Friday, July 08, 2011


“Looking to Connect with real 5 Fold men? Do you function as Apostle or Prophet? Come & see in Charlotte NC”

Earlier this week I received this message via Twitter and it bothered me enough to reply back to the person who sent it with this reply:

“Why do you assume all 5 Fold are "Men"? NT points out several female Apostles (Junia, Priscilla, etc.) and women teach/prophesy.”

So, I wanted to expand on this topic a bit more here, if you guys don’t mind. Ok? Good? Thanks.

So, why is it that we all assume that the 5 Fold Ministry is all about men? I guess I should pause here a moment and explain, for those who may not know, what the Five Fold Ministry thing is all about first.

According to the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 4:11, "It was he (God) who gave some to be (1) apostles, some to be (2) prophets, some to be (3) evangelists, and some to be (4) pastors and (5) teachers."

So, because Paul lists five different avenues of blessing in this passage, most assume that every Church should have all five of these servants present to be a healthy church. Most, as evidenced by the Tweet I received this week, further assume that these are all male servants. (There is another aspect of assumed hierarchy contained in this passage but I will not touch on that in this discussion).

However, if we’re going to take scriptures like this and declare that they are normative for the Church and authoritative for the life and health of the Church we also need to include everything else that Paul had to say about what was important for the church to grow and be healthy. Like where he says, in 1 Corinthians 14:26, "When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. All these must be done for the strengthening of the church."

So, for now let’s focus on the Five Fold Ministry and the assumption that all of these servants are men.

As I said in my response to this person, there are several female Apostles in the New Testament including Junia:

“Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.” – Romans 16:7

For centuries, the Christian church renamed here to make her appear male, but in recent times New Testament scholars have restored her femininity.

The New Testament also mentions Priscilla and Aquila several times, usually listing the wife, Priscilla, first. As men were traditionally mentioned first, the practice of listing the wife first in their case is a strong indication of her prominence.

Even if this is not the case, the fact remains that Paul, when speaking of this couple says, “Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 16:3) which puts them on an equal level with Paul as they were doing Apostolic work as he was doing, even taking another Apostle (Apollos) into their home to teach him about the baptism of the Holy Spirit and to pray for him to receive it (and he did).

So, this couple was not only doing apostolic work, like Paul was doing, but they were even ministering to other Apostles to be filled with the Spirit of God. And they also hosted a church in their home, so they were church planters, leaders, and servants in the local community.

So, there’s no doubt that women in the early New Testament church served as Apostles.

As I’ve pointed out numerous times before on this blog, the word “Pastor” only appears once in the entire New Testament and it’s here in Ephesians 4:11 where we get our Five Fold Ministry concept. However, the term is simply the common word for “shepherd” and it usually appears as an actual shepherd (as when the angel’s appeared to the shepherds by night to announce the birth of Christ) or of Jesus as the “Good Shepherd” in the Gospels. Later, Peter urges Elders and Overseers to “shepherd” the people in their church family, and this suggests that these three services are interchangeable and performed by the same group of people, regardless of what they are called.

Another problem with our New Testament translations in the past has been the mistranslation of the word “women” in 1 Timothy 3:11 as “wives”. This error, performed quite on purpose, renders the instructions for female deacons/elders (women) as “wives” effectively removing obscuring the truth about female elders.

Fortunately these same mis-translators did not erase Phoebe in Romans as a deaconess/elder, (Romans 16:1) and thankfully we have NT scholars today who are more honest about the actual Greek words found in the text rather than following in the bias found in past translations.

Elders, according to Paul, are supposed to be able to teach (1 Timothy 3:9, 5:17). This means that if the elder is a woman, and there were female elders, then she should be free to teach.

Therefore, we can see from the New Testament that women served as Apostles (Junias, Priscilla), and as Pastors/Elders (Phoebe).

It may seem overly simplistic to point this out, but it’s probably a good idea to reinforce the notion that someone who prophesies is a prophet. Prophets are the ones who prophesy. Got it? Great. So, in the letter of Paul to the Corinthians he says that women who prophesy should make sure to cover their heads. (1 Cor 11:5) Paul even goes on to stress later in the same letter that, of all the spiritual gifts, one should eagerly desire the gift of prophecy above all other gifts (1 Cor 14:1), and says also that “the one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in a tongue” (1 Cor 14:5) and that the “one who prophesies edifies the church”. (v. 4)

So, clearly, women did prophesy in the early church and Paul commended this service as one of the greatest gifts performed by someone in the church body.

