“…I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man…” I Timothy 2:12 It seems that the role women are to play in the church was a hot topic at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention a few weeks ago. After perusing blog posts, listening to sermons, skimming articles, and reading comments on social media dealing with this issue, I have come to the conclusion that in regard to women preaching and taking leadership positions in the local church, there are not merely two, but rather, three perspectives. There are some Christians who hold strongly to the egalitarian view of men and women. Egalitarianism, in a nutshell, teaches that men and women are equal in worth and dignity, and should have equal authority in the home, as well as, identical ministry opportunities. Therefore, there is no distinction in roles or responsibilities in the home or the church. On the other hand, the complementarian view teaches that while God did indeed create men and women equal in value, as image bearers of Himself, He also created them with different, but complementary, gender-defined roles. There are many Christians who firmly hold to this viewpoint, as well. But, there is a third group of professing Christians; those who really don’t have a resolute opinion either way. Some in this group are scratching their heads, and wondering what the fuss about women preaching and being ordained into positions of leadership in the church is all about. They’ve bought into the all-American lie that everybody ought to be able to do whatever they want to do. If a woman is a gifted communicator and has a desire to preach in her church, then let her go for it. After all, what’s the big deal?
To begin with, it’s a big deal because the Bible addresses it as a matter of importance. There are several passages of Scripture that unmistakably reserve some teaching and governing roles in the church for men. In the second chapter of I Timothy, the Apostle Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, gave us two prohibitions concerning women and their role in the functioning of the church. He wrote that they are not to teach men nor are they to exercise authority over the men. The setting for this teaching was the assembled church; wherever groups of Christians might gather for teaching, worship, or prayer. Immediately following this instruction, we find the requirements for elders, which clearly limits the office to men. “…If a man desires the position of a bishop (overseer, elder, pastor)…A bishop must then be blameless, the husband of one wife… one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?)”. I Timothy 3:1,2, 4, and 5. Women are not allowed to teach men or to hold governing authority over the church.
Some would have us believe this command doesn’t apply to Christians today. They teach that it was temporary and given exclusively to the church at Ephesus. However, there is nothing in the text to substantiate that opinion. Paul’s words give no hint whatsoever that this was a temporary injunction. On the contrary, it is clear that it was permanent because it was based on the order of creation as we’re told in I Timothy 2:13, 14, “For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.” Paul pointed back to creation before there was any sin in the world, to see that God created Adam first and then gave His commands to him alone, demonstrating that he had been given a leadership role. By basing his argument on the order of creation and the way in which Adam and Eve sinned, it is obvious that this command applies to all churches for all time. We have been given distinct principles of conduct that apply to the house of God. They were not temporary, nor were they cultural. They were timeless, universally binding tenets for all churches in every culture.
We must also consider that Christ appointed all male leadership for His Church. Before selecting the twelve apostles, Jesus spent the entire night in prayer. In perfect submission to His Father’s will, He personally chose, appointed, and trained twelve men. These were Christ’s official ambassadors; His authoritative representatives. He could have chosen six men and six women, but He didn’t. Jesus only chose men for this position of authority and leadership. Throughout the Old and New Testaments we only see men teaching and governing over the people of God. In fact, we do not have one single example from Genesis to Revelation of a woman publicly teaching an assembled group of God’s people or serving as a pastor or elder over a congregation. And Paul declared with apostolic conviction, I do not allow a woman to teach men or to exercise authority over them in the church. That’s not discrimination; that’s divine design! In His great wisdom, the Lord created men and women with differing gifts and abilities that complement one another in building strong families and healthy churches.
There is so much that women can and should be doing to serve in the body of Christ, and much of it can be done more effectively by women because of their unique design. I’ll be writing a follow-up post on the multitude of ministry opportunities for women, but in order to stay on topic, I want to stress the importance of this issue. In his excellent book, Countering the Claims of Evangelical Feminism, Wayne Grudem, concludes “…evangelical feminism is becoming a new path to theological liberalism for evangelicals in our generation.” Students of church history can testify that over and over again once a denomination begins to allow women to fill the pulpits, be ordained, and serve as pastors, they also commence their slide down the slippery slope of liberalism. Eventually, the authority of Scripture is undermined or ultimately denied, followed by a steady movement toward the endorsement of homosexuality and finally, the ordination of homosexuals into leadership positions. It’s a logical progression when the door to the rejection of the final authority of Scripture is cracked open. This is one reason I am deeply concerned about the growing movement in Southern Baptist circles to ordain women. I certainly don’t want to see the largest Protestant denomination in the United States go down the road that so many other denominations have traveled. I agree with a recent tweet by Tom Ascol, Pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, Florida. In response to a push for the opening up of Baptist pulpits to women he tweeted, “… the new-style complementarianism is really just old-style egalitarianism.” It is God’s Church, and He knows best how it is to operate. When we choose to follow His design in the distinct roles He has ordained for men and women, we create the very best environment for the gospel to be adorned, the church to flourish, Christ to be exalted, and God to be glorified. And that, my friend, is a very big deal!
Soli Deo Gloria