I noted in a part one a desire to tackle the ever-important issue of women in ministry. The problem does require handling of texts that may otherwise be controversial, namely 1 Timothy 2:12. The text reads, “And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.” I want to focus on this particular text before I talk about the biblical qualifications for elders because of the amount of confusion that comes with when we see “women speaking on theology.” I will touch on one requirement of elders, i.e., teaching, simply because it’s unavoidable given the nature of this article. I will also go back to roles in the home, as this is also unavoidable. The primary focus, however, is the question of teaching and authority in the Church concerning men and women.
First, a brief word on what this text is not saying: it is not saying that under no circumstances can a woman speak in a congregation at all. That is a clear impossibility no one should expect themselves to maintain, nor should it be asked. This criticism usually comes from those who over-sensationalize the issue to make defenders of biblical gender and ministerial roles appear to be insulting. If it were saying that, then it would fly directly in the face of Paul’s recognition that women pray and prophesy (1 Corinth. 11:5).
Second, this text is not saying that women can never speak about theology. For a woman to teach children and young women she ought to have some working knowledge of theology. A concrete example comes in Titus 2:3-5, in which Paul commands older women to train younger women. One would expect that an older woman would be doing this because of 1.) She has the life experience, and wisdom young women need, and 2.) Her advice must be biblical, which requires some working knowledge of Scripture.
That said, as best one can read Paul, it is quite clear that women are not to exert authority over men in the arena of teaching, theological education, ministry, etc. Let me remind my readers: This is not saying a woman cannot do these things under no circumstances. It is saying, however, that women are not to exert authority in the Church, or seminaries, in these ways. These are areas delineated explicitly to the Teaching or Ruling Elder on the Lord’s Day, and certainly should be applicable when men are training for the minsitry.
A Question of Authority
1 Timothy 2 is not the only place Paul lays out the clear distinction in the roles of men and women in the Church. Men are to be leaders of their wives and children, as well as in the Church. One important thing to keep in mind is a woman’s domain: her home, her family, and her trade (Prov. 31; Titus 2:3-5). The adage of the “woman of the house” denotes a woman who manages her home and family well, and means a woman of high seniority as well. Scripture is replete with references that these are high and noble callings. It is a grand thing for a woman to be a good manager of her affairs, her husband, and her children. It is hard work that often goes unnoticed in our day, but work that is of great value before God. A woman devoted to her husband, children, home, and trade are high and noble callings that need revaluing.
That said, this does not mean a woman exercises authority in matters of the Church or family worship. Who’s command is it to train children up in the training and admonition of the Lord? A mother and father are to be godly examples, and children are to follow them. However, the command of Paul in Ephesians 6:4 is for the father to bring them up in this way, not his wife. A father is held up to a higher standard, especially pastors, because a good father is also one who can manage his home and family well.
This idea of managing one’s affairs is a specific qualification of the elder/overseer in 1 Timothy 3:1-7, but one he is also supposed to be able to do is teach. I am getting ahead of myself; however, since the purpose of this article is to deal with authority. If an elder and husband’s role is to train one’s Church and family, respectively, in the doctrines of Christ, that means it is not a woman’s role. It is not to say she has no place to, but it is not her primary role. Men are to exercise this sort of authority because men are to be leaders. In Genesis 1, God created Adam to have dominion over and subdue the earth, and Eve was his helper. Though equal, they do not do the same thing.
Teaching as Authority
Biblically speaking, teaching is a sign of one’s authority. Every authoritative position in Scripture, from Moses to the Apostle Paul, were men. The Church’s model and practice for preaching and leading in prayer were specific things the rabbi’s in synagogues are to do. Why? Because rabbis and priests were the spiritual leaders of the people of God in ancient and modern Israel. Paul even notes that the Law also commands that women are not to speak or exercise authority among the body of believers (1 Corinth. 14:34). Is Paul a misogynist? No, because he is merely recalling and following the commands of God from the beginning. A woman of God is one who follows her husband and church leaders in humble submission and takes joy in that (Eph. 5:22-24).
Essential to keep in mind is that husbands and church leaders are to take great care in valuing women, especially in their physical, emotional, and spiritual care. In doing so, a man of God will act carefully to keep God’s commands on men and women’s roles in exercising their authority, especially with teaching.
What about 1 Corinthians 11:5?
Often a verse cited in support of women praying and prophesying (or teaching) on the Lord’s Day is 1 Corinthians 11:5, “But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, for that is the same as if her head were shaved.” What is Paul saying here? Is he contradicting himself in his teaching on 1 Timothy 2:12 and 1 Corinthians 14:34? Not really. 1 Corinthians 11:5 must read concerning the other two verses, with the appropriate context being taken into view as well. Remember that 1 Timothy 2 and 1 Corinthians 14 relate to what is to take place in the church service, which also follows the old synagogue model for Sabbath worship. 1 Corinthians 11:5, when reading in its appropriate context, speaks on what men and women do when they pray and prophesy in any other circumstance outside of the congregation.
The issue of when women may prophesy and pray brings in questions of head coverings as well, which I won’t engage. The point is, however, that when praying or prophesying elsewhere, men and women will do so at the right time and the right way. Though women may pray and prophesy, the Church is not the place for that if we take Paul’s writings to be trustworthy and dependable, which Bible-believing Christians ought to be able to recognize.
These are indeed hard words to take into account, particularly among many faithful brothers and sisters who want the full gifts of their sister’s recognized. I am sympathetic to those concerns, as I want that for my sisters as well. That does not mean that we can or should disregard Paul’s teachings here as antiquated and irrelevant as some egalitarian and feminist Evangelicals have done. Men and women find their greatest fulfillment in God’s good and perfect design in Church and their lives. All Bible-believing Christians must take these writings to heart, confer it upon their minds, and see that God’s restrictions on both men and women are for our good and not for our harm.