I spoke by e-mail with Pastor Dan Cross, who was a mentor to me a few years back when I needed spiritual direction about how I should proceed with the next part of my life. The direction he pointed me in led God to have me go to school for Biblical Studies. Dan was the Associate Pastor for the church I go to, but left to take the position of Executive Director of the Absentee Shawnee Counseling Services in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, working in the field he always dreamed of working in.
In asking the first question, Does Paul provide a hierarchical structure for marriage and family?, Dan said that Paul, in his epistles, does set up a hierarchy, but a more comprehensive study reveals that authoritative hierarchy is very different for Paul than a worldly perspective. You find that in Ephesians 4 where Paul describes a supportive, nurturing, edifying authority structure.
The second question asked was, “Is Paul a misogynist or an egalitarian?” Paul was definitely an egalitarian. Dan says that clearly the greater admonition is to the man, to be like Christ, and lay his life down for the wife. One can hardly describe that as being misogynistic.
Next question asked was “Would Paul promote women in leadership in the church?” Dan replied, “Ephesians 5:21 sets up a universal dictum to "submitting to one another in the fear of God” (Ephesians 5:21/ NKJV). Then he starts with particular admonitions. But ALL are to abide by verse 21, the mutual submission concept. This concept is quite foreign to a worldly perspective. Yet it is complementary to what was described in Ephesians 4. The concept is all about what Jesus taught about leadership, the servant of all.”
I then asked Dan a few questions of my own because I was curious about their answers. First, I asked him, “Was Paul’s idea of women any different from when he was a Pharisee than after he was converted?” Dan replied that Ephesians doesn’t really give us an answer to this question. But Paul being Jewish, as a Pharisee, would have followed rabbinical codes and mores. After being converted, Paul began to see women for who they truly were to God and then began to treat them as equals.
The next of my questions was “Was submission an ‘all or nothing’ idea for Paul?” His answer was that Ephesians 5 is set against a background in history that Paul was addressing. Women of the time and place were treated somewhat like chattel, however, pagan temple priestesses, would tell fortunes and prophesy, and were known for wild promiscuous sexual rituals in pagan worship. Such women wielded great influence in the temple and attempted to do so in the church. His prescriptions in Ephesians 5 are to correct the situation in Ephesus at the time. To correct this, Paul gave this prescription described in Ephesians 5 for men: “submitting to one another in the fear of God. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones” (Ephesians 5:21, 25-30/ NKJV). So, for Paul submission was an “all” proposition for both men and women.
Then, finally, I asked him the question that a lot of people want to know, Do you think the Apostle Paul was ever married? Dan declined to answer this question based on the fact that Scripture doesn’t tell us and either does Paul, so we leave it at that.
Being a student of the Holy Bible, I agree with Dan’s views on the questions asked. I believe that Paul loved saw women as God did. To Paul, women had brains whether educated or not and could lead churches and do special projects that Paul needed done to keep his ministry going strong. Still, Paul wanted to make sure that men and women followed the precepts of God who placed man above the woman but not in a way that the man could mistreat a woman for his own pleasure or gain.
Ephesians 5 reminds us that we are all equal in the eyes of the God who created us. As we are in God’s eyes, none of us is so special in such a way that we should lord ourselves over others. Paul taught this to those who would listen. The only Lord who is over us is the Lord Jesus Christ. In all things we must follow His ways of life. Paul made Jesus’ ways clear to us so that we would have fruitful relationships with whomever we come in contact in. Dan’s view of women that I know from watching him interact with women at church is that they are God’s creation and can do just about anything a man can do if God is the one guiding them to do what He has called them to do. Dan’s wife is also involved in the same ministry that he is and is enjoying it just as much. Paul, through the Holy Spirit, taught us that women are just as important to God as men are.