Our society places great pressure on people to conform; it also asks us to “rethink” or “restudy” some of the time-honored doctrines which may go against the grain of contemporary practices. Many in the church attempt to limit certain texts to a specific time in history or culture, when a correct interpretation would demand a wider application.
The Role of Women in the Church has become a very widely debated and embittered issue. The misguided complaint seems to propose that any attempt to limit the position of elder-pastor-overseer to males only, is based on Scripture that was the product of a male-dominated society and therefore does not bear authority in today’s society.
The proponents of this egalitarian thought (opponents to Biblical Theology) will sight 1Tim. 2:11-12, as an example of the male dominating culture: “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.”
They say this mentality was limited to Paul’s culture which was patriarchal. Let’s look at the text and see if there are any time indicators present which would limit the authority of the Scripture to any certain time limitation.
1Tim 2:13-15 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing–if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.
Although many insist that the intent of the passage is limited to the patriarchal society of the first century, Paul is clearly appealing to the beginning of time (v.13) (creation and Fall) to support his conclusion. He is saying, “this has to do with God’s order of creation.”
Are there any theological implications that would limit the text to a specific period of time? No! Notice that 1Tim. 2:15 appeals to childbearing. If this passage were limited to the first century, Paul could have used some other point that would be limited to that time, but instead, he used “childbearing,” applicable to all women, cultures, and time periods.
God ordains that pastors and elders in the church be men. This is not some personal bias on Paul’s part as some claim today, but he is merely reinforcing God’s original plan of headship. The submissive role of women was designed by God in creation and affirmed by His judicial act in response to the Fall.
The real blessing for women is found in the woman’s bearing of children. She is saved from seeking the role of a man and from identification as a second-class person by giving birth to children and being occupied with them. It is the woman who has the major influence on a child’s early development and training.
God has designed and called women to give birth to children, to nurse, caress, teach, comfort and encourage them in their most formative years — in a way that fathers can never do.
When the church tries to operate apart from God’s system of authority it creates confusion and heresy. When Mary Baker Eddy took to herself the role of Pastor-Teacher, Christian Science was born. When Mrs. Charles Fillmore took to herself the same prerogatives, the Unitarian Church was born. When Aimee Semple McPherson began preaching, Foursquare pentecostalism was born.
Just as with leaders in government, it is not that church leaders are inherently superior to other Christians or that men are inherently superior to women; but no institution can function without a system of authority and submission.
The home is the smallest unit of human society and it cannot function if each member fully demands, expresses, and goes his own way. The system of authority that God has ordained in the family is that of husbands leading their wives and parents leading their children.
God commands all Christians –leaders as well as followers, husbands as well as wives, parents as well as children to have the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, he humbled himself and became obedient to death– even death on a cross!
Paul explains in Eph. 5:22-6:9, the structural function of the family, like that of the church and government, requires both authority and submission. Submission is a basic spiritual attitude that is to be true of every believer in all relationships. All believers are spiritual equals in every sense. We are to submit to one another as the Holy Spirit influences us to do so– because of our reverence for the Lord.
Gal. 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Col. 3:11-14 Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love which binds them all together in perfect harmony.
God’s Word is very clear on the issue of who is qualified and called to serve in leadership over God’s people, to accept or teach anything different is heresy. The issue of female ordination is not a “gray” area in Scripture. God’s Word very clearly and repeatedly states that God only calls men to fulfill the responsibilities of shepherding His Flock, His Church, the Body and Bride of Christ, all true Christians.
Eph. 5:22-26 Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word.
Titus 2:1, 4 You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine…women are to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home…subject to their own husbands…SO THAT NO ONE WILL MALIGN THE WORD OF GOD.
1Tim. 4:11-16 Command and teach these things…. set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you. Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.
1 Peter 5: 1-3 “To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers — not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.”
The man called to serve in this way is referred to by three different terms:
Elder [presbuteros] = Who the man is: spiritual maturity and character. Shepherd/pastor [poimen] = How he ministers: teaching, leading, protecting.
Overseer/bishop [episkopos] = What he does: guarding, managing the truth.
The masculine gender is always used when speaking of the calling or the qualification for those who would serve as pastors/elders/overseers. This is not up for discussion or vote. God’s Word is sovereign and it clearly commands specific qualifications for those whom God calls into spiritual leadership.
“Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task. Now the overseer, the husband of but one wife, He must manage his own family well…He must!” (1Tim. 3:1-7)
“An elder must be…the husband of but one wife, a man whose children…” Since an overseer is entrusted with God’s work, “He must” (Titus 1:6-9).
“Deacons, likewise, are to be men”; the husband, [he] must manage his children and household well” (1Tim. 3:8, 12).
This is not a cultural or social issue, or a chauvinistic dogmatism, this is God’s inerrant, authoritative, and eternal Word. Yes, we are all equal in salvation, but God has ordained that we serve in different roles and functions, and this is His sovereign plan. It is not prudent, in fact, it is arrogant and dangerous for the created to assume that it can pick and chose to agree or disagree with the clear revelation of the Creator.