Written by Henry Luo on 14 Nov 2021; translated by Tania Ng
With regards to the ministries of sisters in church, Truth Baptist Church does not take a liberal or egalitarian position. We hold the belief that in marriage and in the household, the husband is the head of the wife, the wife should submit to the husband and the husband should love the wife as Christ loved the church. This is God’s original design for creation and will be so till the end of time. However, we do not agree with the adoption of this complementarian position in the context of the church.
There are many verses in the Bible that teach us that the church is our spiritual family. However, the essence of the spiritual family differs from that of the earthly family bounded by blood ties. In Galatian 4, Paul wrote that the earthly family was born by the flesh and the spiritual family is born by the Spirit under the promise of faith. Hence, we cannot mechanically apply the understanding of the relationships and principles for the earthly family into the context of the church, among which is the matter of husband-wife relational dynamics.
The most basic relationship among believers in church is that of brothers and sisters. In some instances, a spiritual relationship may be cultivated, and it may develop into spiritual parenthood. As Paul wrote to the Thessalonian church, “For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.” (1Th 2:11-12) Paul added, “We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else, even though as apostles of Christ we could have asserted our authority. Instead, we were like young children among you. Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you.” (1Th 2:6-8a)
The church is the bride that Christ awaits to marry. Hence, Christ is the head of the church, it is the only husband-wife relationship in the church, and apart from that there is no other. Therefore, the principle that the “man is the head of woman” should not apply in the context of church governance.
If we must use familial relations to define our practices of church leadership, we should view the pastors, elders, and deacons as the spiritual elders of the church. It is as if they are the grandfathers and grandmothers, fathers and mothers, big brothers and big sisters of the family. The female pastors and female elders in our church are like our spiritual grandma, mother or big sister. As the Lord Jesus Christ said, “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mat 12:50)
The complementarian’s viewpoint restricts the duties of an overseer to be solely that of the brothers. This is perhaps to distinguish themselves from the liberals or the egalitarians. However, in doing so, they have fixated themselves on certain parts of the Scripture, and failed to understand Scripture as a complete body of divine revelation from God. We respect each individual’s reading of the bible according to their spiritual walk with God. However, if they were to insist that the service of female pastors and female elders was tantamount to spirit adultery, it is a complete misreading of Scripture. It is an attack and destruction of the church and needs to be halted immediately. In an essay written by Rev Joseph Tong in 2014, he wrote:
“There are some out there who do not seek to understand. They seek to make a matter out of nothing and read Scripture out of its original meaning. They ignore the syntax, context, biblical history of Scripture; and wrongly exegete to instigate allegations that women should not preach or undertake the duties of an overseer in church… forcing some sisters to give up their holy ministries, and perpetuating an unnecessary cycle of dispute. These disputes need to end in order to prevent future troubles.”
“For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Gal 3:27-29
As the above Scripture passage illustrates, man and woman in the earthly family have differences in status, but not in the church. In our spiritual home, we do not serve by race, status, or gender. Nor do we do so by talents, power, or any other human factors, but we do solely by the God-given faith. We rely on the gifts that the Holy Spirit had so freely given to each person to be a servant of God. As written in 1Corinthians 12:4-11 concerning spiritual gifts, “all these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.” God’s leading of biblical history in the Old and New Testament also attests to this revelation. In the Old Testament era, the Prophetess Miriam served along with Moses and Aaron to lead the Israelites out of the land of Egypt (Michah 6:4). The female judge Deborah co-led with Barack the Israelites in a battle with the Canaanites. In the time of King Josiah, the Prophetess Huldah was a contemporary of Prophet Jeremiah.
In the New Testament era, many prohibitions of the Old Testament era were abolished by the work of the Holy Spirit. Sisters were greatly used by God to be His co-workers. When Lord Jesus was incarnate, there was Prophetess Anna and Simeon prophesizing at the same time. There was also Mary of Bethany, who poured her expensive nard upon the Lord in preparation for the Lord’s death and burial, a noble thing that the Holy Spirit moved a sister to do. The Lord Jesus has already accepted the service of our sisters, and did not view their service as secondary or blasphemous. We brothers should not cast aspersions on their service!
“Sola Scriptura” is a core belief of Truth Baptist Church from its founding till today. The spiritual authority to lead a church comes solely from Scripture and the anointing of the Holy Spirit. It cannot be established by the hands of man or robbed of. In a church, we need to protect the absolute authority of Scripture and not the authority of males, only then we are truly a church that has returned to the bible as our foundation!
From Rev Zheng: Of late, there are brothers and sisters who have misread the Scriptures and have insisted that to permit female pastors and elders was tantamount to sin. This has affected other brothers and sisters from receiving the word from the pulpit. We are deeply grieved as the Scripture has clear revelation on the ministries of sisters and we had stated the church’s stance on this from the beginning. Brother Wenqiang has explored this topic during the Life Bible Study in the past two weeks. This article is a short excerpt from the second session of his teaching. The pastors, elders and deacons urge all brothers and sisters to revise this topic, and to protect the church on walking on the path of truth.