This is the final article in a three-part series about what it means to disciple as women. In part one, “Discipling as Women: Our Responsibility,” we discussed our equal standing with men as God’s image-bearers and our equal salvation in Christ. God created two genders with distinct roles but with one purpose—to work together to glorify Him. We all have a responsibility to faithfully serve our Father God by submitting to Jesus Christ as Lord and building up His church through the power and gifts imparted to us through the Holy Spirit.
In part two, “Discipling as Women: Our Foremothers,” we discussed the impact of the Fall on the relationship between man and woman and, again, looked at our oneness in Christ. We then looked at examples of faithful women from the Old Testament who played important roles in God’s plan for His people and faithful women from the New Testament who followed Jesus and served the church using the gifts and opportunities God had given them. We saw how God used women in very important ways to advance His kingdom.
In this third part, we’ll discuss how we can faithfully follow Jesus by making disciples as women in our modern context. There are so many different directions this topic could go. There is a diverse spectrum of beliefs regarding the role of women in the church today, and we acknowledge that not everyone reading this article will agree with every aspect of our position here at Emet. We want to reject what is obviously not biblical and affirm that there is grace. Some decisions regarding the role of women are a matter of conscience, specifically where God is ultimately Lord of the conscience. We want to submit to the authority of our elders in the local church on these matters as our elders strive to be true to God’s Word and as they seek the counsel of the Holy Spirit and other wise, faithful brothers and sisters in the matter.
The first extreme that we outright reject is the extreme that would claim there is no distinction between genders at all and no structure needed within the home or church. Again, this topic could go in a variety of directions. But we affirm, first, that God did create two distinct genders—male and female—and that to disciple as women means to acknowledge what God has made and that it is good. This is important because we see in Genesis 1:26-27 that God makes man and woman in His own image. As Katie McCoy writes in her book To Be a Woman,
The relationship between male and female personified the imago Dei in a way that neither could do on their own. I’d summarize it this way: male and female were created to depend on each other. Each was made to harmonize with the other, and neither can fully image God in isolation. The world needs both men and women to reflect what God is like. God created them to tell His story—to express His creative intent—better together.1
We also affirm that God did build order and structure into His creation and that these aspects of creation are to be reflected in human institutions as faithfully as possible.
The second extreme that we outright reject is the repressive, patriarchal extreme that would allow any room for the physical, mental, and emotional abuse of women. When we talk about submission as it relates to the role of women, there is a responsibility on the part of men to create a healthy environment in which women can submit. Christ is the example, and there is no less standard. In marriage, men are to lead by giving up their own lives as Christ did for the church (Eph. 5:25-30). If men do this well, they create a space where their wives can easily submit because they trust their husbands won’t take advantage of them or bully them around but will act in their best interest. Husbands will honor them as beloved and serve them with joy. In the church, the men who serve as elders are called to live in a similar way—to care for, protect, and guide Jesus’s flock, following the example of the chief Shepherd (1 Pet. 5:1-5). Again, if men who lead the church act as they ought to, they create a space where women (and the church as a whole) can flourish as they use their gifts to serve one another and to serve our Lord and Savior.
As mentioned above, in part 2 of this series, we discussed several examples of women who faithfully served God and the church with their gifts and talents. Following these examples, what does it look like for us to disciple as women in our modern context? Ultimately, we disciple as women the way that all are called to disciple in God’s Word. First, we must love the Lord our God with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strength (Matt. 22:36-40; Mark 12:28-31; Luke 10:25-28). We are to know God’s Word by studying it daily and to apply it faithfully, measuring every cultural claim and practice by it. We should proclaim Christ as Lord and Savior and follow in His footsteps as we go about our days at work or at home. We should rely on the power of the Holy Spirit to do all of these things and desire to grow in the fruits of the Spirit. We should commit to a local church where we submit to the Godly authority of our pastors and/or ruling elders, acknowledge and use the gifts God has given us as part of His creation and through the Holy Spirit to serve the church and its members where there are needs, and develop a variety of appropriate relationships as we live alongside our brothers and sisters in openness, humility, service, and love, gently correcting one another and repenting of sin together. And we should be ready at all times “to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet. 3:15).
Yes, God has created distinctions between men and women. But we are all called to follow Jesus in mutual love, service, and sacrifice as we proclaim God’s creation as good, His rule as absolute, and His salvation through Christ alone as glorious.