This has become a touchy issue in recent history. With more American and European churches allowing more woman pastors in teaching and church body leadership roles than ever before, we ask, why in recent history and not prior? Why do some object to this? Is this gender discrimination? In all the questions we can ask, we must first and foremost turn to Holy Scripture to determine what is truth and what God reveals about this issue.
Exegesis 1 Timothy 2:1-15
The first verse(s) we turn to is 1 Timothy 2:1-15. First Paul starts off by stating that thankfulness and prayer should be for everyone; men, women, and kings or all those put in their position by God. Being thankful for them and praying for them is pleasing to the Lord. It is a service to the Lord. Then he states that he was “appointed” as an Apostle and as a teacher. He did not just wake up one day and choose to do so. He was appointed by the sovereign God. His role and purpose in life was ordained by God and thus is in line with God’s design as a man and in the role God declared.
Then he breaks down “therefore” (1 Tim. 2:8) and begins to differentiate between the roles of men and women in church. He first speaks to the men of the church. He wanted men to ensure they are focused on prayer, everywhere, in all churches. Keep in mind, the context of this letter is to the church body and church body gatherings (Sunday service for example). One church does not and should not pray more than another but that ALL churches should focus on prayer. He is restating what God already wants both men and women to do, but in this targeted statement toward men, he is addressing a common issue. Men like to argue and get angry about issues in the church. Instead, Paul wants them to focus back on what God expects them to do, without anger or argument. “Lifting up holy hands”, is still speaking to Men, that they are to be set apart unto God and not have their hands dirty in sin. The reason has to do with the role God has designed for men in the church. Even in prayer, men need to not pray in an anger or argumentative sense. When men make public open angry or argumentative prayers it hurts the body as a whole.
Then he turns toward the women of the church (1 Tim. 2:9). He is resisting the commonality of women to be flashy and draw attention to themselves and instead of others. Women are to be spiritually focused on inner beauty and less on physically focused on outer beauty. And that their “good works” are the witness of their spiritual health and not how they feel how they need to dress for service. Getting all dressed up for church, but have no “good works” for God to show for it, reveals a heart issue. Just as a man’s angry or argumentative prayer does. This selflessness of both men and women, to look past themselves and to focus on the Lord and others in thankfulness and prayer combined with their good works makes them perfectly dressed before the Lord.
But then he makes the most misunderstood, misinterpreted, and worldly offensive statement. “A woman should learn in silence with full submission. 12 I do not allow a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; instead, she is to be silent.” (1 Tim. 2:11-12). What does he mean by this? The same word for silence, is the same word used in 1 Tim. 2:2. It is not silence in the English sense but rather, better translated and understood as peaceable and without contention. The idea here Paul is getting across is for women to receive teaching of the men of God. This is the concept of submission. To receive the men’s teaching peaceably without contention. This also addresses a common issue in that culture as well. Where women would interrupt the teaching with questions and comments to their husbands during the service. The concept of this kind of submission is to respect and acknowledge the order of authority. Not an order or authority taken by men but an order and authority “appointed” by God; of which, this order and authority was appointed by God for the men.
The Word “Submission”
The word literally means “to be under in rank” and thus, is a order and ranking structure ordained by God in the Church. This does NOT mean and difference in value or ability. A manager of a business needs his staff as much as they need someone to be the manager. This sort of order and ranking structure can be seen in the very nature of God. The first person of the Trinity is God The Father and the second is God the Son. The Father exercises authority over the Son and the Son submits to the Father. Paul points us back to God’s original design before sin (1 Tim. 2:13-14). Where Adam was created first and given authority over the earth. If you notice, God’s very first command (Gen. 2:16-17) was given to Adam, before Eve was created. God did not wait to first create Eve, then give the command to both, instead, God gave the command first to Adam, then created Even. When Paul uses this, he does not say “Eve”, but instead purposefully says “woman” thus, the application to all woman. This direct command from God to Adam, before Eve, is not dependent on the whims of culturally change because this was given before sin entered the world. This structure was deemed “good” by God.
