Segregation is the policy or practice of separating people of different races, classes, or ethnic groups. The question for this post – are God’s gifts meant to be segregated into races, classes or ethnic groups?
Let’s look at some biblical examples to help us answer this question. Concerning Paul, Acts 9:15 says:
Acts 9:15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel;
So was Paul’s ministry and gifts only meant for the Gentiles, kings and Jewish men? We see that in the world, Paul started with the Jews, but because of a command given to him by God, he turned to the Gentiles after the Jews rejected his message. Acts 13 says:
Acts 13:45-47 But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began contradicting the things spoken by Paul, and were blaspheming. Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first; since you repudiate it and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us, ‘I HAVE PLACED YOU AS A LIGHT FOR THE GENTILES, THAT YOU MAY BRING SALVATION TO THE END OF THE EARTH.'”
Here we can clearly see that someone may be given a gift to evangelize a particular group of people for Christ. In fact my own ministry started with a ministry to Jehovah’s Witnesses. For sixteen years I ministered to Jehovah’s Witnesses and ex-JW’s by operating a support group for those who had left the Watchtower. This is a very specialized area of ministry and God gave me compassion for reaching this largely unreached group of people who after leaving the cult group found themselves too fearful to enter a Christian church. Unless a Christian helps them with sorting out their doctrine, they can be very difficult to reach even after leaving the Watchtower.
So we can understand that people are gifted for ministry to certain ethnic or cultural groups to reach the lost, however in the church with the members of Christ’s body are people given spiritual gifts exclusively for the benefit of a race, class or ethnic group? Let’s look further into scripture to see if God’s gifts are given for the exclusive use of one type of people. Let’s pay attention especially to see if God’s gifts are to be given for the exclusive use of either men or women.
The church started with all the Christians at one place at one time.
Acts 1:13 When they had entered the city, they went up to the upper room where they were staying; that is, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James.
Acts 1:14 These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.
When God gave gifts to the body of Christ, did he separate the men and women? No he didn’t. We find the believers, men and women all together.
Acts 2:1 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.
Acts 2:3 And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them.
Acts 2:4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.
Here are the disciples male and female in one place at one time. The Holy Spirit came upon them all and all began to speak with other languages. No sign that there is to be a segregation of the gifts of the Spirit.
Then Paul’s teaching on the gifts of the Spirits starts with this astounding word:
1 Corinthians 12:7 But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
Each one has the individual gift or gifts that the Holy Spirit gives them for the purpose of the common good. Paul sums up the teaching of the commonality of the gifts by saying:
1 Corinthians 12:25 so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.
There is to be no division in the body or segregation in the body. The word “division” means to split or tear. A schism, division, tear, as in mind or sentiment, and so into factions.
The early church did not have women’s ministries where women were segregated away from the men in order to have a place for women to teach. Instead, Paul teaches that when the entire church gathers together, this is the proper place for God’s gifts to be used. The gifts are for the common good. Paul teaches further about body ministry starting with 1 Corinthians 14:23 regarding the whole church assembling together. He then goes on to say:
1 Cor. 14:24 But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an ungifted man enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all;
1 Cor. 14:26 What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.
1 Cor. 14:31 For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted;
The emphasis is on full body ministry. The gifts of the Spirit are given for the common good. They are not given to be segregated and kept away from anyone.
What does this all mean? It means that men have been kept away from women’s gifts in opposition to what the bible teaches. The bible never once says that a woman who is gifted in teaching the bible should keep her spiritual gift for the use of women alone. You can look high and low in scripture but you won’t find women teaching the bible to other women. You will find women teaching other women to love their husbands and women teaching women to keep the house but you will never find an example of a woman teaching the bible to another women.
Do I think that this means that women shouldn’t teach the bible to other women? No. I think though that scripture has not given us one example of a woman teaching the bible to another woman because then this could be used as a restricting factor regarding what God wants for the use of his entire body. God wants full body ministry. The entire church worshiped together and the entire church ministered together. When we keep men away from women when God has gifted godly Christian women with his Holy Spirit’s gifts, we are acting like we don’t need one another and that segregation of the sexes is a better idea than oneness. But how do we reconcile this with what God said through Paul:
1 Corinthians 12:21 And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”
After reading all the “you all” verses from 1 Corinthians 14, I wonder if Paul would have looked at the way we have kept women teachers away from the benefit of the men and I can imagine him just shaking his head in disbelief. Would he have said to us:
The hand cannot say to the eye, “You have no need of my teaching” or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of your teaching.”
The key to Christian unity is an attitude of “you can all…” kind of full body ministry. Allowing full body ministry to only one sex is not God’s best. For sixteen years I discipled men and women alike in the Christian faith. I never once turned away one man that wanted to learn. Is God saying that I sinned because I refused to turn men away? Or is God saying to us through Paul that full body ministry is God’s gift and desire for all of us?