Women's ordination and Aaron's Rod that budded, pt. 2

Wayne Kablanow

In the first article we discovered that Aaron’s rod that budded had been placed in the Ark of the Covenant in the Most Holy Place of the Sanctuary. The rod was preserved there as a perpetual reminder of God’s own plan for leadership. We may not always understand why He has chosen as He has; it might not seem to make sense to our human logic or cultural setting, but accepting His choices is part of accepting Him as our God.

In that article we weighed matters from the Hebrew Scriptures; here, we turn to the New Testament. The Levitical Priesthood of the Old Testament served as an illustration of the ultimate priesthood of Jesus Christ (Hebrews chs. 7-10).

In the New Testament, all of God’s people are His witnesses and ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Baptism is a commissioning to ministry. Every believer is called to minister (2 Peter 2:9; Mark 5:19). Is this different than the Old Testament? Hear God’s word to Israel at Sinai:

“And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6).

The priesthood of all believers is not a uniquely New Testament concept. The New Testament continues this priesthood. The Levitical Priesthood and the priesthood of all believers never were in opposition. They were always complementary ministries, different levels of organization and leadership functions, but the same call to a life committed to sharing the good news about our gracious God.

Everything about the Sanctuary pointed to Jesus and His ministry for us—including the Levitical Priesthood. Today, Jesus is our heavenly high priest. This does not eliminate the priesthood of all believers. Neither does this eliminate the qualifications for non-priesthood leadership established in the Old Testament and carried forward in the New. Consider some examples.

Old Testament leadership qualifications:

Moreover you shall select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens (Exodus 18:21).

New Testament leadership qualifications:

This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach; not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?); not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil (1 Timothy 3:1-7).

Notice several similarities. The New Testament “elder” (bishop) is not the continuation of or substitute for the Old Testament Levitical Priest. He is the continuation of or substitute for the Old Testament “ruler” of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens. The qualifications of the Old Testament “ruler” and the New Testament “elder” are virtually the same—including limitation to the male gender!

This is consistent through the Bible, Old and New Testaments alike. In Revelation chapter twelve, God’s people of the Old and New Testament are depicted by a woman clothed in white with a garland of twelve stars on her head representing the twelve patriarchs and the twelve apostles. These are the leaders of the church. When this woman (the church) is first introduced, she is pregnant with a male Child. This must initially represent the Old Testament church because the Child Jesus had not been born yet. In the continuation of the prophecy, she represents the New Testament church to the end. It must not be passed by that both the Old Testament patriarchs as well as New Testament apostles were all male. Why?

Some people insinuate that Jesus was afraid to disturb the social customs of His day, and that is why He chose all men for apostles. This doesn’t fit with the picture of Jesus painted by the four gospel writers. He disturbed all kinds of social customs!

The facts noted above are generally not disputed, but the question is why? Why did God choose male leadership within His Old and New Testament church? And, is it still relevant to us today in a culture that has abandoned any distinctive male leadership role? Is the culture moving toward God’s ideal for humanity, or moving toward corruption? Not only has primary male leadership been challenged, but basic gender identity with it. Clarity of male and female sexual identity is being replaced by a continuum of homosexual and pansexual options. The culture is moving, but toward what?

With gender roles called into question, it will be helpful to look at the New Testament. In Ephesians 5:22-32 the church is represented by the woman and Christ (the head of the church) is represented by the man. Christ is the head of the church, and the husband is the head of the wife (vs. 23). Why?

The wife’s willing submission to her husband’s leadership is a picture of the church’s submission to Christ. The church is symbolized by the woman (vv. 22, 24).

The husband’s self-sacrificing love for his wife is a picture of Christ’s self-sacrificing love for His church. Therefore, Christ is symbolized by the man (25-32). But we still need to answer “Why?”

Paul begins to answer in 1 Timothy 2:11-15. The context of this admonition is the church setting not the family setting. The next 16 verses delineate the qualifications for elders and deacons in the church. In this passage Paul begins to answer why male leadership is God’s will for His church.

“Let a woman learn in silence” . . . “not permit a woman to teach” (vv. 11, 12). What does this mean? The next phrase helps us to understand: “or to have authority over a man”. In other words, the male leadership role is preserved in the New Testament. But why? Upon what basis is it established? The next verses tell why:

“For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression” (1 Timothy 2:13, 14).