Paul makes it absolutely clear that to “not allow a woman to teach or to have authority over a man” and his justification is God’s order of creation. Because The Holy Spirit is speaking through Paul, he is not in sin. Not all speaking or teaching by woman is necessarily a violation of God’s order but that the woman who speaks and teaches in the congregation must be done in submission (the biblical understanding) to the men who God has appointed to lead that church. Paul’s context is public worship of the local church, each local church. Just as Christ is the head of the church, God appoints men to lead it under him. This NOT talking about politics, business, education, or anything like that. Paul is specifically talking about the ordained designed roles within the church. This is also not saying that every woman is under the authority of every man in the church either. He is talking about only the local churches. We must continually remind ourselves that this is has nothing to do with inferiority or superiority. God the Father is not superior and God the Son inferior- they are equally God and perfectly harmonious in their unity- and so is the design of gender roles within the church.
We then go to 1 Tim. 2:13-15 and see the order as discussed in The Word “Submission” above but then he makes a seemingly puzzling addition: “And Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and transgressed. 15 But she will be saved through childbearing, if she continues in faith, love, and holiness, with good judgment.” (1 Tim. 2:13-15). It is true that Satan went to Eve to initiate the rebellion and spark the sinfulness in the heart. Adam then failed to lead as he was ordained to. It is though Paul is reassuring women that even though the woman sinned first, they have the assurance of salvation just the same. But it is more than that. He is also pointing out that child bearing is a ordained privileged God granted to women and not men. Another form to bring God glory, that men can not. Secondly, it is the woman who will bring God the Son into the world. Thus, through the generations of child birth, it will ultimately lead to the birth of Christ, who will bring about Salvation. This goes straight to the heart of the equality of value. Even though the woman did the absolute worst (ushered sin into the world), she will also do the absolute greatest too (usher Christ into the world). A value that the world would not count if they do not know Jesus Christ. Without this element, it would seem unfair, but with that element, it is perfect redemption; in a greater way that any man could do.
1 Tim 2:1-15 Take A Ways
- Gender Roles are ordained and appointed by God.
- Spiritual authority as given to men by God.
- Women are to respectfully and peacefully, without contention, submit to the ordained role of the men by God.
- Women are not to have authority or doctrinaly teach without subjection to the leadership of men in their local church.
- If no men are leaders in the local church, they will be head accountable to God for their lack of obedience.
- If women assert themselves as the local church authority, they are also disobedient to God.
- Women, in their different role, is equally valuable and equally important to God.
The Totality of Scripture
But to gain a greater grasp on this issue, we need to look in all areas of scripture. The very next chapter, 1 Timothy 3:1-13 gives us actual qualifications for pastors and teaching elders with spiritually authoritative roles in the church. In the very first verse, Paul says “if anyone aspires to the officer of overseer, he desires a noble task“. That “anyone” in context, is talking about any male. Then the very next verse Paul says “…the husband of one wife“. Clearly, a female can not fulfill this requirement. Then when Paul addresses the qualifications for Deacons, he again states “Their wives likewise...” and “Let deacons each be the husband of one wife.” (1 Timothy 3:8-12). Again, these qualifications can not me met by any woman. Thus, an authoritative role of Deacon is reserved for men, as ordained by God. In Titus 1:5-9, Paul directs Titus to appoint elders and states as a qualification “the husband of one wife” and “holding to the faithful message as taught, so that he will be able tot both encourage with sound teaching and refute those who contradict it.” Again, we see the same qualifications to various churches where only men can be qualified. Therefore, in the Godly ordained roles within the Church structure we see a role that only men can be qualified and justified before God to fulfill. To assume this is an oppressive structure or a devalue of womanhood is dishonest and untrue.
Value of Woman’s Role in The Church
Women have the equally important task to proclaim the Gospel to the lost (Acts 1:8; 1 Peter 3:15). This task supersedes any gender role because it is the duty of obedience and faith for all people. But women can better influence and reach other women and children (Titus 2:3-5). Some women further excel than men in some spiritual gifts, as they are one part of members of the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:12-31). Not all are “teachers” (1 Cor. 12:29), yet, still all equally important and equally valued in the Body of Christ as a whole. Looking at the spiritual fruit in Galatians 5:22-23, we cannot help but to see how our mothers more closely resemble some of these vital fruit. The love, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and gentleness perfectly describe a godly mother. When it comes to Women’s Health Care and Crisis Care ministries, woman are better suited for this extremely life saving service. The nurturing care of a mother is what Soldiers at war need most. Living examples of a Godly wife are absolutely better taught by those Godly wives to other wives and not by husbands- even for marital issues. Though Pastors direct marital counseling, a wife that applies the truths gained from a counseling session has a greater impact on her husband than just the counseling from the pastor. Woman are not restricted from public pray or prophesying (conveying God’s truths), but only when its pertinent to the situation and local congregation (1 Cor. 11:5). So we see a woman’s role in the church is immensely valuable and is used by God to reach areas that man can not. They are truly equally valuable in the eyes of God in their different role within the church. But, again, this is within the church. This is not regarding politics and business.
