An Inclusive Theology For Christian Ministry

An Inclusive Theology For Christian Ministry

Women And Ministry Seminar, Tabor College Perth, 6 July 1996

Lecturer: John Yates




1. ‘Inclusive’:

- opposite of excluding on the basis of prejudice (pre-judgment)

- will resolve into a question about the nature of the gospel of the kingdom of God

- not to be defined ideologically, but in terms of Christ i.e. the fullness which is in Him, and ours ‘in Him’ (Col. 2:10)


2. ‘Theology’

- not derived from any source (e.g. social sciences) other than the witness of the Word of God

- will relate to the being of God; not abstractly, but God as known in revelation i.e. God ‘for us’


3. ‘Christian Ministry’

- not defined by patterns of leadership or roles outside of the Church

- ministry will be defined by the life and work of Jesus (Mark 10:45; John 13:1-20; Phil. 2:5-11)




1. Genesis 1:26-28

26 God said,

“Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

27 God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.’

28 blessed them and said to them “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air andover every living creature that moves on the ground.”


a. The foundational biblical creation text.


b. The starting point for understanding the ‘image of God’, and so what it means to be human in all relationships.


c.         ‘let us’ (v.26) -           Christian theology refers this to the Trinity

-           unity in diversity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit

-           God is (inwardly) being-in-relation (love).

d. The meaning of ‘man’ being created in the ‘image of God’ is made clearer by the order of the Hebrew word sequence:

a                                 b                     c

1. And created                God              man in his image

c’                                b’                    a’

2. in the image            of God             created he him

c”                               b”                   a”

3. male and female          he               created them.


Lines 1 and 2 form a reverse parallel (chiasm), but line 3 is a complementary parallel to line 2.

This means: (i) ‘image of God’ in line 2 = ‘male and female’ in line 3.

(ii) the ‘them’ of line 3 (a”) is ‘male and female’ (c”) of the same line, and so             is equivalent to ‘man’ in line 1(c).

In other words: male- and – female = image of God.,


In terms of an order of authority this is:

God > Adam > Eve >Animals


c. If (ii) then the boundaries of super-ordination and sub-ordination outlined in this text are limited to marriage. It is clear that from the point of her creation out of Adam, Eve is his wife (2:25). The repeated mention of husband and wife throughout the temptation story and its consequence (3:6,8,16,17,20) reinforces this. Finally, the judgements pronounced in 3:16 relate to the marriage situation


d. It seems that Genesis 2:18-24 expounds the way in which man and woman in the covenant of marriage will fill out the original command of Genesis 1:28.



a. The Fall is a reversal of the true order of creation (Gen. 3:1-7).


Animals > Eve > Adam > God


b. The judgements of Genesis 3:14-24 restore the original order but in such a way that they will be attended by conflict and suffering.


c. The dominance of the husband referred to in 3:16 is a description of the outworking of divine wrath. As such it cannot be taken as normative for any male-female relationships.


d. In practice, male dominance and oppression in general can be viewed as a result of human rebellion and divine judgement.


N.B: Male perceptions of women are first formed of mothers who are wives under the God-ordained authority of husbands.




1. The Plan of God


a. The plan of God is an outworking of the eternal inner trinitarian life of God.All things will be worked out in the order: ‘from’ the Father, ‘through’ the Son and ‘by’ the Holy Spirit (Rom. 11:36; 1 Cor. 8:6; Eph. 1:11-13; 2:18 etc.)


b. This order involves a unity of mutual love that expresses itself in the obedience of the Son to the Father. The super-ordination and subordination in God is for the purpose of service and other-centred glory e.g. John 17:1-4.


c. To submit to the Father in His earthly life (humiliation) is the glory of the Son, to elevate the Son with authority is the glory of the Father (exaltation) e.g. Phil. 2:5-11.


d. It is precisely in His obedience in love for the Father, and pre-eminently in the cross, that Jesus is the image and glory of God (2 Car. 4:4).


e. The authority which Jesus possesses, both over the Church and the universe (Matt. 28:18; John 17:2; Eph. 1:22, 5:23; Col. 1:18) is given to Him as the obedient suffering Servant of the Lord (cf Luke 24:26).


f. It is because he has given his life for the world and the Church (Mark 10:45; John 6:51; 10:14ff; Eph. 5:25 etc) that he has this authority. As the mediator of eternal life he has authority to give life.


g. The purpose of the plan of God, outworked by the present authority of Jesus, is that everything might be summed up and reconciled to God through Christ (Eph. 1:10; 2:16; Col. 2:18-20). The ultimate goal is a new humanity and a new creation ‘in Christ’ (2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:15; Eph. 2:15) giving honour to the Father.


