Perfect Peace Baptist Church

The biblical role of women in the ministry

The Biblical Role of Women in Ministry

This topic is important because women are now being ordained into the clergy and pastoral positions in virtually every denomination. I don’t doubt their sincerity, nor do I doubt their ability. But, the question is not whether women in the clergy, is a good or a bad thing Biblically? The question is rather, is it Biblically right, or wrong, for women to enter the clergy (Pulpit ministry). 

If we are to engage in meaningful discussion about the role of women in the local assembly (ecclesia), the Church of Jesus Christ, we must consider a complete cross-section of scriptures dealing with our topic. Even though the Church was established on the day of Pentecost, the foundation of the argument, (the role of women in the Church) is found in the garden of Eden 

God made male and female in his image equally…God made man first, then Eve as a helper

Genesis 1:27; Genesis 2:18

1. Consider Adam and Eve before the Fall. God made male and female in his image equally (Genesis 1:27). God made man first, then Eve as a helper (Genesis 2:18). Adam was given sole responsibility of dressing and keeping the garden, and naming the animals, (Genesis 2:15,19-20). Woman was made from the man (Genesis 2:21-22; 1 Corinthians 11:8). Woman was made for the man (Genesis 2:18; 1 Corinthians 11:9). Man named her “woman” (Genesis 2:23). Marriage was divinely instituted (Genesis 2:24). 

2. What can be concluded about Adam and Eve after the Fall? They were conscious of their nakedness and sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves (Genesis 3:7). Fear emerged (Genesis 3:10). Self-justification emerged in both of them (Genesis 3:11-13). As a result of their sin, Bearing children would be painful (Genesis 3:16ab). The woman’s desire will be for her husband (Genesis 3:16c). Man would rule over her. (Genesis 3:17b). Man would work by the sweat of his brow until death (Genesis 3:19).

3. Why is the distinction between Adam and Eve before and after the Fall important? It is important because Paul makes such a distinction (1 Timothy 2:11-15). Paul gives two reasons for his position — the order of creation, and Eve’s deception and sin. It is also important because Christian feminists believe that redemption in Christ, effectively puts one back to a pre-fallen state. If a woman becomes a Christian, they say, she may be assured of being as Eve was before the Fall. It is pointed out that the husband’s “rule” is done away with. Therefore equality implied (in the woman being made from man) is restored, according to this view. Thus, we must come to terms with this issue: Do we base our position on the pre-fallen situation which, some say, shows an equality? Or do we base our position on the post-fallen situation, which seems to accentuate the rule of man over the woman? 

4. Paul’s use of *kephale*, (kephale, kef-al-ay’ from the primary kapto (in the sense of seizing); the head (as the part most readily taken hold of), literally or figuratively:–head). “head” in 1 Corinthians11:3 is the key to our understanding of the role of women. “But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.” The question becomes, does *kephale* mean head as “source,” or head meaning “authority”? Those advocating the opening of the pastorate to women want *kephale* to mean “source.” “Source” means only that woman came from man, as a river flows from a lake. Then equality would become the order of the day. Those who take a more traditional point of view say that *kephale* means “authority.” This would suggest that “leadership is male.” If so, the man has “authority” over the woman in the home and in the church. All scriptures (O.T., and N.T.) pertaining to male and female position, and order, places the man ahead of the woman. Godly women are to “submit” (an arrangement according to rank), to male authority. 

*Kephale* does mean “source” in a few passages of Hellenistic literature, but never does it take that meaning in the LXX

LXX (Septuagint)

5. In the LXX (Septuagint), the Greek translation of the Old Testament, with which Paul was familiar, *kephale* means “authority” every time. *Kephale* does mean “source” in a few passages of Hellenistic literature, but never does it take that meaning in the LXX. This would have influenced Paul’s use of the word. In Ephesians. 5:22-24 (“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the Saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.”), head (*kephale*) clearly means “authority.” Likewise in Ephesians. 1:22-23, Christ has been exalted far above all rule and authority, power and dominion (vs. 21) and “head” can only mean “authority.” 

6. What does *kepephale* mean in 1 Corinthians 11:3? It could mean “source”, but if that was all it means, the verse then makes no sense. If it means “source,” then no-one is in charge — the very issue Paul confronted. Therefore it must mean that Christ is the authority over every man. This is what Paul means by “head.” Jesus Christ is in charge. Therefore every man must submit to Jesus Christ. Jesus is the head because He has been given all authority and power (Matthew 28:18). He knows the will of the Father and deserves and demands submission. Likewise, man is the authority over the woman. This does not mean “chain of command,” that woman submits to man rather than to Christ. She submits directly to Christ. But part of her submission to Christ will be the affirmation that man is the head (authority) of the woman. 
What then is the role of women in the church?

a. In worship, Paul requires their submission and humility (1 Timothy 2:11). Their appearance should be feminine (1 Corinthians 11:15 --- a covering of long hair). 
b. They were allowed to pray and prophecy (1 Corinthians 11:5). It was an assumption they could pray in public worship, as long as their appearance was godly. That a woman could prophecy was also assumed (Joel 2:28; Acts 2:18; Acts 21:9). 
c. They were not allowed to teach or have authority over a man (1 Timothy 2:12). This would not refer to a woman teaching generally. She could surely teach children. She could teach other women (Tit. 2:3-4). She could teach alongside her husband (Act. 18:26). It refers to taking the place of those entrusted with the formation of apostolic doctrine. Only men were called to this (1 Timothy 3:1-7). The cultural factor has to be answered in the light of the eternal principles of 1 Timothy 2:13-14. The prohibition of a woman speaking in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 probably refers to her interpreting a tongue. It does not rule out her speaking at all (1 Corinthians 11:5). Interpreting a tongue was seen as handling divine revelation that fell to an apostolic function. 
d. If one adheres to the Bible as the sole basis for belief and practice, a woman could not be the pastor of a church; she could be a part of the ministry team, teaching women, children, or serving in another capacity, in the local Church. The whole tenor of scripture suggests there is a difference between the sexes. The woman's role, following the Fall is decidedly one of submission. 

