• Elaine Kelly

God shows no favouritism #womeninministry Ep.2

Dr. Lynn Cohick addresses some of the passages that have interfered with God's message of equality w/o favouritism. This is Episode 2 of a series on Women in Ministry completed by the Local Churchology Podcast. The whole interview is on my Youtube Playlist.


Dr Lynn Cohick is a professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary. She has published a number of books on Paul's letters and women in the early church. She also hosts a podcast called the alabaster jar, conversations impacting women at the intersection of faith, theology, and ministry.


Her interview begins with how Jesus expects women to be interested in theology. Jesus pays attention to women, respects them, and treats them as capable disciples.


Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children.Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God. Ephesians 5:1-2 NLT

Paul opens this chapter by telling all believers, men and women, to be filled with the Spirit. Both men and women are told to imitate the sacrificial love of Jesus in vs. 2, and husbands are told to love their wives with the sacrificial love of Jesus in vs. 25-26. Paul tells them how to live a life filled with love in various ways in verses 18-21:

  • be filled with the Holy Spirit

  • sing psalms and hymns among yourselves

  • make music to the Lord in your heart

  • give thanks for everything

  • submit to one another, in the same way that wives submit to husbands

Paul uses the familiar pagan marriage structure to demonstrate how believers are to love one another. He clarifies that he is not telling them rules for marriage; he is telling them that marriage is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one (v. 32).


Loving one another as Christ loves the church is self-sacrificing and mutual, honouring one another. Paul exhorts them to be loving out of respect for Christ, not as a legalistic command. There is no hierarchy of or inferiority in this passage. Jesus is the head, source of life, and saviour of the church. The word for head was very rarely used to indicate leadershp or authority.


A husband is told to love his wive as he loves himself, a shocking idea in a culture where females were considered property or an inferior version of males. This idea is remindes believers of Jesus's instructinto "treat others as you want to be treated." (Matthew 6:12). There is no command to wives in verse 33. Paul says to a husband is to love his wife as himself so that she may respect her husband (her respect is conditional on his love).

Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives and never treat them harshly. Col. 3:18-19 NRSVUE

The letter of Colossians is similar to Ephesians in that it addresses the oppressed of the day: slaves and wives.

Paul clearly tells slavemasters to treat their slaves in the same way as slaves treat masters: no domination or threats since God sees them at the same rank as slaves (Col. 4:1, Eph. 6:9). No one is assigned to a role of secondary importance; all have personal agency. God shows no favouritism (Col. 3:11, James 2:9, Acts 10:34). In his letters, Paul commends many women as co-workers and teachers.

Let a woman learn in silence with full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve, and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing, provided they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control. 1 Timothy 2:11-15 NRSVUE

The passage in 1 Timothy 2 must be read in the context of 1 Timothy 1, which introduces the discussion on false doctrines. In verses 8-11, Paul makes three statements:

  • men are not to dispute

  • women are to worship God in modest attire, not the way they would worship Artemis,

  • Let a woman learn the correct doctrine

Paul says he isn't permitting a woman to teach until she learns; he is not giving prohibiting all women from teaching for all time. He wants the woman to keep silent from teaching false doctrine until she learns. She is to be undistracted and focused while she learns. She is not to spread the heresy that celibacy is more pious or holy, and not to dominate or have authority to make her husband celibate.

The creation story is not about giving favouritism or authority. Both Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden. After God cursed the serpent and the ground, God blessed the woman, saying a woman would give birth to the one who would crush Satan. Giving birth made a woman ritually impure in ancient Jewish times but Paul says childbirth will not make a woman impure; being celibate is not more holy. Paul reassures the woman that she will be saved despite the birth process if she and her husband both remain in faith and love. Salvation is by faith, and it is not impeded by childbearing.



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