- Women were typically uneducated in that time of that culture. But, 1 Tim. 2:11-14 does not mention the educational status of men or women. Thus, education was not part of the context. If that were the case, the Apostles would be disqualified.
- Paul was only talking to the church of Ephesus. It is true that Timothy was the pastor of the Church in Ephesus. Ephesus was known for its temple to
Artemis, and women were the authorities in that branch of
paganism. So some would try to conclude that Paul was only resisting the
female-led customs of the Ephesian idolaters, and the church needed to
be set apart. But, 1 Timothy nowhere mentions Artemis,
nor does Paul mention the standard practice of Artemis worshipers. Thus, much like the first objection, does not pertain to the context of what and why Paul wrote what he wrote. No matter the cultural norms in what ever region a local church finds itself in, being set apart is expected in general.
- Paul was only referring to husbands and wives and not men and women in general. Much like the two objections above, no where does Paul put it in the context of husband and wife. Are only husbands and wives to pray and do good works? It is clear the he is making a gender distinction and not a marital one.
- Miriam, Deborah, and Huldah in the Old Testament were women who were spiritual authoritative leaders. This is true. These women were specifically chosen by God for a special service. But, first, not all women in the Old Testament were. These three were unique. Secondly, when it comes to the context of the Church, the church had not been established in the Old Testament. The New Testament is a distinct shift in God’s plan for mankind. Thus, involves a new unique structure alien to the Old Testament and not for the nation of Israel. For the same reason why the church does not continue the same ceremonial practices of Israel. The structures of religion in the Old Testament have no relevance besides their historical value, cultural understanding, foreshadow of the coming Christ, revealing nature of God, or universal morality.
- Priscilla in the New Testament were spiritual authoritative leaders in the church. Yes, Priscilla was a faithful minister for Christ, but we all are called to be. Yes she taught “the way of God more adequately” (Acts 18:26), but we are all are called to do so. But no where in scripture was she ever be stated as being a teaching elder or pastor of a local church nor a authoritative leader of a congregation. The only thing scripture reveals about her is she was a truly faithful servant of the Lord; as we all ought to be. The typical argument assumes her pastoral role in the church, but this is incorrect as Scripture does not state this. Her support from Paul does not validate a pastoral role either, there are a number of people Paul supports and encourages, who are not pastors. Paul does not only speak about pastors. A point the argument makes is that because she was mentioned first, proves that she was the leader. Again, this is assumed. She could have been mentioned first simply because she was more predominant and known due to other various reasons such as availability of service. Maybe she was the primary message runner for the local church leaders. We can go on and on about maybes and assumptions. That’s the point. Her, as a pastor, or lead elder is not stated therefore we can also assume just the same that she was not a pastor or lead elder. But we let scripture interpret scripture.
- The Mother of John Mark was a pastor. This is false. Acts 12:12 just specifies which Mary of the house where they met to pray. This is not a pastoral endorsement but a statement to help the reader know exactly who’s house they went to. To assume this is a pastoral endorsement by Luke is a baseless conclusion and poor interpretation of scripture. She simply hosted the gathering and was a notable faithful host.
- Phoebe is called a “deacon” in Romans 16:1. It is critical to note that the Greek word “deacon” means “servant”. Paul highly recommended her for her service. But again, much like Priscilla, there is nothing in scripture stating that she was a pastor or teacher of men in her local church. Not to mention, “able to teach” is a qualification for authoritative elders, not deacons (1 Tim. 3:1-13).
- Chloe was a pastor (1 Cor. 1:11). Much like objection 6, this is a baseless assumption not revealed in scripture. Though, she is noted as the household head, this could simply be due to her being a unmarried widow. To assume she was a pastor would contradict other writings by Paul.
- Nympha was a pastor (Colossians 4:15). Same for objection 8, this text simply states that the church met at her house and does not state that she was the pastor of that church. Again, she could have been an unmarried widow as well. She could have also been a predominate business woman. The designation that it was her home does not imply pastorialship but a designation of a specific person that local church would know.
