How does the reconciliation of God in Christ apply to the question of men and women working together in the Church? Let us look at what Jesus did on the cross, when he died for men and women and brought them back to the place God had designed for them from the beginning of the world.
The Original Plan
In creation, God designed men and women different but equal in his image. God himself saw that it was not good for the man to be alone; therefore, he created the woman to be the exact partner in life and ministry—the ezer kenegdo—“the helper (ezer is most often used for God) that is the exact counterpart.”
He empowered, blessed, and sent them both to rule the world, without assigning either a specific place according to their gender. They were supposed to do it together.
The Fall brought separation into the relationship of Adam and Eve. They could not trust each other anymore. As a consequence of their separation from God, they would follow a new kind of relationship: rulership of one over the other. That rulership was not existent in God’s original design.
After the Fall, God did not take away the task of ruling over the earth, neither from men nor from women. So this command is still valid for both men and women.
In Jesus, God reconciled the world to himself. He reconciled men and women equally to become again what he had created them to be: sons and daughters of God. When Jesus died on the cross, he took on himself the punishment for the sin of men and women and reconciled them both to the Father and to each other.
In Christ, there is neither male nor female, but all are one in him. That is why Jesus had male and female disciples; why he taught, healed, and loved men and women; and why he sent them to preach the good news of Christ’s resurrection.
The Holy Spirit is poured out on men and women alike, as the prophet Joel predicted. The Holy Spirit gives his gifts to whomever he wishes. There is not a list of gifts for men and an extra list for women. They both receive the same gifts and with them the same tasks.
The Great Commission is therefore given to men and women alike. They are sent into this world to preach, teach, and serve the Lord. The place of their service is not determined by their gender, but by their spiritual gifts and the personal direction of the Lord to a specific place of service.
In the Body of Christ, we all serve together. No part can be left out, no part is more important, and no part is independent of the others. No part only leads; no part only submits. All receive and give at the same time. Christ himself is the only head.
The Impact on Women in the Church
Why would Jesus die for women if they would not be fully delivered from the consequences of Adam and Eve’s sin? Why would women have to give up the gift of preaching, teaching, or leading in the church, and yet still be allowed to do the same things in children’s ministry, women’s ministry, on the mission field, and even more so in the world? Why would women be redeemed by Christ, but not be brought back to their full assignment of rulership over this world? What else could prove that God in Christ brought the full and only salvation for women?
Of course, we still live in a world that is separated from God. Sin is still existent, and men and women fail. But in the Kingdom of God, in his body—the Church, we do not live under the rulership of sin, but under the gracious rulership of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. If we want to show the world what Christ has done for us on the cross, we have to show others that he brought us back to the place of equality in diversity. This is not about gender; it is about gifts. It is not about one being more redeemed than the other, but about portraying the love of Christ in this world.
If we look around and see how women are perceived and treated in other world religions and beliefs, we cannot but be even more thankful for the work of Christ on the cross. He wants to see men and women cooperating and giving each other the respect that they, as children of God, deserve.
A New Way of Working Together
We must find new ways of working together. We must work, each one, at the place and with the gifts God has given us by his grace. We should submit to one another and serve, not rule. The world is waiting to see the redemptive power of Jesus in the lives of men and women, reconciled to each other, partnering in family and church, in leading and serving, in teaching and helping this needy world to understand that there is only one way to the Father: Jesus Christ, the Lamb who was slain so that we can live.
It behooves us well in the evangelical world at large and in the Lausanne community in particular to stress the fact that Christ’s redemption brings together men and women in prayer, in the life and the work of the kingdom.
We face an enormous missionary task in reaching Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, adherents of traditional religions, and others. Working together is an indispensable part of our witness to the redemption of God.