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Bible Study: ORDINATION, PRIESTHOOD, AND WOMEN MINISTRY IN THE CHURCH

Venerable Dr Ifechukwu U. Ibeme

Acts 14:23
And when they had ordained elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.

Ordination of the Presbytery for Oversight Pastorate (Act 20:17, 28) began with the Apostles (Act 14:23). However, in recent times, there has arisen much muddling up and confusion about what ordination to Oversight Presbytery (Priesthood) is, and where women belong in the scheme of ministries in the Church. There is also a mix up on distinctions between authority and ability, between spiritual office and spiritual gift, as well as between spiritual Church and social State. There is even the emergence of a rebellious or despondent disgust for any form of decency and order in the Church gatherings. These are mainly because traditional adaptations away from the Scriptures have gone far in the Church over the years such that scriptural patterns and precepts on matters of Church form and order are obfuscated. But it is also because innovative trending perceptions and arrogant trending opinions are seeking to rebelliously revise and radically modify both original Scriptural institutions and accumulated traditional adaptations. In all, the authority of the Scripture is no longer upheld or sought after.

Cultural TRENDS may contend with Cultural TRADITIONS but never must any contend against the Scriptural TRUTH. Except the Apostolic Scriptures are followed, the Church will continue to grope fruitlessly in the dangerous darkness of unapostolic and unscriptural error!

*ORDINATION TO (AND DESIGNATION OF) THE PRESBYTERY OR PRIESTHOOD*
Today, there is recent confusion and lack of clarity as to what ORDINATION in the Church really means. Is it same as commissioning and licensing and inductions we do these days? Or is it a specific apostolic foundation to s specific ecclesiastical purpose as found in the Scriptures?

ORDINATION is spiritual recruitment by clergy MENTORS (unlike election by lay MEMBERS Act 6:3) through covenantal ordering (1Tim 5:22; 2Tim 1:6) into OVERSIGHT OFFICE of presbyterial priesthood in the Church (Act 13:1-3; 14:23; Tit 1:5), which involves selection, training, examination, authentication and authorization (1Tim 4:14; 2Tim 2:2) to be apostles’ adept emissaries and custodians (or delegation under apostolic succession). Oracular (LOGOS) and sacerdotal (LITURGY) responsibilities are particularly apportioned (allotted Act 1:17, 25) for officer-clerics who are ordained as presbyters for the purposes of oversight and order in the Church wherever they are sent (1Tim 3:1-7; Tit 1:5-11). These ordained godly and grounded men were to use their prophetic and pastoral, evangelistic and teaching gifts to keep custody of the Holy Writ and lead the Church in sacerdotal matters during worship services and teach the Word as oracles of God (Act 6:2-4; 13:1-2) They are also to duly conform to the paradosis received from the Apostles according to the canonical Scriptures (Rom 16:17-19; 2Thes 2:15; 3:6, 14) and duly obey their Mentors according to due canonical order (1Cor 4:15; 1Thes 2:10; 2Thes 3:7). On the other hand, the Scriptures (Acts 6:1-7) show that the Lay Diaconate who administered the table and financial LOGISTICS was congregationally elected to local responsibility.

Ordination to the Episcopate/Presbyterate (Acts 15:2-6; Tit 1:5-9; Jas 5:14; 1Pet 5:1) i.e. Oversight Priesthood (Rom 15:16; 1Cor 9:13f) was based NOT merely on agedness BUT mainly on manners, morality, ministry and mastery of the Kingdom mystery (1Tim 3:3-7; 4:11-16; 5:17-22; 2Tim 2:2). Godly and grounded men were ordained to use their prophetic, evangelistic and teaching gifts to oversee and shepherd the Church in sacerdotal matters during worship services and to teach the Word as oracles of God (Act 6:2-4; 13:1-2; 1Pet 4:11). Supervisors and Overseers lead in the Church fulfil their ministry best and apply their ability maximally when they are authorized by their clergy MENTORS and respected by their congregation MEMBERS (Heb 13:7, 17).

The designations of Presbyters, Priests and Bishops were all existent in the society of the days of the Apostles, but were taken and applied in the Church in a special way that fits into the Gospel. These ORDAINED CLERGY were to be accorded “DOUBLE HONOUR” (1Ti_5:17), imitated as examples (1Ti_4:12; Heb_13:7) and obeyed and submitted to as authorities (Tit_2:15; Heb_13:17). The Apostles also borrowed the designation Deacon/Deaconess (i.e. Servant or Waiter Rom_16:1 f; 1Ti_3:8 ff) for the LAY men and women officers who were ELECTED by the local churches (Act_6:1-6; 1Co_16:3-4; 2Co_8:19-20) to serve tables for the saints and administer the treasuries of the Church (LOGISTICS) for the welfare of the saints (Rom_16:2; 2Ti_1:17-18).

Apparently due to abuses and Christ’s warning, the Apostles avoided the use of then controversial titles such as Father, Rabbi and Master for Church Leaders, but used Bishop, Presbyter, Pastoral-Teachers (Eph 4:11), even Angel? (Rev 2-3) and Deacon which were then thought to be less prone to abuses (Mat_23:4-11). The Church must therefore avoid ostentation and extravagance in her honours.

