2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come!
Colossians 3:9b -10
you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self. You are being renewed in knowledge according to the image of your Creator.
1 Corinthians 12:4-11
Now there are different gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different ministries, but the same Lord. And there are different activities, but the same God produces each gift in each person. A manifestation of the Spirit is given to each person for the common good: to one is given a message of wisdom through the Spirit, to another, a message of knowledge by the same Spirit, to another, faith by the same Spirit, to another, gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another, the performing of miracles, to another, prophecy, to another, distinguishing between spirits, to another, different kinds of tongues,to another, interpretation of tongues. One and the same Spirit is active in all these, distributing to each person as he wills.
When the day of Pentecost had arrived, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like that of a violent rushing wind came from heaven, and it filled the whole house where they were staying. They saw tongues like flames of fire that separated and rested on each one of them. Then they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues,as the Spirit enabled them.
Now there were Jews staying in Jerusalem, devout people from every nation under heaven. When this sound occurred, a crowd came together and was confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language. They were astounded and amazed, saying, “Look, aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? How is it that each of us can hear them in our own native language?
Last year, when Ruth and I wrote about women and men in marriage, I used the image of a “plumb-line” to refer to a truth from Scripture which is a guiding foundation or principle to all other teaching. My two plumb-lines with regard to marriage were equality and different roles. I think the biblical teaching on men and women in the Church is guided by those same two principles. I return to the emphasis on equality in this post.
What all of the passages above relate to is our new life in Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit. In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul speaks of each individual Christian as a new creation. In Colossians 3, he is talking about our new life in Christ – being renewed as a new self in the image of our Creator. Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians 12 that each individual Christian is given gifts from the Holy Spirit. And in Acts 2, we have the story of how the earliest church members first received the gift of the Holy Spirit, which Jesus promised to each of his followers.
We all have gifts. I see a parallel between the giving of spiritual gifts to each new creation in Christ and the breathing of life into Adam and Eve when humans were created. Humans, male and female, were equally created in God’s image to do wonderful work for the good of God’s creation. Christians – new creations, both men and women – are also equally renewed (or re-created) in the image of their Creator and equally empowered by the Spirit to do wonderful work for the “common good.” We have these gifts of the Spirit to empower us for service to one another. We are all servants of one another.
The baby church, a group of born-again men and women gathered together in Jerusalem after Christ’s ascension to heaven, received the Spirit, rushing like the sound of wind, looking like flames over them, and enabling them to speak the Gospel in various foreign tongues on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2). Luke, the author, records that they “all” were filled. If you read on, Peter explains the event as the fulfillment of an Old Testament prophecy from Joel 2, which specified the future outpouring of the Holy Spirit on women and men.
The book of Acts is the record of the growth of the Church from its beginning days in Jerusalem following the ascension of Jesus to heaven. Here at the start, men and women are both filled with the Spirit and gifted for gospel ministry. Just as in Genesis 1, men and women were equally created in the image of God, here in the New Creation, they are equally regenerated by the Spirit in the image of God. The same equality that opens the history of humanity, opens the history of God’s new humanity, His Church.
Equality as members of God’s family, equally gifted for valuable service to humanity, is again one of two crucial plumb lines as we start our discussion of men and women in the Church. As we go on to discuss some different roles to which men and women are appointed in the Church, this plumb line of equal personhood runs as an accurate measure or balance of how we understand the different roles we fill. Different roles do not negate the fundamental equality of being new creatures in Christ’s family, filled with His Spirit for valuable work.