“…appoint elders in every city as I commanded you—if a man is blameless, the husband of one wife…”
In our text today, Paul is instructing Titus to appoint elders over the various churches on the island of Crete. One of the things we learn from the qualifications of elders listed in Tit 1:5-9 is that the terms “elders” and “bishops” refer to the same office in the church. With that connection made, we can then understand from 1 Tim 3:1-13 how the position of an elder/bishop differs from the role of a deacon. The most striking difference between the two is that an elder must possess the gift to teach the flock of God. (1 Tim 3:2) Thus, an elder/bishop is what we commonly refer to as a pastor in our day, a word used in some biblical translations that is associated with a “teacher” in Eph 4:11 (the word literally means “shepherd”). I said all of that to be clear that our text today regarding elders is referring to people that have been gifted by God to oversee (“bishop” literally means “overseer”) and feed the church by teaching the word of God.
Now, you don’t get very far in the list of qualifications in our text before you run into an interesting phrase. An elder is to be “the husband of one wife”. Since that statement is not immediately followed by the phrase “or the wife of one husband”, an obvious question arises. Is Paul saying that only men should hold this office in the church? As contrary as that thought is to our present-day practice, Paul is emphatic both here and elsewhere that women should not pastor churches.
We live in a day of confusion. Lines are often blurred that should be clear. It is the word of God that should shape our culture rather than the culture shaping our interpretation of the word of God! The Lord’s word is timeless for He says, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.” (Mat 24:35) God’s word has established a proper order in this world and specifically in the church. Unless we understand what that order is, we cannot obey his command, “Let all things be done decently and in order.” (1Co 14:40)
Just prior to this statement in the Corinthian letter, God establishes a principle that is to be upheld in our congregations today. God never revoked it. It is found in 1Co 14:34-35: “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.” Those verses don’t leave any room for interpretation. They are plain and clear! So, examine churches today. Are we obedient to God in this matter?
The most common argument that I hear in favor of female pastors is that Paul’s statement was only relevant to that time and place. It was a necessary rule based on the current culture. As soon as we take this stance, we do great damage to the truth of God’s word! We give people permission to pick and choose the biblical teachings that most agree with their personal philosophies while discarding anything that doesn’t agree under the pretense that it’s not culturally relevant!! Let’s see if this “cultural” argument holds up in 1Ti 2:12-14 where we find similar instruction: “And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.” Here we find this precept to be based not on culture but on the word of God from the very outset of creation! In other words, God intended it to be this way from the beginning.
The Lord has made the two sexes differently. We should celebrate those differences not seek to eradicate them! God in His great wisdom didn’t form a copy of Adam when He determined He needed “a helper suited to him.” (Gen 2:18 LITV) That suitable helper was woman! She complemented Adam as he complemented her, and the two together formed a unique union created for one glorious purpose! “’For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” (Eph 5:31-32) God’s order reveals Christ! If we break away from the order God has established, we will fail to fully reveal the Lord Jesus and give him the glory due His name.