It is important to point out that the “Presbyter” designation was borrowed from traditional and religious CUSTODIAN leaders, while the “Bishop” designation was borrowed from the political SUPERINTENDENT officers. Both terms were used by the Apostles to describe aspects of the shepherd-servant work of sacerdotal Church leaders (Act_20:17; Act_20:28; 1Pe_5:2) under Christ the ultimate Pastor and Bishop (1Pe_2:25; 1Pe_5:4). The Apostles apparently applied both terms interchangeably, even to themselves (Act_1:17-21; 1Pe_5:1; 3Jn_1:1). However with the growth and spread of the Church the “primus-inter-pares” Presbyter who acted as the circuit Presbyter and superintended other Presbyters soon came to be especially and more often referred to as the Bishop or Patriarch, even by fellow Presbyters.

(For more details, see https://www.scribd.com/document/39491417/Church-Honours-and-the-Scripture)

*AND WOMEN TOO*
The female Diaconate (the celibate deaconess ministry for virgins and widows) who catered for female catechumens especially during baptism, continued to a lesser extent in the Church, till about the 11th century, when it was overtaken or swallowed up by the conventual nuns (i.e. Reverend Sisters and Mothers of the Roman Church). Reversal of this ‘clericalization’ of Church leadership began after the Reformation and during the synodical movement, which reincorporated the laity (first lay men and later lay women too) into Church leadership.

To be sure, today’s push to bring women into the Presbyterate and the Episcopate is based on liberal dynamism and cultural revisionism, which is entirely revolutionary with no scriptural or historical authority whatsoever. To discuss the place of Women in the ministry of the Church with discrete clarity, we must not muddle up issues but distinguish:
between Cultural TRENDS and Scriptural TRUTH (women ordination to the presbyterate and episcopate is Cultural Trend not Scriptural Truth),
between Spiritual Gift/ABILITY for all Lay Ministries and Ecclesiastical Office/AUTHORITY for only Oversight Clergy (every ordination to the Church’s presbyterate and episcopate is meant for Church Office/Authority not to Spiritual Gift/Ability),
between Sociological reasons and Theological exegesis (women ordination to the Church’s presbyterate and episcopate stands on Sociological reasons not Theological Truth),
between Our struggle for Rights to Power and submission to God’s Pattern of Service (women ordination to the Church’s presbyterate and episcopate is a struggle for our rights not a submission to God’s pattern),
between The Women’s RIGHTS of spiritual sonship or spiritual ABILITY and the biblical example of their taking up AUTHORITY for presbyterial RESPONSIBILITIES (women contention for ordination to the Church’s presbyterate and episcopate on the basis of ability, forgets that ordination is not into ability but into authority),
between Presbyterial OFFICE and Prophetic GIFT (ordination to the Church’s presbyterate and episcopate is like priestly oversight and not like endument to prophecy and prowess),
between Human Protestation or Presumption and Divine Revelation or Inspiration (women ordination to the Church’s presbyterate and episcopate is human presumption not Divine Revelation).
Such muddling without distinguishing these issues has beclouded the Church into becoming a liberal modern Church that though it is of the Gentiles, yet it is not of the Gospel of Christ and His Apostles.

In the apostolic Church as recorded in the Scriptures, though women ministered in several prominent RESPONSIBILITIES and roles as *Deaconesses, Helps* (Act 18:26; Rom 16:1-3), *Prophetesses* (Acts 21:9), *Matrons* (John 19:27), *Financers* (Mar 15:41; Luk 8:2-3), and *Hosts* (Act 12:12; 16:14-15, 40) BUT WERE NOT ORDAINED AS OVERSIGHT PRESBYTERS. Spiritual GIFTS are variously given to all males and females alike as ABILITY for ministry and ministrations among the saints, who by their faith in Christ have the same RIGHTS of sonship irrespective of gender, age or race. Apostolic and presbyterial OFFICES and RESPONSIBILITIES are however reserved for a few as positions of AUTHORITY for oversight and presidency over the saints – all such ecclesiastical authorities in the Scriptures were held by males only. THIS DIVINE WISDOM AND RULE SHOULD NOT BE CHALLENGED OR CHANGED BUT UPHELD.

The Apostle Paul admonished that it is disgraceful for women to ask contentious questions and argue with opinionated assertions during Church fellowship/service (1Co_14:33-35). Women should desist from issuing authoritative directives and instructions (1Co_14:34; 1Ti_2:12) and from raising argumentative contentions in the Church (1Co_14:35; 1Ti_2:11). Women in Christ should not presume to contend with or dictate to men IN THE CHURCH. Such personal assertiveness toward or over men in the congregation should be eschewed. St Paul’s ‘not to speak’ and ‘keep silence’ and ‘not exercise authority over men’ in the Church here (1Co_14:34; 1Ti_2:11-12) indicates that women should not be ordained into priestly overseer office nor assume presbyterial authority IN THE CHURCH. Therefore, this does not mean muteness or dumbness but ‘courteousness’, ‘submission’ and ‘obedience’; which equally applied to non-leading male members. Notice that this does NOT extend outside the Church.

