In approaching the subject of women's ordination, it occurs to me the beauty and harmony on this subject throughout the Bible is misunderstood and pulled this way and that by the magnets of social acceptance or personal opinion or preference. We miss the 'theology behind the theology' that links the entire Bible together as one. We set up soapboxes, or climb molehills to propound our understanding of something, all the while not realizing we have not climbed out of the influencing miasma of social conditioning and personal predilection that taints our conclusions. The only way we have ever been able to discern truth about any given subject is to immerse ourselves in the biblical understanding of it as written by God's divinely inspired penmen, and then let the chips fall where they will. Through parallelism, poetic style, chiasmus, typology, divinely inspired ellipsis, and a multitude of other means, God has directed us to His truth through His masterpiece of human history called the Bible. Like being lost in a city or wilderness (or in studying the Bible), one must gain altitude to ascertain where one is at and where one is going. Overall perspective is key to understanding.
When I first became a Christian, and specifically an Adventist Christian, I was taught to study the Bible by subject, as Jesus did on the road to Emmaus with His disciples (New King James Version, Luke 24:27). By this method, I was informed, I could ascertain what the Bible taught on any subject consistently and clearly from cover to cover. Hence, with proper biblical hermeneutics from such study, I could understand what God’s truth was in any given subject area.
Climbing this mountain of perspective raises us out of the competing opinions of our earthly context and forces us to view God’s perspective via the entire history of mankind, from Genesis to Revelation. When we apply this method of study in the subject area of men’s and women’s roles or functions throughout the Bible, a very clear pattern emerges. We may not like that pattern; it may go against our personal, deeply held feelings or opinions; but none the less, the pattern is there.
When I came out of the counterculture of the '60s and '70s and became a Christian, though not rabid, I was nevertheless a believer in women's equality with men, and not the crass 'barefoot and pregnant' foolishness. It seemed only fair that for equal work each should be paid equally, along with all the other attendant social trimmings that would equalize and level the playing field.
But as I read my Bible, I was forced to observe there was an astonishing amount of male chauvinism in its pages. Was this cultural, or was it God-ordained? If cultural, how could I know what else was cultural? And if more truth in the Bible was cultural, how was one to know what was absolute and what was relative? I found myself back in the dilemma of my secular life before Christ: I chose what was right and what was wrong! This clearly was untenable. And then a pattern began to emerge.
From the very beginning, God Himself inaugurated that pattern by creating man first, not woman, as Paul reiterated in the New Testament (I Cor.11:8-9 ). It had nothing to do with the value or rank God put upon men and women, but solely with God’s choice. But that choice had everything to do with a theology He was establishing. He was creating a typology that was to gloriously represent something astounding to the universe.
I am saddened when I read or hear such sentiments as, for instance, the roles of men and women are now different in New Testament times. That this Divine pattern -- typology of Eden and throughout the Old Testament -- is no longer valid or applicable. Do we really understand the implications of believing that? Are we really to believe that the divinely inspired Word of God was infiltrated by a cultural male chauvinistic perspective that, in the Bible, has obscured or well-nigh obliterated woman’s true role? And if we do, where do we stop invoking that influence? Just before we get to the Sabbath subject? Who decides? Us? We must biblically answer the question: does quoting Galatians 3:28 “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. . .” really trump the divine typology set forth through thousands of years of biblical history, starting in a perfect Eden with a perfect man and woman?
The entire biblical subject of the roles of men and women is very clear as we look at the facts written for our admonition. The aberrant bad and sinful behavior of men toward women aside, here are the facts: Man was created first; the dominion of Earth was to be overseen by the man (not until Satan overcame Adam was it usurped, Patriarchs & Prophets, p. 56-57; 68); the Second Adam was to be a male (Jesus); the man was the priest/ head of the family; the father was said to be responsible for the daughters (Num.30:3-4; 13); the first-born male was dedicated to God; when the Levites were chosen, it was the males that served in the Sanctuary; the Messiah was depicted as a male; the priests were to be males; the census counted only the males; predominately, only the males are recorded as dying; genealogies recorded males; Jesus chose twelve males to serve as apostles; only the men were counted in the miracle of the loaves and fishes; elders/pastors in churches were to be "husband(s) of one wife. . .” And on and on it goes.
It's no wonder feminists have a problem with the Bible! Why all this supposed male dominion? Were women somehow inferior? Or second class? Not at all!
The entire biblical pattern is simply fulfilling the God-ordained typology Paul clarifies for us in Ephesians 5:22-33. And that is this: husbands/males represent Christ; wives/women represent the bride/church of Christ. Paul says it’s “a great mystery. . .” (vs. 32), and what a stunning one it is! When I do pre-marital counseling, I teach that every man is to represent Christ, and every woman is to represent the church. This is the Divinely inspired destiny of Mankind. Every husband and wife was destined to be a walking billboard, a living representation of Christ and His bride and all that that implies. Just think of the implications of this witness to the world if Christians would reflect this relationship.
