Concluding our study on women pastors and preachers
Part 3 marks the end of our study on women pastors and preachers. A Biblical Response to the Foursquare document: “Women’s Leadership Ministry.”
But the Bible draws a line they have crossed.
If you have a Bible, please turn to I Timothy.
Women pastors and I Timothy 2:8-14
The following is an exposition of I Timothy 2:8-14. We are not looking for information in alternative universes. We want to follow the direction of the Spirit (I Chron. 14:15), as does any sincere disciple of Jesus. May the eyes of our understanding be enlightened by the text, and, when necessary, other Scripture that relates to it.
We will attempt to grab the proverbial “bull” by his horns and take a close look at, and defend, I Timothy 2:11-14. It takes some degree of courage to do this in an age when it is unpopular to stand by the Word of God when it goes to places where many Christians prefer not to be seen. And yet, just two chapters from here, in I Timothy 4:6, Paul admonishes pastors and teachers like Timothy, or shall we say, the brave, to “point out these things” to the brotherhood (which also includes the sisters), and, by so doing, prove they are “a good servant of Christ Jesus.” Dare we not stand by and defend the Word of God, even when we are a voice crying in the wilderness? May we find ourselves among that small but happy group “who follow the Lamb wherever He goes.”
Women pastors and an exposition of I Timothy 2:8-14
We will begin our exposition of I Timothy 2 in verse 8. Paul says, “Therefore I want the men to pray in every place, lifting up holy [devout, pious] hands without wrath and deliberating [a man disputing with himself about what is true].”
Instructions to men
Notice that Paul is singling out the men for praying, using the word for men that bears the male gender. “Therefore” may be a reference to verses 1-4. “In every place” would include a public worship setting. This is a bad start for those who are hoping to gather support for women speaking and holding authoritative positions in the church, as women pastors would do. It also presents a problem. Wasn’t Paul “expecting” women to pray and prophesy in church? The authors of the document claim he had “clearly established” that in his first letter to the Corinthians. (As we saw in Part 2.) But he shows no concern about that here. Strange, don’t you think?
Instructions to women: no homiletics, but how to dress
Verses 9 and 10. “Likewise, women,” the female gender. For their part, “in respectable deportment [the way they dress], let them adorn themselves with modesty and sobriety; not with braids and gold, or pearls, or costly clothing, but with what is fitting for women professing reverence for God, through good works.”
True beauty is revealed through modesty and good works. It comes from within. It is reflected in the heart and character of a woman.
Notice. These are not directives to husbands and wives, but men and women. Obviously, many of them are husbands and wives. Many are not. What Paul says applies to all the men and all the women in the church.
This is also true of what he says in I Corinthians 14:35: “If [the women] want to learn anything, let them ask their own men at home.” Do you think, because a woman is unmarried, she is free to ask questions during a service in Corinth? What point is there in that? A number of women would be unmarried. This would undermine Paul’s instructions for public gatherings. It would also be unfair to married ladies. He is saying, if the women–not just wives–have questions, let them ask their own men at home. This would include husbands, brothers, fathers, uncles, boyfriends, etc.
Women pastors and learning in silence and subjection
Verse 11. Here is a direct translation from the Greek text: “Woman in silence learn in all subjection.”
The word “woman” is a reference to gender, not marital status, as I said. It is not derogatory or denigrating. A woman is as beautifully made as a man. Speaking from a man’s point of view, I think she is more beautifully made! If you want proof, just compare me with my wife. Women are no less precious to God.
The word is singular in form and has no article, which points to its general nature. It is NOT speaking of certain women in the church at Ephesus, as the document would have us believe. The principal meaning is simply gender.
Jesus uses the same word when He addresses His mother in John 2:4. She suggested He do something about the need for wine at the wedding in Cana. He replied, “What have I to do with you, woman.” It was not disrespectful. In pointing out her gender, He may, in fact, have drawn a parallel to the first woman in the garden of Eden, who was instrumental in leading Adam into sin.
He makes it clear things will be different for the last Adam. He will only do as His Father directs.
This is also the reason Paul gives for his instructions, as he states plainly in I Timothy 2:12 and 14: “I do not permit a woman to teach, nor to have authority over a man. . .for the [first] woman [in Eden], having been deceived, fell into transgression.” She took Adam along with her because he gave heed to her.