2. The Means of the New Creation


a. The means by which this plan will be accomplished is the Incarnation:

‘the Word became flesh’ (John 1:14 cf. I Cor 15:47; Gal. 4:4; Phi!. 2:6,8; Héb. 2:9,14).


b. Since Jesus will be the head of a new order of creation, he is the ‘second Adam’ (Rom;5:12 if; 1 Cor. 15:22,45 if) who represents all men and women.


c. The reconciliation of the fractured and rebellious condition of fallen creation under the wrath of God (objectively) achieved at the cross (John 12:31; Rom. 5:10; 2 Cor. 5:18-19).


d. This includes the undoing of the alienation between men and women due to the Fall (Gen. 3).

e. The resurrection is the beginning of the new world order, for Jesus has died to the old age of sin and now lives to God (Rom. 6:9-10).


3. The Content of the New Creation


a. The content of the new creation is Christ (Ram. 6:4-5). So to be ‘in him’ is to be in the new creation realised in him by his resurrection from the dead. (Ccl. 2:9-10).

What Christ has received from the Father – authority to rule all things for the Church (Eph. 2:22), he shares with his body so that it is his fullness (Eph. 2:23).


b. If the new creation in Christ is a genuinely eternal or eschatological reality, then the relationships within the body of Christ must be genuinely eschatological. Men and women must essentially relate in ways which will be permanent and witness to the reality of heaven. This excludes a male:female pattern of superordination: subordination.




c. This includes a share in the gifts of ministry (Eph. 4:9-11), which are an expression of Christ’s risen life. Through these gifts Jesus is bringing about relational reconciliation upon the earth (2 Cor. 5:20) both by building up his body and by putting his enemies under his feet (Eph. 4:11-13; 1 Car 15:25). This is the coming of the kingdom of God with power, the message and ministry of which is the content of Christian service (Cal. 4:11).


d. The gifts of ministry are our sharing in Jesus’ reception of authority as the exalted of the Father. These gifts are in principle available to be received equally by men and women for the service of Christ, as we are all equally sons of the Father through the Son (Ram. 8:15-17; Gal. 4:4-7).


f. Gifts and ministries then are diverse expressions of sonship received in Christ. Means by which we share in His inheritance (for His sake and that of others) to the glory of the Father (cf. Phil. 2:11).


g. Neither men nor women then should look upon ministry as a means of self-gratification, personal advancement or spiritual promotion. The form of ministry in Christ is the form of the life of Christ, sacrificial love for the sake of others. We are called to submit to the Son as he disperses the gifts of the Father for the cause of bringing glory to God. This is to truly live as sons. To refuse to either receive from God, or to receive from those whom God has appointed to give (women or men), is to deny the glory of God.


h. Such giving and receiving is possible only by living under the authority of the risen Christ (Ram. I :3-4) who must be submitted to through ‘the obedience of faith’ (Rom. 1:5).


i. The personal presence of the risen Christ is realised through the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:33; 17-18) who is the power of the coming age (Heb. 6:5) where all things will be made new (Rev. 21:5).





a. The institution of marriage precedes both the event of the Fall and the order of redemption. Marriage therefore is a genuine and permanent creation order.


b. Jesus teaches that marriage belongs to this age only (Luke 20:34-36). As such, marriage is not a genuine eschatological or new creation order.


c. In Ephesians 5:31 -32 Paul refers to Genesis 2:24: “‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh”. This is a profound mystery – but I am talking about Christ and the Church.’


The union of husband and wife in marriage is a type or pattern of the essential reality which is Christ as Ideal Husband and Church as Ideal Wife. This latter order is genuinely eschatological, and so eternal.


d. As a genuine creation order in the present time the superordination – subordination pattern for husband and wife remains in all conceivable circumstances of marriage.


e. Since in the Church both husband and wife receive from Christ as Head and Husband, then nothing in the order of redemption in Christ (in terms of ministry) contradicts the order of marriage. A husband may receive ministry in the Church from his wife as she represents Christ for this is not part of her role as his wife.



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