Why is male-specific leadership embraced in the New Testament? Two reasons: 1) Because it was established by God at creation before sin entered the world. 2) Eve was deceived, but Adam was not. In other words, the man transgressed knowingly and deliberately whereas the woman did not. Therefore the man is held responsible for sin! This is why Jesus is called the second Adam and not the second Eve. The remedy for sin had to come from the very place where sin entered.

Titus 2:1-5 addresses roles again, and here we find the basis of authority for these roles. Paul forms a list of admonitions for men and women in the church. Among these we find the admonition for women to be “obedient to their own husbands, [why?] that the word of God may not be blasphemed” (vs. 5). The word of God spoken of here is obviously the Old Testament (the New was still in process of being written). The part of the Old describing male/female roles is the creation account. We’ll look there in a moment.

Gender roles are also addressed in 1 Corinthians 14:33, 34. “For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says.”

The interesting point emphasized here is the reason for this admonition. Paul again addresses the “Why” question—“as the law also says.” What is he referring to here? The first five books of the Bible were considered the book of the law. Therefore the first three chapters of Genesis were part of the “law.” Here he appeals to the leadership role established by God at creation. The authority for his position is the “law” of the “word of God.”

One more New Testament passage speaking to “Why” question of male/female roles is 1 Corinthians 11. “But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God” (vs. 3).

Christ is the head of every man as we have seen that He is the head of the church. But on the human level, within the church and within the family, male leadership is again affirmed. Paul sees this leadership function in the Godhead themselves. Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all equal and all “God.” But there is an established headship (leadership) order. This sets the pattern for the home and church. Here is further help answering the “Why” question.

Proceeding from that same passage there are more answers. “For man is not from woman, but woman from man. Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man. For this reason the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels” (vs. 8-10).

Under inspiration Paul was repeatedly led to refer back to the leadership roles established at creation. Repetition is God’s way of emphasizing the importance of a truth. We will consider the creation account next, but first let’s analyze the phrase “because of the angels.”

What is this all about? Satan and his angels refused to submit to God’s leadership. However, the holy angels did submit even though they didn’t have all their questions answered at that time. The holy angels are God’s church in heaven. Women have an awesome privilege to represent God’s church both on earth and in heaven! When we see the significance of the roles God is calling both men and women to in home and church, we are led to fall on our faces exclaiming “God be merciful to me a sinner” (Luke 18:13)!

Since Paul refers to the creation account for authority so frequently, let’s consider what he was basing his theology on. In Genesis 1:26, 27 we find that God created only two sexes (male and female). Notice the order in which they are given. It is never female and male (Genesis 5:2).

Genesis 2 and 3 include the following facts:

— God created the man from dust; whereas the woman was made from man

— God gave instructions to the man, not the woman (implying that the man was to pass God’s instructions on to the woman—be the woman’s instructor)

— The woman is made man’s helper (the man was not made the woman’s helper)

— Adam names the animals and names the woman

— Eve sinned first and then invited Adam to join her

— God addressed Adam with the question “where are you?” He didn’t say “Eve where are you?”

— God drove Adam from the garden (of course we know that Eve went with him)

Over and over we see the Scriptural source of Paul’s teaching of male headship in home and church. His authority for saying that the woman should not be in positions of ruling authority over the man is rooted in the account of creation (Genesis one and two) and the fall into sin by our first parents (Genesis three).

One fact must be emphasized at this point. Even though Eve was the first to sin, and it was Eve who presented the temptation to Adam, Adam is the one held responsible for sin. Speaking of Adam, Paul says “through one man sin entered the world” (Romans 5:12-19; 1 Corinthians 15:21-22, 45). Adam was held responsible because he was not deceived; he surrendered his leadership role and failed to stand up for what was right. He abdicated his leadership role to Eve.

God never released him from that role. He continues to hold the man responsible in the home and in the church. The question that God asked Adam is the question He is asking men today, Adam “where are you?”

Now let’s return to Aaron’s rod that budded. How does all of this relate? Is there anything in the New Testament that would indicate that even at the end of time, Aaron’s budding rod has significance?