A valuable lesson
Adam learned a valuable lesson (in costly terms) in Eden, a lesson that is fundamental to our understanding of what Paul is saying in I Timothy 2:11-14. On what grounds did God rebuke Adam after the fall? He began by saying, “Because you listened to the voice of your wife. . .” (Gen. 3:17). This is what led to his disobedience to God. Though at the time they ate the forbidden fruit, Scripture says, “she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate” (Gen. 3:6), God’s words to Adam show us Eve encouraged him to eat the forbidden fruit, perhaps parroting what the serpent said (in verses 4 and 5). This doesn’t mean we should not listen to our wives. It does mean we should not place ourselves under a woman’s authority as a teacher in a Christian assembly.
But this is exactly what happens whenever men submit themselves to women pastors who are teaching or preaching to a mixed assembly.
Back to verse 11 of I Timothy 2.
Women pastors and what is fitting for a godly woman
Paul’s reference to “woman,” as I said, is a reference to the female gender. It means each and every woman in church, married and unmarried, irrespective of age or social status. There are no exceptions. It is fitting for a godly woman to behave in this way in a public assembly where the Word is being taught. She “learns” silently in all subjection. She arranges herself under: does not put herself forward (Thayer, Lenski). This is an accurate description of the Greek word “subjection.” The model is Mary, sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening to His word. The antithesis is her sister Martha who is attempting to tell the Teacher what He ought to be doing. Jesus said Mary had chosen the “good part” that would not be taken from her (Luke 10).
Women pastors and what is not permitted by Paul
Verse 12. Paul writes, “But for a woman to teach, I do not permit [or, allow], nor to exercise authority over man, but to be in silence.”
Here is a simple fact. Paul did not allow women to teach men in a public assembly of believers. (It is a good time to measure our “devotion” to Paul. And God.)
This is a natural progression from the information he gave in the last verse. If a woman is to learn in silence, she will, understandably, not be teaching. The moment she does, there is an instantaneous reversal of roles Paul, through the Holy Spirit, has given to men and women.
No article appears with either “woman” or “man.” Gender lies at the heart of both, in the general sense. As I said before, no specific woman or women, or man or men, is the object. It is not a selective reference to contentious women in Ephesus, or to Timothy or Paul.
Messing with tracks at a railroad junction
When someone messes with tracks at a railroad junction, trains take rails to the wrong destinations. Those who wait in railway stations down the line, watch the wrong train pull in. God intends that trains pull in where He directs them.
“I do not permit a woman to teach, nor to have authority over a man.” The primary meaning of αὐθεντεῖν (to have authority over) is: “one who acts on his [or her] own authority,” an “autocratic” person. But the precise meaning it carries in this verse is “to govern [someone], [or] exercise dominion over [someone]” (Thayer). Even if one assigns the first meaning to the word, as the authors of the document did, it does not, as one might think, help the cause of women teaching men. It actually has a boomerang effect. It would mean a woman who teaches a man would by definition be exercising a self-taken authority God has not given her. And this verb makes its debut in the NT right here!
“I do not permit a woman to teach, nor to have authority over a man.” You could say, two categories exist here: teaching and exercising authority. You could also say, teaching, by nature, is authoritative. Professors and preachers, even some politicians who love to hear themselves speak, certainly exercise dominion over those who are listening. Knowledge can be power (Prov. 24:5). The Word of God itself conveys authority to the one who teaches it. So teaching and exercising authority are closely related. Anyone can see they enjoy walking hand in hand. Paul is most likely saying they refer to the same thing.
Whether we find creative ways to paddle around Paul’s words, or we accept them at face value as a directive from God for today, we cannot deny that they are in our Bible.
Women pastors: a contrast with “silence”
“I do not permit a woman to teach, nor to exercise authority over man, but to be in silence.”
The words “in silence” are bookends on Paul’s instructions to women. “Woman in silence learn in all subjection; for I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over man, but to be in silence” (verses 11 and 12). There is a sense in which they are the first and last word on the subject. (Compare I Corinthians 14:34.)
Imagine Paul having the audacity to walk into church on Sunday morning and say this out loud while women pastors are preaching! He has never stopped saying it! (It has not fallen magically out of our Bibles.) But we are not listening. These words are always tucked between the covers of the Book women pastors are preaching from. As Lenski wrote: “No woman may step into the place of the man without violating the very Word she would try to teach. . . Her effort to do so would be self-contradictory in God’s eyes, despite what the world may say.” (Interpretation of I Timothy).
