Filled with the Holy Spirit, Pentecostal Christians should love others selflessly and unconditionally. This past weekend, Pastor Kong Hee taught that if one is truly in the Spirit, there would be no discrimination against people of different social classes, races and sexes.
3 and 4 June marked the first weekend after Pentecost Sunday. Senior pastor of City Harvest Church Kong Hee explained what it meant when on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was poured out on all flesh. “The Holy Spirit broke down every social barrier, cultural barrier and privilege barrier—barriers that are destructive to the coming of God’s kingdom here on earth,” he taught.
Pastor Kong explained this using Acts 2:17-18, emphasising that the Holy Spirit was given to men and women, young and old, rich and poor. He also quoted Paul’s teaching in Galatians 3:28: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” According to the pastor, what Paul preached was counter-cultural in a society that separated the Jews and Gentiles.
Bringing this into the context of the modern world, Pastor Kong said, “You must never tolerate racism of any kind.”
GOD CREATED MEN AND WOMEN TO BE EQUAL
Back then in the Roman Empire, women had no legal rights and were considered the property of men. Women were not allowed leadership positions at home or in the community, among many other struggles.
“Is there still discrimination against women in our modern world today?” Pastor Kong challenged. “Of course, there is. We see it in the marketplace and even in the church—but I believe tonight, the Holy Spirit wants to change all of that.”
Bringing them to Galatians 3:28, Pastor Kong reminded the congregation that the Bible teaches the equality of all races, ethnicities, social classes and genders, as everyone is equally redeemed by Jesus, and equally gifted by the Holy Spirit to serve God. Zooming in to gender equality, the pastor shared that many women in the early church—including Lydia (Acts 16), Priscilla (Acts 18), Junia (Rom 16), Euodia and Syntyche (Phil 4)—have been given spiritual authority by the Spirit to take up powerful leadership roles.
This can also be seen in the Old Testament. Even within the context of an ancient, conservative society, God raised up women like Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Miriam, Deborah, Esther and Ruth, giving them spiritual authority to play major roles in His salvation plan.
Despite this, many still think that women are inferior to men, and that men are leaders while women are followers. “As Pentecostals, you cannot accept this kind of mindset because it is simply unbiblical,” urged Pastor Kong. “The Bible teaches that both men and women are called to serve at all levels of the church. Leadership is based on gifting, not gender.”
Going back to God’s original plan for mankind, Pastor Kong noted that in the beginning, both Adam and Eve were created in God’s image (Gen 1:27). God blessed both of them and gave them dominion over every other living thing.
“It was co-leadership,” Pastor Kong said. “From the very beginning, Adam and Eve were to rule over God’s creation together, not over one another.”
In the order of things, Adam was created first, before Eve was created as his helper. Pastor Kong explained that the word “helper” is translated as ezer in Hebrew, which means “saviour”. “God created Eve to save Adam from difficult situations. She is to be his source of strength, not just his passive follower,” the pastor explained.
“In the beginning, before sin came into the picture, before the fall of the human race, God created man and woman to be equal in value and function,” he added. “One was not above or better than the other.”
While Genesis 1 depicts God’s perfect plan, Genesis 3:16 foretells how husbands would rule over their wives after the Fall.
“The dominion of the husband over the wife is the curse of sin,” said Pastor Kong. “But on the day of Pentecost, something amazing happened. The Holy Spirit came and brought equality back again.”
BREAKING THE GENDER BARRIER
How then can we revert to God’s original plan? The answer is in the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:17-18). “The question is not whether you’re traditional or conservative; it has everything to do with how Spirit-filled you are,” Pastor Kong said. “You cannot be filled with the love of the Holy Spirit and still discriminate (against women) or be chauvinistic in your heart.”
Pastor Kong went on to debunk some common interpretations of Bible verses. The first was 1 Corinthians 11:3, where Paul wrote to the Corinthian church: “But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.” Some Christians interpret this verse to assume that men need to be leaders over women in marriage, the home and the church.
