Today there is a big shift in the world, in large corporate businesses and even in governments of countries where women play a more prominent role in leadership. Scripture has no objection to this, but is there any direction given in scripture about leadership in the Church of Christ?
I want to start off by making it clear that men and women were created equal before God in value. The church in the past has neglected women and the gifts that God has placed in them for ministry due to the misinterpretation of scripture. Women need to be empowered by the Elders of their church to flow in the gifts of the Spirit and the ministries to which God has called them.
Having said the above, we do find that Paul has something to say about women in government in Church as well as their ministry within the Church.
Let’s have a look at some scriptures.
The relationship between the Father and the Son
To truly understand God’s order in His church, and how leadership should function, we must first understand the mystery of the relationship between God the Father and God the Son.
John 1:18 “No one has seen God at any time; the Only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.”
As we look at John 1:18 we find that Jesus, who was God Himself, existing with the Father from everlasting to everlasting, came from the Father’s bosom and lived among us. The word begotten in Hebrew is “Yaladh” which means “to bear” or to “bring forth”. He was “born” from the Father and lived in complete subordination to the Father. That is why Jesus says in John 10:30 “I and the Father are one!”
When we read Genesis 2:22 – 24, we again see that Eve came from the bosom of Adam, and when she was returned unto him they became one flesh again. She was begotten of Adam and was created not out of dust like Adam, but came from him to return to him so that they could be one again.
In Psalms 110:1 the Father speaks to the Son:
Psa 110:1 “A Psalm of David. Jehovah said to my Lord, Sit at My right hand until I place Your enemies as Your footstool.”
The Son is told by the Father to sit at His right hand until the Father makes His enemies His footstool. He was not to take the position of the Father or to sit on the Father’s throne, but His place was at the right hand of the Father. He also never moved outside the authority and commands of the Father, but walked in complete obedience to the Father.
John 5:30 “I can do nothing of My own self. As I hear, I judge, and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of the Father who has sent Me.”
John 14:10 “Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in Me? The Words that I speak to you I do not speak of Myself, but the Father who dwells in Me, He does the works.”
The Father and the Son are both equally God, yet we find even in the God head that there is an order of authority. The authority that Christ has did not come from Him but He received it from the Father.
Mat 28:18 “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, All authority is given to Me in Heaven and in earth.”
Looking at two difficult texts on the subject from Paul in his pastoral letters
This, I believe, is the background from which Paul wrote 1 Corinthians 11 and 1 Timothy 2. I will give a short exposition of these two scriptures below:
1Co 11:1 “Be imitators of me, even as I also am of Christ.”
Paul is clear in this first verse that the things which he speaks of are in obedience to what he has received from Christ. When he speaks out of his own he clearly says so for example in 1 Cor 7:12.
1Co 11:2 “But I praise you, brothers, that you remember me in all things, and you keep the doctrines as I delivered them to you.”
1Co 11:3 “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.”
Paul reminds the Corinthians of the previous time he had spoken to them about this and uses the order of creation to emphasize the doctrine which he had received from Christ.
1Co 11:4 “Every man praying or prophesying with his head covered dishonors his Head.”
1Co 11:5 “But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled dishonors her head; for that is even the same as if she were shaved.”
1Co 11:6 “For if the woman is not veiled, let her also be shorn. But if it is a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be veiled.”
1Co 11:7 “For a man indeed ought not to have his head covered, because he is the image and glory of God. But the woman is the glory of the man.”
The physical covering of the head was a symbolic act by the women to show that they are under the covering (authority) of their husbands. The physical covering here is the only customary action, but has nothing to do with the order that should still be in the church. If women should wish to continue doing this they would not be in error, also those who choose not to, will not be doing wrong, as long as they are under the spiritual covering of their husband.
1Co 11:8 “For the man is not of the woman, but the woman of the man.”
1Co 11:9 “Nor was the man created for the woman, but the woman for the man.”