If this is not the Word of God for men and women in the church today, in an authoritative and governing sense, why would we stop there? How many other passages in the Bible have passed their time and relevance?
It’s not about time. The insubordination is to God
This is not about time. The point being made, in forbidding a woman to “teach” a mixed group of men and women, is that, in “exercising authority over a man” in this way, she is throwing off the subordinate role ordained for her by God at the very beginning in Genesis 2 and 3. Paul does not permit it, because God does not permit it. The insubordination is not to Paul, but God.
Therefore Paul proceeds in verses 13 and 14 to give the Scriptural basis for his directives in verses 11 and 12.
The Scriptural basis: back to the garden
Verse 13. “For Adam was formed first, then Eve.”
The word “for” falls in line next. For a good reason. Paul is going to explain why women are to be in subjection and not have authority over men, particularly as teachers. He gave the same reason, as I said before, for what he taught in I Corinthians 14:34.
Welcome to Bible 101.
Our eyes are drawn to where the “story” begins. Turn one page from the beginning of most Bibles, and you have Genesis 2 and 3. We see there God’s design for the roles of the sexes was established in the beginning by the manner in which He created “male and female.”
If you thought this would be a course on Social Studies, you have come to the wrong class. You will find that classroom several doors down the hall.
“For,” says Paul, in agreement with Moses, “Adam was formed first.” There are fourteen verses between the creation of Adam and the creation of Eve in Genesis chapter 2. During that period God planted the garden of Eden, placed Adam there to cultivate it, commanded him not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and had him give names to beasts and birds.
Adam was “formed,” which means he was molded like a sculpture. Our words “plastic,” “plaster,” and “plasma” are all related to the Greek word. This calls attention to artistic design on God’s part. Leonardo and Michelangelo would see the rationality in that. Even if modern science can’t. No great work they produced ever emerged spontaneously from heaps of paint or a “stone” on a workshop floor. They would be the first to admit the nearly infinite complexity of the human anatomy and form, having examined it themselves and made detailed sketches, and followed it over marble and other materials with their fingers and tools. Who but God could form something a human genius cannot fully comprehend and goes to great pains to reproduce? Some people have even attributed divinity to the artist because he was able to recreate the human form.
So, you might say God added a personal touch to His creation of man.
“Then Eve.” This would also include her. That is: God’s personal touch is evident in her creation as well. What man would not agree with that? (This is not always the case today.) The Bible says God “built” Eve from a rib of Adam. He strapped on his carpenter’s belt and went to work! What He pulled off the “lathe” reveals the degree to which His creativity can take Him! Let’s just say, Adam would not be disappointed.
Then God brought her to him, not him to her. Notice the submissive role God is designing for her, as Paul also pointed out in I Corinthians 11:8 and 9. “For man is not of woman, but woman of man [woman came from a rib in Adam’s side]. And man was not created for the woman, but woman for the man.” God said, “It is not good for the man I created, to be alone. I will make someone for him.”
When Eve was brought to Adam, most likely he responded with something that could be loosely translated, “Wow!” He said, “This is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she will be called woman (Isha) because she was taken out of man (Ish).” Her name states her relation and origin with respect to man. “Both are derived and thus second and secondary and not first and primary” (Lenski).
A woman’s value
That does not make her less human or less valuable in God’s eyes, or ours. “Bone of bone, and flesh of flesh” makes them one. A woman is not to be trampled on like a mat, or regarded as a subclass. She is close to a man’s heart, for she has come from a rib in his side. This also symbolizes his protection over her and the place of honor he gives her at his side, under his arm, which is her home–her place of origin. This position of endearment is displayed when John lies on Jesus’ chest.
Her husband is to honor her (I Pet. 3:7) and love her as Christ loved the church (Eph. 5:25). Can anyone be more valuable than that? Above all else, in His great wisdom, love, and grace, God has given the singular honor to a woman to give flesh and blood to the Messiah who will crush the head of that clever enemy who slipped alongside her in the garden.
These are our origins. By no choice of our own, but God’s. This is who we are. Why not live at peace in the way God has made us, and accept the roles He has given us?
Which brings us to our final verse.