7. What does this say about men? We are to be loving, caring and sensitive. Male chauvinism has done more to contribute to the lack of balance than many would care to admit. Had men, over the years followed Paul’s words, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;” (Ephesians 5:25), there may never have been a Feminist Movement. Men must be more concerned that they themselves are more loving than they are; that women would take delight in being more submissive. 

On the other side of the issue, the apostle Paul also wrote, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). Is Paul simply referring to the absence of distinction we share in salvation, or was he arguing for an equalitarian view of men and women, Jew and Greek, slave and free for ministry as well as for salvation? Are we to assume that some of the gifts of the Spirit usually associated with church leadership and pastoral ministry (e.g., 1 Corinthians 12 or Ephesians 4) are gender specific? Again, there has been much debate about how this passage is to be interpreted. Bring in Phoebe Romans 16, she was a deaconess. Deacons are not teachers, they’re job was originally the distribution of bread (Acts 6) 

Bring in Acts 18:26 Priscilla and Aquila teaching Apollos. (The passage most used to justify husband and wife co-Pastorate). This was a private session, and aside from her name being first for whatever reason in no way indicates authoritative teaching of the word; it easily allows for the type of humility required in scripture. 

Bring in the prophetesses (Exodus 15:20; Judges 4:4; 2 Kings 22:14; 2 Chronicles 34:22; Nehemiah 6:14; Isaiah 8:3; Luke 2:36; Acts 21:9; Revelation 2:20) Despite the modern desire to explain differently, the prophet is not the preacher neither is the preacher a prophet. The role of the prophetess (and Deborah the Judge (Judges 4)) is therefore not the role of a preacher, and even those provide nothing that would break the standard of male leadership exhibited throughout scripture. 
(This I say in kindness, and much humility)
Bring in those well intentioned women (I know a few) who say, “But God called me to be a pastor!” 

Bless you I say, but gifting and calling have distinctions to be made. And neither will God’s call contradict his revealed word. Because you have a desire to teach, and the skill to do so, I say then exercise that gift in God given areas, (teaching of other women, teaching of children, discipleship and many other areas.) But the ordained ministry of leading the church is a burden placed upon men; and not one to be taken lightly. 
1 Timothy 2:13-14 “For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression” 

This does not mean (contrary to foolish and ignorant interpretation) that women are more gullible. It is a commentary on the Genesis three narrative, and it is one reason for Paul’s statement in verse 12. Eve was “deceived” which means Adam sinned on purpose. 
The word of God declares that men are the leaders in their homes, and in the Church. Leadership is not arrogant slave-mastery but rather self sacrificing service for the lifting up of one perceived to be the greatest, Christ Jesus our Lord. (Ephesians. 5:25). 

1 Timothy 2:12 is clear – succinct and not limited to cultural mores but rather rooted in the creation order, the deception of Eve and the culpability of Adam. 
The difficulties we have with scripture. . .

It seems that no matter what society a person is in, there is one thing or another that will arise as a difficulty about scripture that is very tempting to dismiss simply because it is not liked. For some, it is God telling the Israelites to conquer and purge the land of Canaan; for others it is the fact that the Jews are God’s chosen people (namely, Muslim Arabs, especially Palestinian Arabs); for us, it is the Biblical teaching on the role of women in the church. (Incidentally, Muslims have no problem with the teachings on women’s roles in the church, while Jews have no problems being God’s chosen people. Clearly, what we do and don’t have problems with is culturally filtered; don’t think that your objections are any better than any one else’s. In the end, it doesn’t matter what you object to from God’s Word, or your reasons for dismissing any of it. The fact that you presume to “veto” any of God’s commands will be answerable to God on judgment day.) 

We cannot simply dismiss what we don’t like of scripture. It is written: 2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man [a????p??–anthropos, which is not gender specific] of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 

When Paul writes what he writes about women not being permitted to teach, he appeals to creation order, which makes it clear that he is speaking of something universal and not merely local to the situation Timothy was facing. He even says that elders/overseers are to be “the husband of one wife” [A]. This is scripture; if we simply dismiss it because we don’t like it, where does it stop? Scripture is authoritative because it is the Word of God; we can’t decide what we will or will not believe or obey without making ourselves the authority, because scripture has no authority over you if you have veto power over it. 

With that said, I must admit that Paul’s writings regarding the role and proper behavior of women are incredibly hard for me to accept; none the less, I will not reject any teaching of scripture because it is the Word of God and has authority over me. I’m not free to dismiss anything because my distastes do not have veto power over God [B]. A real cynic may say that this is just because I’m not a female, but I’m telling you honestly, it’s no easier for me as a male to accept it because I am very conscious of sexism and have the utmost respect for women and am keenly aware of the junk woman have had to put up with. I do not approve of women serving as elders because the church is to be ruled by God, and such matters are not subject to our opinion. In fact, if we were all under the Old Covenant, I would not approve of even the most qualified Jew serving in the priesthood unless he were a Levite male. Under the Old Covenant, God barred the priesthood from all but Levites regardless of how much any Jew of the other tribes wanted to or was otherwise qualified for the priesthood. Under the New Covenant, women are barred from eldership. Some may think it unfair that non-Levites were barred from priesthood and women are barred from eldership, but God can do that; it’s not a matter of how much one wants to serve in a role not meant for him or her, it’s the fact that God has the last say in His church.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: