Women Priests and Bishops

The parliament of the Church of England voted to remove barriers that prevented women being promoted to be priest. Since then they have appointed woman to be priests, a decision which has led many to leave. In welcoming that decision the bishop of Southwark said he "believed there are good ecclesiological and theological reasons why women should now be able to be ordained a bishop".

What does the Bible teach?

The question we need to ask is this, what does the Bible teach? Did the church of the New Testament have women ordained priests as clergy? No it did not, in fact there is no clergy – laity system in the Church that Jesus built, this is a system devised by man, using the Old Testament model. In the New Testament all Christians are priests to offer up spiritual sacrifices through our great high Priest Jesus Christ, according to these scriptures, 1 Peter 2:4-10; Heb 7:11-17; 2:14-18: 4:14-16; Romans 12:2. Before we look at this subject we need to understand a little more about the church that Jesus established.

The Church Established

Jesus announced to his apostles that he would build His Church on the foundation that He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, Matt 16:16-18. In 1 Cor 3:11, we are reminded that there is only one foundation and that is Jesus Christ. Jesus is also its head both on earth and in heaven, Eph 1:20-23; Col 1:18. He alone has all authority, Matt 28:18-20. Jesus only established ONE Church, beginning in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost as recorded in Acts 2. As Peter concluded his preaching of the gospel for the very first time, thousands responded, believing that Jesus was both Lord and Christ they obeyed the command to "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins," Acts 2:37-41. Those who were baptised were then added by the Lord to His Church, "and they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers, Acts 2:42- 47. We see here that the church that Jesus established is made up of all those who have been saved, v47, In this way local assemblies of churches of Christ (Romans 16:16) were established around the world. This brought about the need for some organisation of the Church.

The Church Organised

Each local congregation of the church of Christ then began appointing men to be their bishops. The Greek word used is episkopos and is variously translated as overseers, elders, pastors or bishops (Acts 20:17 and 28, Titus 1:5, 1 Tim 3:2; 1 Peter 5:1-2, Eph 4:11). Paul and Barnabas "appointed elders in every church" (plural), never one elder (bishop) over a church or many churches, Acts 14:23. There are also qualifications that these men had to fulfil in order to be appointed, these are found in 1 Tim 3:1-7. The complete organisational make-up of the church of Christ is found in Philippians 1:1, saints, bishops and deacons. The word "saints" is used of all the disciples or Christians (Acts 11:26) in each local congregation. Rom 1:7; 1 Cor 1:2; 2 Cor;1:1; Eph 1:1 etc. The word "deacons" is used of those who were appointed servants of the local church of which they were a member, Acts 6:1-6. Deacons also must have the qualifications laid down by the Holy Spirit, 1 Timothy 3:8-13.

Who can be a Bishop?

The apostle Paul left Titus in Crete to "set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city", Titus 1:5. Those appointed as bishops needed to be qualified to act as shepherds for their flock, they had no authority over any another flock (congregation), 1 Peter 5:1-4. They were not to be lords (law makers) but examples, not doing it for financial gain, not to elevate themselves. The word "bishop" is not a title but indicates the work they do under the Chief Shepherd (Jesus), "for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account" (to Jesus), Hebrews 13:17. Among the many qualifications listed in Titus 1:5-9 and 1 Tim 3:1-7 is one which only a man can fulfil, "A bishop must be the husband of one wife". So the church that Jesus built has no women bishops, neither is the women to "exercise authority over a man", 1 Timothy 2:12-14. To teach otherwise is to teach the doctrines and traditions of men.

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