Since Jesus didn’t enter the Most Holy Place phase of His ministry until the time of the end, let’s turn to the end of time book—Revelation. In chapter eleven we find an interesting word picture. During the sounding of the seventh trumpet (everyone agrees that that is at the very end of time) when the nations are angry and the judgment concludes, we find the Ark of the Covenant again brought to view in the final verse of that chapter. “Then the temple of God was opened in heaven, and the ark of His covenant was seen in His temple” (vs. 19).

This passage does not tell us what is in the Ark, but we see from other passages in Revelation that it must at least contain the Ten Commandments (Revelation 12:17; 14:12). But what about the bowl of manna and Aaron’s rod that budded?

In Revelation 2:17 Jesus offers “hidden manna” to those who overcome. This manna is called “hidden” because it was kept inside the Ark of the Covenant next to the Ten Commandments. We also find the spiritual significance of that bowl of manna being described in Revelation. Remember, the manna pointed to two important truths: 1) the Sabbath and 2) God’s provisions in time of need. Notice how these are referenced in the Book of Revelation:

1. “Worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water” (14:7). This is a clear reference to worshipping the Creator on the day He made for worship—the Sabbath.

2. “Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues” (18:4). Those who come out of Babylon and follow Jesus will be protected from the plagues (see also Psalm 91)!

We can see that in the last days of earth’s history the Ten Commandments and the bowl of manna have significant meaning to God’s church. But what about the principle of chosen leadership—the principle Aaron’s budding rod speaks to? Does Scripture mention anything about church leadership at the end of time?

For the answer, we again turn to the book of Revelation. As we have seen earlier, chapter twelve depicts the church as a woman clothed with the sun (a fit symbol of the righteousness of Jesus) and wearing a victor’s crown of twelve stars on her head. This is the church Satan tries to destroy and makes special war against her last remaining offspring at the end of time. These twelve stars clearly represent the leadership God provided His church through the twelve patriarchs and the twelve apostles. God’s criteria for choosing leadership in the New Testament are identical as it was in the Old Testament. From Genesis to Revelation there is consistency.

God’s order of leadership in the New Testament church is the same as in the Old. The evidence is exhaustive. More examples:

— “Husband of one wife” (1 Timothy 3:2 even though some modern Bibles translate this “one spouse”).

— “Husband of one wife” (Titus 1:5, 6 referring to “elders in every city”).

— Only men were considered for Judas’ replacement as the twelfth apostle. God missed a good opportunity after the cross to change the order of leadership if that was His desired intent (Acts 1:21-23, 14).

— The New Testament leaders appointed elders in every church. These elders joined with the apostles in forming the decision making body in the Jerusalem council. According to Paul who was present at that council, these were men (Acts 14:23; 15:4, 6; 1 Timothy 3:2).

— “Since His ascension, Christ has carried forth his work on earth through His ambassadors, through whom He speaks to the children of men and ministers to their needs. The great Head of the church superintends His work of the church through the instrumentality of men ordained by God to act as His representatives” (Acts of the Apostlesi, p. 360).

— Isaiah, the gospel prophet lamented because the leaders in Jerusalem and Judah were leading the people astray: “As for My people, children are their oppressors, And women rule over them. O My people! Those who lead you cause you to err, And destroy the way of your paths” (Isaiah 3:12).

The male role of leadership does not put men on a pedestal above women, nor does it say that men are more talented, capable, or intelligent than women. Men and women are equal! The leadership role that men are called to is servant leadership—leadership identical to what Jesus demonstrated—humble and self-sacrificing (Ephesians 5:23-32). Men are called to raise a bulwark against sin and evil in the home and in the church, and to direct everyone to Jesus, the Lamb of God—our only hope of salvation!

Women are called to represent the Lamb’s wife, the church who has made herself ready for the marriage supper. “And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints” (Revelation 19:8).

Aaron’s rod that budded is a continual and sacred reminder that God is a God of order and He has a reason for choosing the leadership He has ordained. His word will stand forever no matter what culture says or does.

God has called men to a sacred and awesome responsibility. They are held responsible for sin in this world. So I challenge the men to stand up and be godly leaders and say “No” I will not cave into the culture around me! I challenge you not to be like Adam and run and hide and blame the woman and abdicate your role to her. Adam, where are you?

BIOGRAPHICAL INFO: Wayne Kablanow is a pastor and planter of churches in the Northwest. He presently serves the Airway Heights and West Plains churches in the Spokane Washington area and as church growth coordinator for the Upper Columbia Conference of Seventh-day Adventists