However, Pastor Kong disagrees. “If this is how you read the verse, you will encounter a very big problem, because it says that the head of Christ is God. Is Jesus inferior and subordinated to God? No, of course not.” In fact, Philippians 2:6 states that Christ is equal to God. In the Holy Trinity, the Father, Son and Spirit are equal.
To help the congregation understand 1 Corinthians 11:3, Pastor Kong taught that the word “head” translates to kephale in Greek, which means “source”. This means that the source of every man is Christ, the source of women is man, and the source of Christ is God. That is true in creation, as Eve came from the side of Adam. Similarly, in the incarnation, Jesus was born when God took on human flesh. “Paul is talking about the order of things, not on who is the leader or who has the authority,” the pastor said.
This is further shown in the same chapter, where Paul first mentioned that a woman came from a man (v8), and then in v12 there was a reversal—man was now born of a woman—before concluding that “all things are from God”. According to Pastor Kong, this means that the ultimate source is God and that men and women are equal under God.
He then pointed the congregation to Ephesians 5, which reveals what a Spirit-filled church should possess: godly fellowship, spiritual worship, gratitude and finally, mutual submission (v21). Expounding on the last of these, he said that Paul used that statement as a summary of how husband and wife must treat each other—submission must happen in both directions.
The rest of Ephesians 5 continues to describe what mutual submission should look like in the marriage. In v22, Paul does not expand on a wife’s submission, except that it should be done to the Lord. Pastor Kong guessed that Paul needed no elaboration as historically and culturally, women already knew what was expected of them.
From v23, however, Paul shifted his attention to the husbands. While the verse is often used as a proof text to promote male leadership, Pastor Kong reminded the congregation that the word “head” here is the same translation of the Greek word for source, kephale. In v25, it is written that husbands should love their wives just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her.
To this, Pastor Kong said, “Jesus laid down His life in extravagant love for His church. Jesus came not to be the boss, not to be served, but to serve. He humbled himself to be the servant of all.”
He added, “Like Jesus, men and husbands, you must love your wife selflessly, unconditionally and sacrificially.”
While some may argue that the Bible never explicitly mentions that husbands must submit to their wives, Pastor Kong debunked this argument by stating that it also does not explicitly state that wives must love their husband. Yet, mutual love is a given.
“Submission and love, they are synonymous,” the pastor shared. “You submit because you love, and when you love, you willingly submit. Paul is calling all the men—if you are full of the Holy Spirit, you cannot be disrespectful of women. You cannot be chauvinistic; you cannot be misogynistic. You cannot be prejudiced against them, or treat them like they’re inferior because Jesus Christ does not treat you this way.”
Who, then, has the authority in a marriage? Pastor Kong shared that the only verse in the New Testament that mentions authority in marriage is 1 Corinthians 7:4. From the verse, it can be understood that authority is mutual and that there is complete equality in marriage.
The pastor then encouraged women who are gifted to be leaders—at home, in their careers or in church—to fulfil their visions and dreams. At the same time, he also told them to exercise their leadership with the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control.
“The husband’s role is to help maximise his wife’s potential, and the wife’s role is to help maximise her husband’s potential. This is not a competition; this is an equal partnership, a mutuality, a co-leadership,” he said.
“As Biblical Christians and Pentecostals, we believe both men and women are equally created in God’s image. Both are equally redeemed by Lord Jesus. The Holy Spirit equally anoints both to serve. Both have equal responsibilities in the family, and both can exercise equal authority according to the measure of the grace and the anointing given by the Holy Spirit,” he added.
In closing, Pastor Kong challenged the men in the congregation who may have held dishonouring attitudes towards women to change their mindset. He encouraged women who have been discouraged to be brave to rise up and serve in their calling. He prayed for members of the congregation to be filled with the love of the Holy Spirit, humbling themselves the way Jesus did, and submitting to one another.
The service ended with a heart-warming birthday celebration for CHC’s executive pastor, Sun Ho, led by her husband Pastor Kong—a timely and living example of co-leadership in the church.