Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Role of Women In The Church

Scripture vs Feelings

I know this is a very hot topic within the church today but this issue isn't a matter of personal interpretation nor is it an issue where we should let our feelings determine our view on the role of women in the Church. The issue of a woman's role in the church has been steered so far from what scriptures says that we as Christians must be concerned and must look to God's word for our answers. Culture does not dictate our roles as women in the Church. God has spoken through His word concerning the role of women in the Church and His design and plans are ALWAYS perfect, for our good, and for His glory! The deeper issue is rather we will allow our feelings about this issue to dictate what we believe or will we allow God's word to dictate what we believe?

But I Was Called....

1 Timothy 2: 11-14 prohibits women from exercising authority over man in the church assembly thus women cannot fill the office and role of pastor or teacher. The greek word for "allow in 1 Timothy 2: 12 is used in the NT to refer to allowing someone to do what he desires. This could very well mean that women during Paul's time desired to be pastors and teachers in the church assembly just as there are women today who desire these offices and have chosen to fill them despite what scriptures teach.  Paul did not prohibit women from teaching in other appropriate conditions and circumstances (Acts 18: 26; Titus 2: 3,4). I first want to begin by addressing the issue of being "called" to preach. I have noticed that this is often where women pastors, preachers, etc begin their arguments as to why they believe God calls women to preach. When a person says they are "called" to preach what they are really saying is that they have a desire to preach or teach God's word. However, the scriptures are very clear about the qualifications for all of the offices within the Church. So just because a person has a desire to be a deacon, elder, pastor, etc does not mean they are qualified for that role.

Was The Role Of Women In The Church A Result Of The Fall?

When we look at verse 13 in 1 Timothy 2 we see that the role of women in the Church wasn't a result of the fall but was God's design for women from the beginning. Adam was created first and then Eve from Adam's rib; the bible says Eve was created to be a "helper suitable" for him. Verse 14 says, "And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression." The fall actually corroborates God's divine plan of creation. By nature Eve was not suited to assume the position of ultimate responsibility. By leaving Adam's protection and usurping his headship, she was vulnerable and fell, thus confirming how important it was for her to stay under the protection and leadership of her husband. Adam then violated his leadership role, followed Eve in her sin, and plunged the human race into sinfulness-all connected with violating God's planned roles for the sexes (Romans 5:12-21; 1 Co 15:21,22).

After the fall, we see that one of God's curses upon Eve (and other women after her) involves women wanting to "rule over" [control or overtake] their husbands. Today we see that not only as a struggle between husbands and wives but also within the roles of men and women in the Church. Many women desire to be in positions of leadership over men despite God's Word forbidding women to fill those positions.

Who Is Qualified Then?

1 Timothy 3 is gender specific in the qualifications of an overseer; which is a word that identifies the men who are responsible to lead the Church (1 Tim 5:17; 1 Th 5:12; Heb 13:7). Paul's main purpose for writing 1 Timothy was to instruct Timothy regarding the Church (v. 14,15). Of primary importance to any church is that its leaders be qualified to teach and set the example for the rest. Bishops (pastors, overseers, elders) are responsible to lead (1 Tim 5:17) preach and teach, help the spiritually weak (1 Th 5:12-14), care for the church (1 Pe 5: 1,2), and ordain other leaders (1 Tim 4:14). We can't deny what the scriptures say nor can we dismiss the fact that the qualifications listed in scripture are genter specific! We must not advocate a different doctrine as Paul describes later in 1 Tim 6: 3-5. Just as men are to be the authority in marriage (as it was God's design from the beginning of creation), so in a local church, God has given qualified men the authority to lead the church.

What About Deborah, Miram, and The Other Women Used By God In Scripture?

First I must mention, in the two-thousand-year history of Israel recorded in Old Testament all ongoing leadership positions (like, priests, kings, and prophets who wrote scripture) were filled by men. There is also no woman in the entire Old Testament who had an on-going prophetic ministry. People today who want to advocate women preachers will say, "But there are several women mentioned as prophetess in the Old Testament." That is true. Below is an excerpt from Pastor John MacArthur's sermon on "God's High Calling For Women".

"The first woman listed as a prophetess is Miriam. Miriam is called a prophetess in Exodus 15:20. Miriam is the sister of Moses. She is called a prophetess because and only because she on one occasion led the women of Israel in a great hymn of praise with tymbral and dance wherein God gave her a revelation to speak, a very brief one. But at that time, she was a mouthpiece for God. God chose to speak to those women at that time of praise through her. We know of no other occasion where she ever acted in a prophetic office and had no on-going prophetic ministry. The word prophet or prophetess or to prophesy means to speak forth, obviously having reference to speaking forth the Word of God on that occasion. And she did that. But shows no on- going prophetic work.

The second of the five women called prophetess is a woman named Deborah who appears as a unique instrument of God in Judges chapter 4 and verse 4. She is there called a prophetess only because she was used by God to give a direct revelation from God to a man named Barak. She gave that direct revelation on that unique occasion in the battle that was going on and thus at that moment she was a prophetess. She was speaking on behalf of God. God used her at that time to speak that message to an individual.