Contrary to popular opinion, the lowest common denominator of our race is not a singular man nor is it a singular woman, which could justify the potential raising of woman over a man. The race is defined by God Himself as “male and female created He them” (Gen.1:27). Our individual access to salvation through Christ, whether we are male or female, Jew or Greek, slave or free, in no way, shape, or form replaces or destroys this God-created reality. In short, the lowest common denominator of mankind is man AND woman, Adam AND Eve. And it is also true that whether a man or woman remains single by choice, by the scarring of distrust of the opposite sex, or by the calling of God, this God-ordained typology still remains intact because it is the very pattern that God Himself decided for us at creation.
Just as Satan so masterfully caused Israel of old to mess with the typologies of Jesus as the Rock and the Lamb, the typology of the Sanctuary, the Sabbath, and many others, so he does today. He knows when you change the type, the message from God is garbled and we are led away from the truth we should be reflecting. The questions we should be asking are not: “How can we get women to be accepted as full-fledged pastors or leaders?” but rather, “How can I, as a male, properly reflect Christ in my life in whatever my vocation is, based on the pattern for males I see in the Bible and Spirit of Prophesy?” And, “How can I, as a female, properly reflect the Bride of Christ motif, typology, in my life based on the pattern for females in the Bible and Spirit of Prophesy?”
By way of solidifying this typology in the creation account, isn’t it an amazing coincidence that just as Jesus “fell asleep” Friday, toward the end of the sixth day, so too Adam “fell asleep” toward the end of the sixth day. And isn’t it amazing that when Adam awoke from his sleep, his bride was there to greet him, brought forth from his side by the power of God. How interesting it is, that when Jesus awoke from His sleep, that by the power of God through the blood of cleansing and the water of life that flowed from Jesus’s side, the bride of Christ came forth.
In fact, He was greeted by Mary, who of all the disciples was a fit example of His fledgling church/bride. It was Mary who was first to the tomb. It was Mary who loved much because she knew she had been forgiven much. It was she who poured out her love and gratitude upon Him in the form of the oil and her tears for what He had done for her. It was Mary who fittingly represents the effectual working of that precious blood that flowed from His side to cleanse her of her sins; and the water that likewise flowed that gave her new life in Christ. Truly, Mary is a fitting representation of the Bride brought forth from His side.
This analogy of marriage with the church or God’s people is one that weaves its way all through the Old Testament. We read that “your Maker is your husband. . .” (Isa.54:5); “though I was a husband to them, says the Lord” (Jer.31:32); “Surely as a wife treacherously departeth from her husband, so have ye dealt treacherously with me” (Jer 3:20); to say nothing of the whole Song Of Solomon, which is a beautiful allegory of Christ & His Bride. We see it in the NewTestament as well, where Jesus, who is called the Bridegroom in John 3:29, fittingly begins His ministry with His first miracle at a wedding feast (John 2:1-11); He is seen as the Bridegroom again in the parable of the ten virgins asleep; the Son whose Father invites all to a wedding feast; and Paul "betroths us to one Husband, even to Christ. . . ."
And finally, mirroring the many parallels that Genesis has with Revelation, (e.g.: creation - recreation; tree of life removed - tree of life restored; a prepared place, garden of Eden - a prepared place, New Jerusalem; mark of Cain - mark of the Beast; bride of Adam - bride of the Lamb; etc), we see the Bride/Church having "made herself ready. . ." in Rev. 19. She has by this time in the final events of Earth’s history, accomplished her task of being Christ’s helpmeet in the goal of being fruitful and multiplying, winning souls into the family, the kingdom of God.
What is fascinating is that, when God said, “Let them make Me a Sanctuary, that I may dwell among them. . .” (Ex.25:8), He was really continuing the process of becoming one with His bride/church that Satan had circumvented by the introduction of sin. Then, when Jesus came, He reiterated the fact that He and the Father were one, and that He wanted His entire church to be one in Him and in the Father (John 17:22-23). This oneness harkens back to the promise of Gen. 2:24 pronounced upon a perfect Adam and Eve. The awesome destiny of mankind has always been restoration to this oneness that God promised in the typology of Adam and Eve’s marriage.
In the above typology, the only way it works is that the Husband performs His function in the relationship, and the Bride performs hers. God is the savior/provider Husband, and the Bride is the recipient/fruit bearer of His love. The Bride willingly submits to her Husband because she knows all that she is comes from Him (Eve coming from Adam’s side), and out of sheer joy and love she bears fruit to glorify that supreme truth. That’s why in I Cor. 11:1-9 Paul systematically shows us the relationships of Father to Son, Son to man, and man to woman in what is called the headship principle.
Why? Because the submission of the woman to man is the typology of the Bride/Church to the Husband/Christ. In fact, Paul seeks to encourage women by pointing out that Christ Himself has entered into this very typology with His Father, willingly submitting to Him for the purpose of saving mankind. Christ, who is God in verity, chooses to willingly submit, to step down from glory, to fulfill the function He and the Father planned that He should fulfill.
