“…appoint elders in every city as I commanded you—if a man is blameless, the husband of one wife…”
I made a statement in the last post that shocked some of you–namely, “that women should not pastor churches.” My only concern with that statement is that it may not have appeared as restrictive as I intended it! As we discussed the topic in the Bible study last week, it became clear that more needed to be said. I understand that to make such a statement in our day and age might be setting me up to be branded as a male chauvinist pig, a term that according to about.com was “used in the 1960s among some feminists for some men…who believed that men were superior”. I assure you that nothing could be further from the truth. I am merely trying to be faithful to what the Lord has set forth in His word regardless of how popular or unpopular the truth is.
Just to clarify what was introduced last week, I am NOT saying that women are not gifted to teach. Some are even very able teachers of the word of God! Timothy’s doctrinal foundation was credited to his mother and grandmother. (2Ti 1:5 cmp 2Ti 3:14-15) In Acts 18:25-26, Apollos was preaching boldly in all the light he had, but his knowledge was limited. He knew only about the baptism of John, so God sent a married couple, Aquila and Priscilla, and they both “took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.” In Tit 2:3-5, older women are expected to be “teachers of good things—that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.”
I am also NOT saying that women are spiritually inferior to men. We are on equal footing in Christ. “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. (Gal 3:28) In fact, in Christ, all the church is spoken of as a woman, the bride, and He is the husband. (Eph 5:32) There are also many times in Scripture that women have outshined men in their service to God. As far as we know, only one of the twelve disciples (John) was brave enough to be at the foot of the cross, but the women were faithful to stand with their Lord. (Joh 19:25-26) And remember, it was a woman to whom Christ first appeared after His resurrection because she was first at the tomb, and when she ran excitedly to tell the men, they didn’t believe her! (Mk 16:9-11)
So, what am I saying? I’m saying that, according to the Scriptures, women are not to be in teaching roles over men within the church. As Paul is instructing Timothy in 1Ti 2:8-3:15 on “how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God” (3:15), right in the middle of that instruction he writes, “Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.” (1Ti 2:11-12) This word is that of an apostle of Jesus Christ, and we must remember that God chose these men to set forth the foundation upon which His church would be built! (Eph 2:19-20) We are not merely reading Paul’s opinion. We’re reading that which God preserved to be a part of Scripture which is “given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2Ti 3:16-17)
Another text I mentioned last week was 1Co 14:34-35 which reads, “Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church.” This instruction is written to the church as if it should be obvious because God’s law clearly put women under the authority of the men in their lives–first their fathers and then their husbands if they married. (e.g. Gen 3:16, Num 30:3-13) Let’s consider a moment the context of these verses written to the Corinthians. The whole chapter is about the proper order (v. 40) that God has defined when the saints assemble together (v. 26). A church service in Corinth was like a three-ring circus. Everybody had to be seen and heard! They were all jabbering in various tongues at the same time, and if someone had entered from the outside, they would have thought they had just stepped into a psychiatric hospital! (v. 23) Paul reminded them that the purpose of coming together was to edify the church as a whole (v. 12, 26), and so the emphasis should be on prophesying (v. 3), which simply means to speak that which the church needs to hear as inspired by God. In other words, prophesying is preaching led by the Spirit of God. As he’s dealing with the proper way this prophesying should take place (v. 29-35), he clarifies that the women should keep silent. Simply put, they are not permitted to preach in the assembly. He’s teaching Corinth the same thing he wrote to Timothy and Titus in our verses above! Lest we think this to merely be Paul’s opinion, he adds in v. 37 that “the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord.”
How did we get to this place of disorder among the modern church? As in the days when Deborah the prophetess was judging Israel in Jdg 4, men have failed to be the leaders in our assemblies that God has called us to be! Barak should have been ready and willing to lead the armies of Israel into battle, but we see his weakness in v. 8: “And Barak said to her [Deborah], ‘If you will go with me, then I will go; but if you will not go with me, I will not go!'” Have you ever heard of a military commander that would only lead his troops to the fight if a woman would go with him?!! And so, because the men of that day would not be men, Deborah responded in v. 9: “I will surely go with you; nevertheless there will be no glory for you in the journey you are taking, for the LORD will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.” God was going to deliver His people but also shame the Israelite men who were unwilling to be the leaders they should have been by using a woman to defeat the commander of the enemy army. Deborah’s day was an exception not the rule.
We should strive in all things to maintain God’s proper order, especially within the church. The world may claim that “the end justifies the means,” but that way of thinking should never be the church’s mantra. Striving to do something good but in a way contrary to the Lord’s order is called disobedience! When King Saul grew nervous on the eve of battle waiting for Samuel to arrive, he stepped outside of God’s order and made a sacrifice to the Lord. He wanted to do something good, something that would both encourage the hearts of the people and honor God. The only problem was that he was not a priest, and God’s rule was that only the priests were allowed to sacrifice. How serious was the offence? It cost Saul the kingdom! “And Samuel said to Saul, ‘You have done foolishly. You have not kept the commandment of the LORD your God, which He commanded you. For now the LORD would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom shall not continue. The LORD has sought for Himself a man after His own heart, and the LORD has commanded him to be commander over His people, because you have not kept what the LORD commanded you.'” (1Sa 13:13-14) God’s order matters! Being obedient is better than being religious. As Samuel told Saul later in 1Sa 15:22, “to obey is better than sacrifice”. The Lord Jesus says, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” (Joh 14:15)