Again Paul uses creation to explain this doctrine that makes it very clear that it cannot be cultural or just a custom of the church of Corinth, because in creation there is no custom or culture.
1Co 11:10 “For this reason the woman ought to have authority on her head because of the angels.”
The angels, who are spiritual beings, understand the creation order of God and when they see the women in the position of man this is out of the spiritual order. The position of leadership and authority in church always has been and always will be male because we are still created beings.
1Co 11:11 “But neither is the man without the woman, nor the woman without the man, in the Lord.”
1Co 11:12 “For as the woman is of the man, even so the man is also through the woman; but all things of God.”
Just as a human body has different parts, the parts having different functions. The eye is not designed to fulfill the role of the ear and vice versa.
They are also equally important but have different roles to fulfill.
1 Corinthians 11 Paul clearly differentiates between man and woman.
CK - Barret explains the covering as follows:
“According to Paul, it is the man, and not the woman, who is the glory of God, and who will therefore naturally play the active role in worship. Yet now woman too speaks to God in prayer and declares His word in prophecy; to do this she needs authority and power from God. The head – covering which symbolizes the effacement of man’s glory in the presence of God also serves as the sign of the authority which is given to the woman. That is, her veil represents the new authority given to the woman under the new dispensation to do things which formerly had not been permitted her.”
When a woman is in worship she must be under authority (veiled) because God only may be glorified. If she is not under authority, she reflects the glory of man and this turns to shame (shaving of the head).
What about Galatians 3:28?
The question may arise to what Paul means in Galatians 3:28 when he speaks about male and female in Christ.
Gal 3:28 “There cannot be Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is no male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
When read in context, it is clear that this verse speaks about how we all receive salvation through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, and that He does not make a distinction when people call on Him in faith. It does not matter if you are male or female, Jew or Greek. This verse cannot be used to reverse the creation order before the fall of man, because even after Jesus died on the cross His relationship with the Father did not change. Neither does it mean that the Jews do not exist as a people before God, and that His plans with them are finished.
Women in the assembly of believers
Let us have a look at 1 Timothy 2: 7-15.
1Ti 2:7 “To this I am ordained a preacher and an apostle (I speak the truth in Christ, I do not lie), a teacher of the nations, in faith and truth.”
Again Paul establishes in this verse that he receives his authority and the doctrine he teaches form Jesus Christ.
1Ti 2:8 “Therefore, I desire that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.”
1Ti 2:9 “In the same way also, I desire that women adorn themselves in decent clothing, with modesty and sensibleness, not adorned with braiding, or gold, or pearls, or costly clothing,”
1Ti 2:10 “but with good works, which becomes women professing godliness.”
1Ti 2:11 “Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.”
I want to highlight a few words in Greek so that this verse is clarified.
Woman – “gune”: means wife or woman
Learn – “manthano”: means to understand
Silence – “alehtes”: means truly or truth
Subjection – “hupotage”: means subjection or subordination
Women should understand the truth of the gospel whilst being subordinate to their husband and elders in the church.
1Ti 2:12 “But I do not allow a woman to teach, or to exercise authority over a man, but to be in silence.”
Allow – “epitrepo”: means to give liberty or permit
Teach – “didasko”: means to learn or teach
Exercise authority – “authenteo”: means to dominate or usurp authority over.
To be a congregational teacher is from a position of eldership and Paul does not allow women to teach men or take authority over men in church. Today women are well educated in scripture and should minster to other women. I believe that women under the authority of the elders can minister in church with the gifts that the Holy Spirit has given to them. So when she ministers, she acts under the spiritual authority given to her by her husband and the elders. I do believe that the position of a congregational teacher/pastor lies within eldership which is male. Women do pastor and teach, but this would be mainly focused on women. The question is not whether women are good teachers, because you will find great woman teachers. The question is “Are women called by God to teach men and take authority over men in church?”
The answer is clearly no.
1Ti 2:13 “For Adam was first formed, then Eve.”
Immediately Paul gives his base for the above command in this next verse and again uses the creation order which is neither cultural or a custom. It is from God Himself.