Miriam gave her prophecy to women. And Deborah spoke her prophecy basically to a man. But again, we know of no other occasion wherever she engaged herself in any kind of on-going prophetic work.

The third woman mentioned and called prophetess is Huldah, H-u-l-d-a-h. She's mentioned in 2 Kings 22:14 and following and 2 Chronicles 34:22 and following, parallel passages. She is called a prophetess only because she was given a revelation from God as Deborah was to be given to Hilkiah the priest about the coming judgment on Jerusalem and Judah. God spoke through her on that occasion. We know of no other such occasion, none other is ever recorded about her. And we know of no on-going prophetic ministry.

The fourth women called a prophetess is a woman named Noadiah and she is mentioned in Nehemiah 6:14 and is called a false prophetess and so we eliminate her. She was antagonistic against the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem and would have been an ally of Sanballat and Tobiah and the enemies who tried to keep the Jews from rebuilding their city. She was a false prophetess and there have been many women false prophetesses, to be sure.

The fifth one mentioned is the wife of Isaiah. And in Isaiah chapter 8 verse 3, his wife is called a prophetess only because she gave birth to a child whose name had prophetic meaning. She never spoke a prophecy. She simply gave birth to a child whose name had prophetic meaning. And she is called a prophetess only in that sense.

Now you can see from that illustration of the wife of Isaiah that the word prophetess was used in a somewhat general way. So you have five mentioned. One is a prophetess simply because she gave birth to a child whose name had a prophetic meaning.

Another is a false prophetess. And three are called prophetess because on one occasion they spoke a word on behalf of God. But there is, and I repeat again, no on-going prophetic ministry of a woman in the Old Testament.

Teaching anything other than what the bible teaches is sin, and a tolerance that brushes aside biblical truth actually covers up sin. God strongly warns us against adding anything to His word. I say this because many have and continue to attempt to read their own meaning into what the scriptures show and say about women's role in the church. God does not change! Neither is there any new revelation concerning a woman's role in the church. God's word is complete and final!

God's Calling For Women In The Church

It is very important that we allow God's word to speak to us regarding our role as women in the church. I believe one of the most profound examples that we have in scripture of how there can be harmony in different roles is the example of the Trinity. The Trinity consists of three distict persons with three distinct roles yet equal in power and glory and all in complete harmony with one another!

The Planner who makes the plans - God the Father
The one who carries out the plans- God the Son
The one who also carries out the plans as well as keeps and empowers Christians- God the Spirit

There aren't any power struggles within the Trinity. The Bible teaches that both men and women are made in the image of God. We are different of course in a number of ways but we also have different roles. The order of creation has significance in the order of the husband and the wife and marriage is often used as an illustration of Christ and the church. Ephesians 5: 25-27 says, " Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her..." Ephesians 5: 22-24 says, " Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church. He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything."
In Titus 2 we are giving the qualification of a sound church and specifically the role of women in the church. Titus 2:3 says, " Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the younger women to love their husbands, love, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored." So qualified women are given the authority here in Titus 2 to teach and encourage the younger.

What a high calling! We as Christian women have the high calling of encouraging one another in godliness and those of us who are mothers or teach children at church  have the high calling of training our children and other children in the discipline and intruction of the Lord.  It's our sinfulness that causes the roles that God designed for us to result in power struggles of men vs women. The best news of all is that those of us who are in Christ have the capacity to have the harmony within our distict roles that God intended. We can lovingly submit to our husbands as to the Lord and to the godly authority God has placed over us within our local church through qualified Christian men.  It's not easy! But God's grace is sufficient! We must not view our roles as one being more important than the other but both being equally important and apart of God's plan for His creation and for Christ's bride, the church.

Resources Used:

The John MacArthur Study Bible
The Excellent Wife by Martha Peace
Women Counseling Women by Elyse Fitzpatrick.


  1. Yes, there is no more hotly debated issue in the church today that that of women serving as pastors and teachers. Sadly, this issue has taken preeminince in many of our churches, distracting them from effectively proclaiming the Gospel to a lost world desparately in need of more of the Savior and less of the rhetoric.

    Not denying that God has a plan for the authority of local church ministry, and that men should be at the helm of responsiblity for teaching other men, but there needs also to be a balance of respect in the church which would encourage ALL believers-male or female-to use their gifts in the body of Christ. What is frequently seen is that such a bent of male authority and 'rightness' can at the same time quench any spark of joy and growth in a church where otherwise all believers could serve the Lord with gladness, and in a unites spirit offer the wonderful message of salvation to those who need to hear. That truly should be what a body of believers should focus on.

