs” again in this passage. Many have misapplied these words, suggesting that Paul is negating all differences between the sexes. This is not so. Paul is speaking of inheritance, not governmental order. Paul is declaring that God sees all men and women the same when it comes to inheritance. All may prove themselves worthy of Christ’s inheritance in the saints.
Those who contend that Paul was negating any differences in gender roles with the preceding words are doing violence to the Scriptures. They are ignoring Paul’s many instructions to women in the church to subject themselves to men. If Paul is stating here that women need not subject themselves to men, then he must also be saying that servants need not subject themselves to their masters. Not only did Paul declare in the third chapter of Galatians that there is neither male nor female, he also said there is neither slave nor free. Paul, however, is speaking of inheritance in Christ. He is not giving a teaching on the proper attitude to have toward government. He addressed the subject of government in other passages.
Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ; not by way of eye-service, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men, knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free.
Even as slaves will receive back from the Lord according to how faithfully they conducted themselves as servants, so too will women receive recompense from the Lord. Yahshua has testified:
"Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to everyone according to what he has done.”
There have been men, like Joseph, who served other men as slaves, and their service found great favor with God. Daniel is another example. As a young man Daniel was taken into captivity to Babylon and made a servant of the king. Daniel did not rebel, nor wallow in self-pity, nor manifest a self-seeking attitude. Daniel was the most faithful of all the king’s subjects. Not even Daniel’s enemies were able to find fault with his service to the king.
Then the commissioners and satraps began trying to find a ground of accusation against Daniel in regard to government affairs; but they could find no ground of accusation or evidence of corruption, inasmuch as he was faithful, and no negligence or corruption was to be found in him. Then these men said, "We will not find any ground of accusation against this Daniel unless we find it against him with regard to the law of his God."
Like Joseph many years before, Daniel bloomed where he was planted, even when his life seemed unjust, and his position was one of slavery. Did Yahweh think less of these men because of their status in this world? No! Daniel received the highest praise from God. When Daniel was seeking the Lord with prayers and fasting, Yahweh sent an angelic messenger to speak to him. This messenger declared:
"O Daniel, I have now come forth to give you insight with understanding. At the beginning of your supplications the command was issued, and I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed; so give heed to the message and gain understanding of the vision.”
The esteem God had for Daniel had no relationship to his position in this world. The same is true for women. I am convinced beyond any doubt that there have been many women who were more highly esteemed by God than the majority of men. Christ chose twelve men to be His disciples and apostles, yet it was not to any of them that He appeared first after His resurrection. The first person to see the resurrected Christ was a woman.
Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Yahshua had been lying. And they said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" She said to them, "Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him." When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Yahshua. Yahshua said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?" Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, "Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away." Yahshua said to her, "Mary!" She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, "Rabboni!" (which means, Teacher). Yahshua said to her, "Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, "I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.'" Mary Magdalene came, announcing to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord," and that He had said these things to her.
Was it not a great honor to be the first among all mankind to see the resurrected Lord? Those who confuse governmental order with the love of God would certainly think that Christ would reveal Himself first to a man. I am persuaded, however, that the one who loved Christ the most saw Him first. He could not delay in bringing comfort to one who was so grieved at being separated from Him. Notice how she clung to the feet of Yahshua when He appeared. Mary did not want to ever be separated from her Lord again.
Sisters in Christ, I ask you, if rumor had gone out that you had died, and you knew that this saying was causing distress among your family and friends, who would you show yourself to first to demonstrate that you were actually alive? Would it not be the one you knew would be the most grieved to experience your loss? Would not your love for that person compel you to go straightway to them?
I know of no greater testimony in Scripture that women are counted as worthy of the love and favor of God as men than the fact that Christ showed Himself to Mary Magdalene before He showed Himself to any other. Not even John, the beloved disciple, met the resurrected Christ before Mary.
God does not judge as man judges. Man is impressed with position, success, and fame. God, however, looks upon the heart. He knows those who love Him. He sees that it is often those without position, even in the church, who are the most faithful and devoted. The Bible tells us that Christ had twelve male disciples whom He handpicked. Only one of them was mentioned as being present at His crucifixion. All others had fled. Only John was in attendance. Yet among the women who had followed Him, we are told that there was a number present during this darkest, and most sorrowful moment of His life.
But standing by the cross of Yahshua were His mother, and His mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.
The male disciples of Christ had fled, fearing the persecution of the Jewish leaders and the Romans. The threat was just as imminent for these women, but not even fear for their lives could keep them from the One they loved so dearly. It is significant to note that the one male disciple who was present at the crucifixion of Christ was known for his love of Christ, and Christ’s deep love for him.
When Yahshua then saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, "Woman, behold, your son!" Then He said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother!" From that hour the disciple took her into his own household.
Does it not speak volumes about the value of women in the eyes of God that one of Christ’s last acts was to appoint John as the caretaker of His mother? Was it not love that drove Him to look past His own suffering, and feel the pain of the sword that pierced His mother’s heart.
That women are greatly valued in the eyes of God is further attested to in the fact that the purest religion is described in the following manner.
Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
Yahweh has great compassion for women. The widow is ever before His sight. Yahweh does not love women any less because they were created “for man.” He does not see them as of less worth than man because they are called to subject themselves. Yahweh’s government, and His grace are two separate systems.
The Bible describes the woman as “weaker” than the man (I Peter 3:7). Does it not move the heart with compassion to see those who are weak persevering, overcoming their fears, and going where those much stronger than they are unwilling to go? I am sure the ten male disciples of Christ who were absent at His crucifixion later rued the fact that they were not present when John and a group of women were. Did it not move the heart of God the Father to know that these women were present to provide solace and comfort to His Son in His hour of suffering? I do not doubt that a great reward awaits them.
In the days that followed the crucifixion, the women continued to be subject to men. Christ did not appoint any women to be apostles or leaders in the church. The governmental order of man being the head of woman continued. At the same time, the system of grace continued. Women were present in the upper room on Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was given. They became partakers of the Spirit of Christ the same as the men. Women are assured that in the resurrection they will receive inheritance along with men. Many who are the last, the lowest, and the least in this world will be first in the age to come. Such is the marvelous grace of our Father.
Sisters in Christ, there are men in this age who will judge with wicked motives. There are men who will act unjustly. Many will confuse authority with a person’s worth. Those who are humble will be taken advantage of. Take comfort in knowing that God sees all things. He weighs the hearts. His eyes roam to and fro throughout the earth that He might strongly support those whose hearts are wholly His (II Chronicles 16:9). Will He not give much grace to those who are lightly esteemed in this age, yet serve with faithfulness and patience?
In the age to come I am convinced that many women who were unknown to the world will receive honor and praise from the Father. The woman who devoted herself to her husband’s welfare, who raised children, who was a keeper at home, who prayed faithfully, who was a model of good works, who washed the feet of the saints; to her will belong glory and honor and praise in the ages to come.
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