The deceived and not deceived
Verse 14. “And Adam was not deceived, but the woman, having been completely deceived, fell into transgression.”
Notice Adam and Eve’s responses to God after the fall, as recorded in Genesis 3. Adam said: “The woman gave me from the tree, and I ate.” Eve said: “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
In rehearsing the story of our first parents, Paul takes a step beyond their creation, to the fall, to develop more fully the Scriptural basis for his instructions to men and women in the church. The word “and” at the beginning of verse 14 is a bridge to the other bank in the Genesis account.
“And Adam” was not deceived, but “the woman” was. Adam is named. By saying “the woman,” instead of using her name, Paul draws attention to her sex. In both cases, for Adam and Eve, the Greek word for “deceived” is used. But in Eve’s case, a tiny prefix is attached, which gives the meaning, “completely deceived”: “utterly, entirely deceived” (Thayer). She swallowed the bait, or in this case, the “sales pitch,” hook, line, and sinker. We all know what that means for a fish.
That doesn’t mean Eve was morally inferior to Adam. Adam was aware of what he was doing when he ate the forbidden fruit. But Eve was also aware of what she was doing. But she was persuaded it would be beneficial to do what God had forbidden. She looked at it in the way the serpent had suggested. Deception by persuasion is a handy tool in our enemy’s handbag. It was not a rational choice for either Eve or Adam. And the “wisdom” they gained would not help them make better choices in the future.
Adam at a crossroads
After Eve sinned, Adam was handed a fait accompli. There was no deliberating or changing what she had done. Will you let the ship go down? Or choose to go down with it? Adam got on board.
Eve had taken leadership in her own hands. She abandoned her subordination and usurped the leadership. Adam relinquished his headship in favor of subordination. She gave him to eat. And he ate. The rest is history.
So, what is the meaning of this?
Eve usurped headship in the fall. Adam, the head, became the feet that followed her into sin (Lenski). The fall came as a result of their role reversal.
The heart of the matter
Paul doesn’t deal with their disobedience to God’s command not to eat the forbidden fruit. He only makes a reference to “transgression.” His focus is on another issue which is the subject of this study. In verse 13 he points out the positions of the sexes as historically given in the account of creation. In verse 14 we see the result of Eve’s desertion of her God-given role. After the fall, in His rebuke to her, God reinforced His original intention for her. He even broadened the scope of the original intent He had in her subjection to Adam. Paul’s purpose in referring to this historic OT passage is to provide a Scriptural basis for his instructions to women in the church in relation to men.
This lies at the heart of a Biblical understanding about women pastors and preachers.
Women pastors in the light of history: a Postscript
The following are serious questions to consider, related to the historic nature of the leadership role of men, which reflect the sovereign will and providence of God:
- Why is God referred to in the male gender?
- Why is the Messiah a man?
- Why do Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob mark the beginning of our Judeo-Christian heritage?
- Why are all Old and New Testament priests men?
- Why are all the major and minor prophets in the OT canon men?
- Why are all the kings of Judah and Israel men?
- Why are all rulers of Bible synagogues men?
- Why do only men in the Bible read publicly from OT scrolls during a service in a synagogue?
- Why is the forerunner of Jesus a man?
- Why are the twelve disciples and NT apostles all men? (Jesus chose twelve men.)
- Why is Peter the spokesperson when the Spirit is poured out on the day of Pentecost, and not a woman? Why didn’t Mary, the mother of Jesus, or any other woman who followed Him step forward and speak?
- Why did the Holy Spirit call men to begin the Christian missionary endeavor?
- Why are men the only companions of Paul on his missionary journeys?
- Why are all elders and pastors in the churches Paul established men?
- Why can only men fill the NT office of elder, or bishop, which is in effect the office of a pastor?
- Why are all the books of the Bible written by men?
- Why did God create man first?
- Why was the man not the first to sin?
- Why are angels in the Bible described as men (e.g. Gen. 18:2; Mark 16:5; Luke 24:4; Acts 10:30: NT νεανισκος, ανηρ) and never as women, in spite of the popular characterization?
- Why are the personal letters in the NT that relate to historical and doctrinal instruction written to men? (Theophilus, Timothy, Titus, Philemon, and Gaius. II John would be the only exception if “the elect lady” is not a figurative title for a local church.)
- Why was John’s disciple Polycarp a man?
