by Pastor Paul K. Christianson
Martin Luther once said to those who were willing to accept the conventional wisdom of society over that of Scripture: “If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God – except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved…”
Today when you pick up a newspaper the headline or caption might read, “Female bishop installed,” or “Lady pastor to speak Sunday,” etc. Yet the conventional wisdom of today’s society would applaud such headlines as reflective of the socio-economic, political, legal, and, yes, ecclesiastical advances of women this century.
However, the Christian’s appeal must first and foremost be an appeal to the word of God, the Bible and not to present-day community standards. In the New Testament men were chosen and ordained for the work of deacon and elder (i.e., preacher, minister, pastor). These were men who served either by apostolic or church appointment, and there is no evidence that women were placed in these official roles. In fact, there are clear Scriptural prohibitions for their taking of such roles. (See I Timothy 2:11-15; 1 Corinthians 14:33b-38).
The question of women in office is not a question of equality with men; nor is it based on the false notion that somehow one’s position in society is related to their worth. As to the latter, Scripture regularly combats this notion (see Judges 5:24-27; I Samuel 17:41-49; James 2:1-7; Matthew 26:13). Those who seek power to affirm their worthiness are looking in the wrong place altogether, for Christ warned that we should seek not power – but rather service. (See Matthew 20:25-28). As to the former, equality and role differences are not mutually exclusive. There is an equality of woman with the man before God (See Genesis 1:27; Galatians 3:27,28; I Peter 3:7). I Peter 3:7 is a good summary: “Ye husbands, in like manner, dwell with your wives according to knowledge, giving honor unto the woman, as unto the weaker vessel, as being also joint-heirs of the grace of life; to the end that your prayers be not hindered.” Men and women are “joint-heirs” of God’s grace and eternal life. Yet while “joint-heirs” in their mutual equality before God, their roles are different, and the Bible forbids women to fill the special offices in the church.
There are many passages of Scripture which could be brought to bear regarding the prohibition of women holding the special offices in the church. Let me focus on just one, 1 Timothy 2:11-14: “Let a woman learn in quietness with all subjection. But I permit not a woman to teach, nor to have dominion over a man, but to be in quietness. For Adam was first formed, then Eve; and Adam was not beguiled, but the woman being beguiled hath fallen into transgression.”
You will notice that the Apostle Paul appeals to creation. The creation account implies three things:
1) Man is given dominion (Genesis 1:26);
2) The woman was formed after the man and was to be a helper for him (Genesis 2:20-22);
3) And that after the fall man’s authority over the woman is reasserted and the woman is named by the man (Genesis 3:6, 20). As theologian Gordon Wenham puts it, “Eve listened to the serpent instead of Adam; Adam listened to Eve instead of God.”
So I Timothy 2:13 uses the order of the creation of man and woman as a basis for prohibiting women to teach or have authority over men in the church. The Bible clearly teaches male headship in the church, and this is derivative of the pre-fall creation order established in the early chapters of Genesis. While the writers of the New Testament honored women, they never negated by word or inference male headship either in the home or church.
Therefore to permit women to hold office the church is in flagrant disobedience to the commands of Christ in the Scripture; in the second place, it is an attack not only upon Scripture – but also the headship of Christ; and thirdly, it’s an attack upon the husband’s headship over his wife. The husband is not merely the “source” or “origin” of the wife as many assert; headship implies authority as Ephesians 5:22-23 asserts “For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ is also the head of the church, being himself the savior of the body.”
John Cavin in commenting on I Timothy 2:15 said, “Whatever hypocrites or wise men of the world may think, God is better pleased with a woman who considers the condition God has assigned to her as a calling and submits to it…God is better pleased with her than if she were to make some great display of heroic virtues and refuse to accept the vocation given her by God.”
Let Christians who love the Bible as God’s Word stand with courage against these evils which will, ultimately, undermine and degrade women, the family and the church.