Therefore, women served as Apostles, Pastors (Elders), Teachers, and Prophets. As for Evangelists, I think it could be argued that the work that Priscilla and Aquilla were doing mirrored that of Paul and Paul was often found preaching the Gospel to the Jews and the Gentiles.

Lots more could be said on this topic, and perhaps will blog more on the topic later as comments or questions arise.


John S Wilson III said...

there are no distinctions in Christ, each member in the body has been given a measure of the gift of Christ, a function, not a title or position, Christ can protect, care, watch over, teach, serve through whomever whenever as they live by the life of Christ.

Felicity Dale said...

Keith, thank you for an excellent post on this topic. I believe that we will see the Kingdom advance far more rapidly when women and men co-labor together. If women try to achieve this on their own, it becomes a feminist movement, but if we will work together to see women freed into their full potential in the Kingdom and in the church, it becomes a Holy Spirit movement.

Jan Pack said...

Thanks Keith for the post. The encouragement from a brother to function in the gifts of prophet and teacher as a sister means a great deal. So often, because I am a woman, the things I said were ignored or set aside. And while attending traditional churches, I was never allowed to teach men, only other women and children. Longing to see how the body would be built up if women are allowed to function by the power of the Spirit for the benefit of all.

Katie said...

Keith, thanks for sharing some excellent points in support of your position on this controversial issue for many people in the Body of Christ. It is encouraging when men write and act in support of women in the fullness of ministry. I appreciate your post and I am encouraged by it!

Seth said...

Just started reading your blog several months ago. Thanks for the post, it is a challenging idea to me, but I am definately willing to think about it. How would you bring in that passage about the woman not being allowed to teach because Adam was created first and then Eve? I know that would be something brought up by a lot of my peers.

Keith Giles said...

SETH: Well, the best answer would be to read Jon Zens' book, "What's With Paul and Women?". (You can search "Jon Zens" here on this blog and probably find an article by Zens that I republished here about a year ago on this subject).

But in a nutshell I'd respond by saying that that verse you're referring to in 1 Cor 14 isn't Paul speaking, it's him quoting back to the Corinthians what they wrote to him about and then his response below that is, "What?! Did the word of God originate with you?" (the "What?!" exclamation is taken out of some translations but is reflected in most.

The gist is that Paul (in that passage) says that women should not speak in church, that they should remain silent, and that "it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church" according to the Law. However, the Law of Moses (the OT) says absolutely no such thing. So, what is Paul referring to? Again, in Paul's day the teachers of the Jewish law DID say these things. The Corinthians were confused about this and we know from the letter that Paul's writing to them was prompted by their letter to him.

Also, as this passage in question contradicts what Paul said earlier in the same letter about women prophesying with their heads covered, it's obvious that Paul is either schizophrenic or he's quoting their quote of the Jewish teachers of their day and refuting it.

Patti said...

As a disciple, (and a woman)I've always considered myself an "evangelist", meaning that I easily received the direction Jesus left us to "go ye". That has defined my purpose on this earth since I first heard the directive when I was about 10 years old. I've been ever aware of the "lost" who don't know about Jesus, and I open myself up to sharing Him with them as prompted by the Spirit in my life. Since I am not part of the Institutional Church, I have not limits on my sharing, or comments about that work. But, when I was in the I.C. and had been presented with their interpretations of God's Word concerning women, it gave me great concern and did cause confusion. I knew God was calling me to this work, but I was troubled greatly at the stigma of women handed down by the traditions of men. If I would embrace these interpretations, I would have been tempted to view God's word as a men's book only. But, His Spirit overcame in me and spoke His truth: there is neither men or women in Him, and as the first comment suggested, it is Him that works through us anyway, and He is Spirit. Your article has further help to establish me in this truth, and bring freedom and rest to me as a woman in His many-membered Body. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I noticed you referred to phoebe as an elder, but isn't she only called a deacon? Elders and deacons are not the same thing nor do they seem to be interchangeable, right? Elders must be able to teach but deacons don't seem to have to be able to teach. Could that passage about the women be referring to women deacons but not elders? So that women could be deacons but not elders. It seems assumed by "husband of one wife" that elders would only be men.