Again, this could NOT have abrogated other utterance or spoken ministrations enjoined and permitted for women in other portions of Scripture such as:
(1) prophesying, praying, tongues-interpretation and even singing (in public before all) Luk_2:36-38; Act_21:9; 1Co_11:3-12; Eph_5:18-21; Exo_15:20-21; Jdg_4:4-9, and
(2) teaching and even questioning (before women in the Church assembly, but before men in private and at home/school Act_18:26; 1Co_14:35; Tit_2:3-4; Pro_31:1-2), and
(3) other spiritual ministrations and helps (Act_16:14-15; 1Ti_5:10).
(4) Also their ‘subjection to authority’ does not exclude official delegation (Rom_16:1-4); even protesting maladministration and voting for lay Church leaders of their choice (Act 6:1-6).

One proviso is that such women should minister IN CHURCH GATHERING with their messianic worship veils of authority on their heads: not for submission to men or culture as is often mistakenly believed, but for dignity before the messianic Church and for authority before the liturgical Angels (1Co_11:5-6, 1Co_11:10). This apostolic ordinance and Church custom was meant to cover every symbol of human glory (long-haired women’s heads) and uncover only the symbols of divine glory (short-haired men’s heads) when in the Church’s messianic Assembly for the sake of the Angels.

WHY THE ANGELS? Angelic company (not demons) is always in attendance with God at any true Church assembly where God is present (Heb_12:12-14; 1Ti_5:21) and inside. Some Churches only have Christ outside the door (Rev 3:20), while seducing demons of error could comfortably manipulate such false assemblies into all manner of dangerous teachings (1Tim 4:1; 2Pet 2:1; 1John 4:6). Postmodern Churches are playing dangerous games with New Testament spiritual protocols of the Worship Veil, which were customary order and decorum followed by early Apostolic Churches without contention (1Cor 11:1-2, 16). Today some Christians presume they have subjective liberty to arrogantly disregard or revise Christ’s spiritual ordinances of decorum in Church (1Cor 11:3-5) and dignity before His Angels (1Cor 11:10). Angels are God’s liturgical (worship ministering or homage service) spirits (Heb_1:14). *THIS APOSTOLIC CUSTOM OR ORDINANCE OF THE WORSHIP VEIL HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH MARRIAGE TO HUSBANDS, NOR HAS IT ANYTHING TO DO WITH JEWISH, GREEK AND ROMAN CULTURES as often insinuated.*

(See http://www.scribd.com/doc/28479877/SHOULD-WOMEN-USE-WORSHIP-VEIL-IN-THE-CHURCH for more details on the Worship Veil).

In the secular society, OUTSIDE THE CHURCH, where the sacerdotal Priesthood and Presbyterate are not in charge, though women may be socially disadvantaged (1Pe_3:7), yet they are not forbidden from temporal prominence and authority over men. Like the men, they could come to ruling power by circumstance (*Debora*, Jdg_4:4-6; Jdg_5:6-9), by force (*Athaliah*, 2Kin 11; 2Chr 22-23), by political manoeuvre (*Esther*, Est_8:1-14), by popular acclaim and personal merit (Esther, Est_2:15-18), by prowess (*Jael*, Jdg_4:9; Jdg_4:17-22) or by royal birth. There were the *Queen of Sheba* (2Kin 10; 2Chr 9; Mat_12:42) and Candace the *Queen of Ethiopia* served by eunuchs (Act_8:27), who were well spoken of by the Scriptures. *BUT NONE OF THESE SOUGHT TO TAKE PART IN THE PRIESTHOOD.*

*Priscilla* (our first female seminary theology professor) provided academy theological update training for Apollos outside the Church assembly *BUT REMAINED UNDER THE OVERSIGHT MINISTRY OF APOLLOS (her college student) IN THE CHURCH* (Act_18:24-28).

Christian women should therefore be free to contribute their spiritual gifts/abilities in Church and could be licensed, commissioned, elected, delegated, appointed, into various roles, responsibilities and ministries as applicable to all laymen who are equally Spirit-baptised INTO CHRIST (Joh_7:37-39; 1Co_12:12-14; Eph_2:19-22), but to operate with their veil of authority IN THE ANGELIC CULTURE OF THE CHURCH ASSEMBLY (1Co_11:5-6; 1Co_11:10). *However, they should NOT assert themselves over men or be ORDAINED into priestly authority or oversight presbyterate presidency over men in the Assembly of God’s Church where ANGELIC CULTURE AND APOSTOLIC TRADITION are applicable* (1Co_14:34-35; 1Ti_2:11-12; 1Ti_5:21; Heb_1:14; Heb_12:22-24). Amongst fellow women in the Church, amongst their children and dependants in their homes, and in socio-political circles outside the Church, Christian women could oversee and preside at any level. (Tit_2:3-4; Pro_31:1-2; Jdg_4:4-9).

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