- Lydia was a pastor (Acts 16:14-15). This verse is simply referring to a woman who was a business woman; who was converted by Paul and simply invited them over to her house to support his missions. She was an influence in converting her family as well, as all mothers are. But to assume she then became a pastor of that new local church is not stated in scripture. In all honestly, with the totality of scripture, she would have for sure influenced the spread of Christianity in the community and joined the local community.
- God says men and women are equal, stated in Galatians 3:28. This is true. But, equality is not the issue, ordained roles is. The difference in the roles does not negate equality. The value of both roles are equal, yet, still different in role. Galatians 3:28 and 1 Timothy 2:11-12 are both true. When one argument is supported by one verse but contradicts another, it is the argument that is faulty. This argument is faulty because it falsely assumes the different roles are not equal; but, in God’s eyes, they are equal.
- No men are available or willing to lead the local church so women fill their role. This does not negate the truth revealed by God. The men of that local church will be judged by God for not faithfully fulfilling their ordained role and the women of that community need to support and encourage their men to step up, not walk over them. How faithful we are to the Lord reflects our respect and duty in our role, as men and women.
- The Common English Bible translation states the elder and deacon qualifications differently, it is gender neutral and states “spouse” instead of “husband” or “wife”. This is a terribly failed agenda driven translation. When we look at the actual oldest manuscripts, they do not state this. This translation does not reflect the oldest manuscripts. In their translation of 1 Timothy 2:8-15 we see them change from broad “men” and “woman” to “wife” and “husband”, yet, the same Greek word is used and the context has not changed; therefore, the proper translation would continue to translate the word as “man” and “woman” given that the context had not changed. This poor translation also negatively effects Paul’s justification. Paul cannot be referring to Adam as a husband because he is talking about something prior to Eve’s creation, such as his own; and Adam represents all men just as Eve represents all women in this context; or Paul’s argument is rendered irrelevant. The same is true with Titus 1:5-9. The manuscripts specifically state “if any man…the husband of one wife” where as the CEB translates it as “Elders… faithful to their spouse“. The masculine noun Greek word ἀνήρ (see Literal word for word Translation of the NASB) is in the text which can only be properly translated as “husband, sir, fellow, or man”. Thus, showing the poor translation of the CEB. When basing doctrinal “truths” off an untrustworthy translation, you are naturally lead to false doctrines and false assumptions. When ideologically driven translations are used to erase what is actually stated in the manuscripts, it can then be justified to make other assumptions that are not stated in scripture.
- Women pastors were only prohibited by The Council of Laodicea in the 4th century. This is untrue. When only considering Holy Scripture in its proper translation and proper contexts we clearly see that the office of pastor was ordained by God for men. There could have been an influx of churches post-Apostles that began giving pastoral roles to women, which contradicts scripture, thus, the councils decision to act and address this issue. But an increase in disobedience does not make the act of disobedience justified.
- Only allowing Men as Pastors is sexism, and thus is sin. This must be assumed in order to believe that it is in some way unequal or different in value to God. This is simply a failure to see the true transcendent value in women’s ministries and women’s roles as stated above. That would also require the belief that Paul, in 1 Tim. 2:11-12, is sexist. To then assume Paul was sexist, how can you not then question everything else he taught? If he was wrong to teach that, how do you know he wasn’t wrong in other areas? How can you tell someone else, when they say he is wrong about another matter because they disagree with something else he taught, that they are wrong? See the natural direction we logically go when we reinterpret scripture in our own image?
Verses To Study
- 1 Timothy 2:1-15, 3:1-13
- Titus 1:5-9, 2:3-5
- Acts 1:8
- 1 Peter 3:15
- 1 Cor. 11:5, 12:12-31
- Galatians 5:22-23
Men and Woman have different roles but are equal in value and importance. Men will be held accountable by how faithful they serve the Lord in their roles ordained as men; and women will be held accountable by how faithful they serve the Lord in their role as an ordained woman. In the end, God will be glorified, even if the culture and societies disagree with his ordained design of gender roles; and even if the church fails to remain completely faithful to God in obedience. When we let scripture interpret scripture, as written by the Apostles, breathed by The Holy Spirit, we see the clear truth of God’s design in the church.
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