- Why was Polycarp’s disciple Irenaeus a man? etc.
- Why aren’t any Early Church Fathers women? (i.e. Why aren’t there any Early Church Mothers?)
- Why did men oversee the transmission of Bible manuscripts?
- Why were early church councils comprised of men?
- Why were the first translations of the Bible made by men like Wycliffe and Luther?
- Why were our historic confessions of faith made by men? (The list goes on.)
These all reflect historic realities that are beyond our control, but not His.
In love and appreciation for our sisters in the faith
But we won’t pull the brakes here.
There is more to say.
In love and appreciation for our sisters in the faith, I want to share some of their milestones. Jesus awards these honors to ladies. Some honors He gives them are unparalleled because women are dear to His heart. They are dear to us all. As my wife is to me. She is the greatest personal example I have of love for Christ.
Their love and dedication to Him is an example for us all.
The honor Scripture gives to women
Women are the last to leave the cross (John 19:38-42; Luke 23:49-56). They are the first at the tomb on Sunday morning (John 20:1). The first to bring the word of His resurrection (Matt. 28:8; Luke 24:8-10). They are the first to see Him. And the first to hold and worship Him (John 20:11-18; Matt. 28:9). (If she had lived then, my wife would have been one of them.)
Jesus opens a woman’s heart and she becomes the first convert in Europe (Acts 16:14,15).
They are our most caring co-workers. Scripture records their acts of kindness and their servant’s heart (Ex. 35:25,26; Josh. 2:1,6,12,13; I Sam. 25:23,24,27; II Kgs 4:8-10; Prov. 31:20; Matt. 27:55; Mark 14:3-9; Luke 7:37,38; John 20:15; Acts 9:36,39; Rom. 16:1-4,6,12; Phil. 4;3; I Tim. 5:9,10). They have a simple but strong faith (Matt. 9:21; Mark 7:28; Heb. 11:35). And are deeply devoted (Ruth 1:14-17; I Sam. 1:15; Est. 4:16; Luke 1:38; 2:37,38; 10:39,42; II Tim. 1:5).
Faithfully serving the church of Jesus Christ
Women have faithfully served the church of Jesus Christ through the ages. Their names are written in heaven (Phil. 4:3). In Holy Scripture. In Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. And church history books.
They married men like Martin Luther. And Charles Spurgeon. And often made them better men. When their men died or were martyred, they remained faithful to God’s purposes. When Elisabeth Elliot’s husband was martyred, she carried on the work. Her bravery matched his. There are many more like her. Even in our own time.
Ann Judson died of smallpox while serving in Burma with her husband, Adoniram. She was one of the first women from America to be a foreign missionary. In 1819 she was the first Protestant to translate Scripture into Thai. The first Thai Gospel of Matthew came from her hands.
Many more stories could be told.
Some men were given a place of honor because of the influence of godly mothers. And godly grandmothers. As our brother, Timothy (II Tim. 1:2-5). We join him in thanks to God for them! I will thank Jesus eternally for my own mother. And my grandmother.
Finally. In loving memory of our martyred sisters, we pass along an inscription on a tomb in the catacombs. “Here lies Marcia, put to rest in a dream of peace” (Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, page 11).
Women pastors: final words
I would like to present one other historically related thought in closing.
The nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, where the Foursquare Christian Church finds its beginning, was a period known for the emergence of a wide spectrum of typically erroneous teachings and movements. It marks the rise of Unitarianism, Mormonism, Seventh-day Adventists, Spiritualism, Spiritism, Darwinism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Dispensationalism, Christian Science, Existentialism, Higher Criticism, Pentecostalism, and Progressivism, to name some that had a major influence.
This characteristically dark onslaught of error was deposited in a window of time and bears the marks of a concerted invasion. (However. Many Dispensationalists and Pentecostals are true Christians.) These groups shared a common belief that for centuries people had it wrong; that the “truth” was finally revealed. Religious movements believed God was restoring something that had been “lost.”
A significant number of founders and prominent leaders were women who gained celebrity status. Some were renowned as women pastors and preachers.
Mark the historical import of this. One’s awareness of widespread sowing of “tares” during this time can be instructive. In some ways it may reflect a period of “Dark Ages” we have experienced in “Modern” times. A gift that keeps on giving.
That ends our discourse on women pastors and preachers.
© James Unruh 2017 and beyond