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!
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. ~2 Timothy 2:15
- I am a young man who is following God's call into pastoral ministry. I have been so blessed with the privileges which the Lord has granted me. I am blessed to serve the Mt. Joy congregation in Mt. Pleasant, PA. I am constantly humbled and amazed at what the Lord is doing in my life.