    It also can be observed that many female believers serve the Lord beautifully using gifts of hospitality, mercy, teaching, evangelism, and helps, and that to be frank, much of the local ministry of the church is dependent on women. Men are not necessarily the best teachers, and most women are not inferior or less intelligent than men, and certainly God does have a design for the church to function. What is important to note is that it is the responsibility of men to lead by loving Christian example. And while God has a plan, domineering and demanding male dominance in a church should not exist; rather, as every believer is commanded, we are to be encouraged by each other to 'love and good works'.

    So, do we carry this further and wear headcoverings as a sign of female submission, as written in I Corinthians 11:3-16, since a 'covering' is used to illustrate the order of headship or authority over the woman? Do we pick and choose Scripture to justify our own opinions? Are we all, male or female, to point fingers at each other rather than encourage each other to serve the Lord to our best capacity? Do we say one Scripture such as I Corinthians is addressing the culture of the time, but Titus 2 is not? Are female believers not to question what is taught at all, but to accept any male teaching with meekness? Do women, who by nature are nurturing of children, not even have a capacity to teach them-as some churches would dictate?

    These are questions to ponder and not answer lightly. However, as a female believer, my responsibility first is to my Lord and to serve Him the best way in what He has for me to do, not to sit back and wait for man's assignment. So please excuse, me, I think I will go and serve the Lord as He has opened the way for me to do, in submission to Him and to my husband. My life is filled with joy in doing that. And joy comes from truly following Him.

  2. Dear Sister,

    Thanks for commenting! I want to begin by saying that while I don't think teaching on what the church should look like and how it should function should be labeled as a distraction or rhetoric it should be done in a biblical way.

    The best way to address this issue of role reversal isn't to just emphasize the restrictions of women in ministry but also to emphasize the need for men to develop their teaching abilities. It is the lack of qualified men who are willing and able to teach that is the cause for the growing number of women in teaching positions.

    In order for the gospel to be effectively preached we must have sound theology and have a high level of commitment to honoring and obeying God’s word.

    I agree that there needs to be a level of respect within the local church. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:12-26 we are one body with many members. All believers should be encouraged to use their gifts because every gift is important and unique. With that in mind, leaders are to use their gifts to equip the saints and members are to use their gifts to do the work of service.

    If a church is functioning as the scriptures outline then there will be joy and growth; not always in great numbers but definitely individual growth in godliness. I don’t know if you are calling an emphasis on male leadership a “bent” but either way there should be joy in seeing qualified Christ-exalting men leading the church.

    God will bless that because that is His plan for the church. The primary concerns that Jesus Christ has for His body are its purity (Eph. 5:25-27) and its unity (Phil. 1:27). There can be no purity or unity in a church where there isn’t a high view of scripture and sound theology.

    Part 1....

  3. Part 2....

    You are right there are many women who are serving the Lord using the gifts that God has given them and they are very important to the church but the local ministry should not be dependent on the women but rather on the men. There's a wise saying that the welfare of God's people rises and falls on the men among them. That is absolutely true! We see that this is also true in marriage. If the husband is not leading his family spiritually there will be no direction in the home and everyone in the home will suffer.

    You said that men are not necessarily the best teachers but the qualification is that they must be able to teach not the best at teaching. In scripture there is no distinction between men and women as far as personal worth, intellect, or spiritually are concerned (Gal 3:28). That women function uniquely in God's order, however, submitting to men's authority, is not only affirmed in scripture in 1 Timothy, and 1 Corinthians 11: 3-15 but was apart God's plan from the beginning of creation.

    Now about the head coverings, Paul isn't laying down an absolute law for women to wear veils or coverings in all churches for all times, but is declaring the symbols of the divinely established male and female roles are to be genuinely honored in every culture. As in the case of meat offered to idols (1 Cor 8-9), there is nothing spiritual about wearing or not wearing a covering.

    The context shows Paul is addressing husbands and wives and an understanding of the culture shows that it was custom for women to wear their hair covered and wrapped around in a bun-like fashion. Women who wore their hair loose and hanging down their backs were usually trying to imply sexual availability or a sign of being unmarried.

    In our culture head coverings are not a sign of being married or a sign that we are under the authority of our husband so there is no need for us to wear head coverings. We should wear our wedding rings if we are married as our symbol of marriage.

    Here is a link to an excerpt from a book by Thomas R. Schreiner that goes more in depth on head coverings.

    Also, we should never pick scriptures to justify our own opinion but rather let God's word speak for itself. 1 Corinthians, Titus 2, as well as all scripture must be read in its context. 1 Corinthians does address cultural issues but also addresses the church in general. Titus 2 most certainly applies to the church today as well.

    Last, as a woman you cannot serve God by exercising authority over men because scripture forbids women from such roles of authority so God cannot be glorified in you doing that. In order for us to be recognized by God as obedient members of His church, we must recognize the biblical roles of men and women, fulfill them in our own lives, and help others to achieve greater conformity to them. True joy comes from dying to ourselves and fully submitting to God’s will in every area of our lives.

    As Christian women, we most certainly are called to evangelize the lost, teach other women, teach children, and use our God-given gifts within our local churches but are not designed to exercise leadership over men; rather that be in the home or the church.

    In Christ,