1Ti 2:14 “And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.”
Deceived – “apatao”: means to cheat or delude (mislead).
Transgression – “parabasis”: means breaking or violation.
The women violated her position of subordination to Adam and this was her sin.
This is a profound verse and I would like to quote the following explanation from John Gill’s exposition of the Bible:
“Adam never was deceived at all; neither by the serpent, with whom he never conversed; nor by his wife, he knew what he did, when he took the fruit of her, and ate; he ate it not under any deception, or vain imagination, that they should not die, but should be as gods, knowing good and evil. He took and ate out of love to his wife, from a fond affection to her, to bear her company, and that she might not die alone; he knew what he did, and he knew what would be the consequence of it, the death of them both; and inasmuch as he sinned willfully, and against light and knowledge, without any deception, his sin was the “greater”: and hereby death came in, and passed on all men, who sinned in him.”
This quote is explained by Paul in Romans 5:15. Sin came upon the human race not through the sin of Eve, but the sin of Adam because he is the symbol of authority and protector.
Rom 5:15 “But God's free gift is not like Adam's offense. For if many people died as the result of one man's offense, how much more have God's grace and the free gift given through the kindness of one man, Jesus Christ, been showered on many people!”
Men are not more important or special than women, God created them differently because they have different functions in the body of Christ of which Jesus is the head. They are both to flow in the gifts of the Spirit and also move in the gifts God has placed in them like teaching or prophesying. The only difference is that Christ is the head (authority) of the man and the man the head (authority) of the woman. In this manner the church should function in obedience to Paul’s teachings he received from Jesus Himself.
If the above is not to be interpreted this way and everything changed after Jesus died on the cross, a few important questions need answers:
- Why should women, after the cross, still submit under their husbands?
- Why does Jesus call God Father and not mother, or just God? God is Spirit and has no sex, yet everywhere in scripture, when there is spoken of Him, it is in the male form. This is because He is in the position of authority (governance) and this was, is and always should be male.
- When God created male and female, why did he not create them the same way?
- Why is there no evidence in the New Testament of women taking position of authority (eldership) in the church in the New Testament? In fact we see the opposite. (We do see them ministering with the Apostles and even going on missions with them, but never in the position of governance)
- If Paul’s teaching on the role of men and women in church and family is no longer applicable today, then his teaching on homosexuality/lesbianism should also not be applied as literally. These are the arguments used by those holding this position.
There are many ministries across the world which have women as leaders and are blessed, but God has never said that when we do everything perfectly only then will we be blessed and will He use us. We see this spirit already at work in the world giving rise to homosexual and lesbian marriages (there were never such marriages legalized before) because God’s creation order and His function for male and female are not honored. His Word is no longer “applicable” for the world, and even for many churches who say that it was only written for the people in biblical times, and we can now interpret scripture as we see fit, bending God’s Word to our liking. Many world renowned ministers are claiming to receive new revelation outside of scripture. Many of these new doctrines cannot be tested and most even contradict scripture. Was God so incompetent not to let the writers of the Bible know what His plan for His church was and how they should function? I believe not. The church must be moving in the opposite direction of the world and not conform to their changes. The Word of God is not a book of culture and should and cannot be interpreted in such a way. This is a serious problem we are facing to stay true to God’s commands.
Praise God for His Word to keep us from deception.
The scriptures are given to us by God to keep us from falling into error. There is no compromise with God and He asks of us to walk in obedience to His Word and receive His blessing.
2Ti 3:16 “All Scripture is God-breathed, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,”
2Ti 3:17 “that the man of God may be perfected, thoroughly furnished to every good work.”
May we walk in obedience to our Lord, like Paul did, with much prayer.
- John Gill’s exposition of the entire Bible
- Adam Clarke’s commentary on the Bible
- C.K. Barret’s The First Epistle to the Corinthians
- Strong’s Hebrew and Greek dictionaries
- King James Concordance