Should a woman be licensed and ordained as a pastor of a church? How about a woman preaching? Or teaching? Some denominations and churches say yes. Others argue no. What roles has God designed for women to play in His household, the church?
Currently we are studying the book of 1 Timothy in our Wednesday night
Bible Study. Last night we came to the last few verses of chapter 2; the
ones that deal with the proper role of men and women in the church. I
think that this passage, verses 11-15 in particular, provides a clear
answer to the questions posed above. I believe that we can put the
debate to rest with this passage understood in the light of the full
complete revelation of God's Word. Allow me to show you. (Grab your
Bible and consider my argument. At least give it a hearing before
wanting to argue against it.)
The context of this instruction pertaining to women appears to be that
of the church assembly. Why do I say that? Because right before he
discusses the conduct of women, Paul speaks of his desire for the men in
every place to pray without anger or quarreling (v. 8). This best would
be understood as the men gathering together for a time of prayer as a
congregation. It would not make much sense to be a private practice of
prayer of individuals. For there to be discord and fighting, it must be
referring to a public gathering of the church for prayer. Also, right
after talking about the women, Paul moves on to speak of the
characteristics of the leaders of a congregation, the elders and deacons
(3:1-13). And if that is not enough to show that the issue concerns how
women are presenting themselves and being instructed in the church
itself, just look at the apostle's statement in 3:14-15; "I hope to come
to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay,
you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is
the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth." What
precedes deal with the proper "behavior" in the church.
So, what does Paul say is the proper "behavior" of women in the church?
First, they must be more concerned about godliness instead of their
personal appearance (vv. 9-10). Second, they are to "learn quietly with
all submissiveness" (v. 11). Now this cannot mean that they cannot talk
at all in a worship service. We have to keep in mind what else Paul has
written in his other letters. He speaks of women praying and prophesying
in a worship service in 1 Corinthians 11:5 so we should not take this
as a blanket statement. In fact, Paul clarifies what he means with them
learning in silence submissively in the very next verse. It is them not
teaching or exercising leadership over men but listening to their
teaching and submitting to their leadership. Obviously one of the
problems in the church at Ephesus where Timothy is serving when Paul
writes this letter was that some of the ladies wanted to be leaders of
the congregation. Paul is clear that that is not permitted.
And why does Paul not permit it? Not because he was sexist or against
women in any way. But because God has designed it this way. He goes on
to point out that "Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not
deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor" (v. 13).
He directs us back to God's very creation of man. How He intended man
to be the leader of the wife that He had given him. The Fall did not
change God's intention. Just look at 1 Corinthians 11:3 and Ephesians
5:22-33. God has called men to take the lead. To take the lead in their
homes and also in His household, the church. And we see this
demonstrated throughout Scripture. Who did Jesus Christ choose to be the
first leaders of the Church He gave His life for? Twelve men (Matthew
10:1-4/Mark 3:13-19/Luke 6:12-16). Who did the apostles instruct the
early church to pick for the task of taking care of the neglected
widows? "Seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom"
(Acts 6:3). Even in the Old Testament case of Deborah, a man was called
to take the lead, but that man, Barak, like too many men today, failed
to step up to the plate (Judges 4:4-9).
This means that we cannot simply dismiss this passage in 1 Timothy as
something that only applied temporarily to the situation at Ephesus.
While certainly Paul is addressing an issue in that church, they were
guilty of breaking a principle that applied to all churches. After all,
he bases it upon Scripture. Furthermore, Paul says something very
similar to the church in Corinth and makes sure to specify that it
applies to women "in all the churches," not just that congregation (1
Corinthians 14:34). In the original Greek of that verse, the very first
words are "the women in all the churches," clearly indicating that this
is God's design for women everywhere. His mention of "the Law" very well
could be referring back to the Genesis account of creation, which is
part of what the Jews would call "the Law," the first five books of our
Bible. The same place Paul went in 1 Timothy.
In light of such teaching, I cannot support a woman serving as a pastor;
a position that by its very nature would require someone to teach and
have authority over a man. But let me be clear! I think that we need
more women in various areas of ministry. Not every role in the
congregation entails teaching or having authority over men. There are
many other places that a lady can serve in a church than behind the
pulpit as a shepherd. We need you women!!! Titus 2:3-5 talks about older
women teaching younger women. As I mentioned to the group gathered at
the study last night, there are far better ways that a woman can
disciple another woman than I can as pastor. And that is true in any
congregation. We also can use more women involved in children's
ministries. And the list of the ways that a woman can appropriately
serve goes on and on. No one, gentleman or lady alike, has an excuse not
to participate in the work of a local congregation. God has called all
and will equip all to serve in some capacity.
Why is it that we have denominations and congregations today with women
as pastors or other major areas of leadership when Scripture indicates
that God has designed man to lead? I think that it is a case where our
culture, which shuns gender roles and even gender itself now, has become
a greater influence than the Word of God. The gender equality promoted
today has blinded some to the beauty of the perfect way that the sexes
are to compliment each other with their differing roles. This is true
both in the home and in the church. I have come to a greater realization
as I continue to preach God's Word just how counterculture it is. It
goes against just about everything that the world encourages. So it
really shouldn't surprise us that men leading in their homes and the
church with women submitting to their leadership is so unpopular.
Instead, what is surprising are churches going along with culture rather
than the Word of God. The very opposite of what should be.
Love in Christ,
Soli Deo Gloria!