The incredibly high calling of women is such that they, of the all the human race, have been given the privilege and honor of emulating Christ in His salvific relationship with His Father! The "helpmeet" of Gen 2:18 that is described and functionally named (i.e., "helpmeet") by God to be the forthcoming Eve, is a reflection of this relationship Christ willing stepped into: not the head, in charge, but one to help fulfill the overall purpose of mankind. This typology of Christ helping His Father accomplish Their task of saving mankind is an exact parallel to Eve with Adam. It is important to remember that it is not Adam that is called the "helpmeet," it is Eve. Her function is defined by God Himself. This is the beauty of the truth Paul lays out for us in I Cor. 11:1-9.
While none of us would even remotely suggest that this willing submission on Christ’s part to His Father makes Him the lesser God or somehow inferior or second class, this is unfortunately what many are saying about modern day Eves if they should somehow be forced into this headship principle. What a sad day it would be for us if we should choose not to reflect what God has chosen for us to reflect! Here we see a parallel echo in Ellen White’s statement in Patriarchs & Prophets, p. 59:
Eve had been perfectly happy by her husband's side in her Eden home; but, like restless modern Eves, she was flattered with the hope of entering a higher sphere than that which God had assigned her. In attempting to rise above her original position, she fell far below it. A similar result will be reached by all who are unwilling to take up cheerfully their life duties in accordance with God's plan. In their efforts to reach positions for which He has not fitted them, many are leaving vacant the place where they might be a blessing. In their desire for a higher sphere, many have sacrificed true womanly dignity and nobility of character, and have left undone the very work that Heaven appointed them.
It is very clear from this statement that Sister White understood this concept that God Himself had appointed a function for man and woman from the very beginning. It was “their life duties in accordance with God's plan. . . .” That function and typology we have been talking about is wonderfully consummated in the book of Revelation. While the entire Bible reveals the typology of Christ/Husband, Church/Bride in a variety of ways, Revelation brings it all together in a startling conclusion.
What we see is an amazing condescension by our very Creator to enter into the stream of time and space to become one of His creatures for the sake of redeeming them, and to never divorce Himself from that connection! Using the typology of marriage from the very beginning of His relationship with His creatures, He opens to all eyes the consummation of that type in the pages of Revelation. What was to be the purpose of that relationship, as viewed from the instructions given to Adam & Eve? Gen. 1:28 says, “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”
In Revelation we see the fruit of the married relationship of Christ with His Bride. The Church in Rev. 7:9-10 is “a vast multitude which no one could number. . .”; and they are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev.19:9). God’s command in Gen.1:28 is wonderfully fulfilled in the type of Rev.7:9-10, the fruit of the marriage of Christ & the Church. I have used adjectives earlier such as ‘stunning, amazing, incredible, awesome’ to describe this typological pattern & destiny. But these verses are where the superlatives should really fail us.
Again, echoing the promise to Adam & Eve that '..the two shall become one...', E.G. White says this in Desire Of Ages, p. 25 :
By His life and His death, Christ has achieved even more than recovery from the ruin wrought through sin. It was Satan's purpose to bring about an eternal separation between God and man; but in Christ we become more closely united to God than if we had never fallen. In taking our nature, the Saviour has bound Himself to humanity by a tie that is never to be broken. Through the eternal ages He is linked with us. "God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son. . ." (John 3:16). He gave Him not only to bear our sins, and to die as our sacrifice; He gave Him to the fallen race. To assure us of His immutable counsel of peace, God gave His only-begotten Son to become one of the human family, forever to retain His human nature.
This is the fulfilling of the antitype of marriage, the two shall become one! Adam & Eve represented this; the reality was always to point to Christ & His Bride!
And finally, the over-arching purpose of the marriage typology from Geneses to Revelation is seen in the graciously, magnanimous consummation of Rev. 21 & 22, where the control room of the Universe is moved from Heaven to Earth where God is to be eternally with the redeemed. Why? Here it is:
Thus it is that God desires to fulfill for us His purpose of grace. By the power of His love, through obedience, fallen man, a worm of the dust, is to be transformed, fitted to be a member of the heavenly family, a companion through eternal ages of God and Christ and the holy angels. Heaven will triumph, for the vacancies made by the fall of Satan and his host will be filled by the redeemed of the Lord. Manuscript 21, Feb. 16, 1900, "God's Love Manifested (Upward Look, p. 61).
God created man for His own glory, that after test and trial the human family might become one with the heavenly family. It was God's purpose to repopulate heaven with the human family, if they would show themselves obedient to His every word. Adam was to be tested, to see whether he would be obedient, as the loyal angels, or disobedient. Vol.1 Bible Commentary, p. 1082
This truth is the real Theology behind the theology! This plan should inform our discussions of ordination and the role of men and women in the Church. Cultural male chauvinism it is not. It is a divinely inspired plan that we would do well to emulate, because it's the raison d'être for Mankind. It lifts up the woman to her God-given destiny. If only we would choose today to reflect this fantastic typology, engraved into our very biological and spiritual DNA. What a high calling is ours, whether male or female, to reflect what Adam was ordained to reflect, or what Eve was ordained to reflect. May God help us do just that.