By: Clement Ntukogu
There is a great deal of confusion today as to a woman’s role in the church. This uncertainty provides a good opportunity to study afresh what the Bible teaches on the subject.
As the church is the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Tim. 3:15), it is most important that the church reflect Biblical truth about the woman’s role in the church. In a social climate of complete equality in all things, the biblical teaching of only allowing men to be pastors is no longer popular.
Many Christian churches have adopted the “politically correct” social standard and have allowed women pastors in the church. But the question remains: is this biblical? What does the Bible say about women becoming pastors in the church?
We cannot come to God’s word with a social agenda and make it fit our wants, instead, we must change and adapt to what it says. In the beginning God planted the Garden of Eden and created Adam. He put Adam in the garden and gave him the authority to name all the animals. Afterwards, God made Eve as a helper to him.
This is an important concept because Paul refers to the order of creation in his epistle to Timothy when he discusses the relationship between men and women in the church context.
“But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but remain quiet.
For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being quite deceived, fell into transgression” (1 Tim. 2:12-14). At the very least, there is an authority structure set up by God; the woman is not to have authority over the man in the church context.
“Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law… for it is a shame for women to speak in the church” (1 Corinthians 14: 34- 35); “And he shall rule over you” (Genesis 3: 16).
When we look further at Paul’s teachings we see that the bishop/overseer is to be the husband of one wife (1 Tim. 3:2) who manages his household well and has a good reputation (1 Tim. 3:4-5, 7). Deacons must be “men of dignity” (1 Tim. 3:8).
Then in verse 12, Paul says “Let deacons be husbands of one wife…” Again, in Titus 1:5-7, Paul says, “For this reason I left you in Crete, that you might set in order what remains, and appoint elders in every city as I directed you, namely, if any man be above reproach, the husband of one wife, having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion…”
In each case, elders, bishops, deacons are described as the “husband of one wife” “a man whose children believe” and “men worthy of respect”. Clearly the indication is that these qualifications refer to men and not to women. We see no command for the overseers to be women.
Why is it that it is the men who are singled out as the overseers? It is because of the created order of God that Paul references (Gen. 1-2; 1 Tim. 2:12-14). Although the church is to hold unswervingly to the view that women and men are equally valuable in the eyes of God, it must also reflect the New Testament teaching that men and women are to fill different roles in the church.
For instance, in the Lord’s plan for church government each congregation is to be led by elders and deacons (Philippians 1:1). In listing the qualifications for elders (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9) and for deacons (1 Tim. 3:12) being the “husband of one wife” is mentioned. This obviously excludes women from these roles; only men are to be elders and deacons.
Additionally, in the Old Testament in over 700 mentions of priests, every single one was a male. There is not one instance of a female priest. This is significant because priests were ordained by God to hold a very important office of ministering the sacrifices.
This was not the job of women. In the Gospels we learn that Jesus in no way dealt with women as being inferior to men as far as being his disciples was concerned, but in selecting men rather than women to be his apostles, he did make some distinction in the roles men and women should fill. God is a God of order and balance. He has established order within the family (Genesis 3:16; 1 Corinthians 11:3; Ephesians 5:22-33; Colossians 3:18 ) and in the church (1 Timothy 2:11-14; 1 Corinthians 11:8-9).
Even within the Trinity there is an order, a hierarchy. God, the Father sent the Son (John 6:38) and both the Father and the Son sent the Holy Spirit (John 14:26; 15:26). Jesus said, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me,” (John 6:38). It is clear that God is a God of order and structure.
In the church, God set up an order the same way he set one up in the family. The chain of command is Jesus, the man, the wife, and the children. The issue is simple: Are we submitting to the word of God or are we making the word of God submit to our desires? So, should a woman be church pastor or bishop?
The answer to this question is NO. Women are not allowed to be pastors, bishops or even deaconesses in the church of the living God. Many people may wonder why women who are just as gifted and productive as men shouldn’t be allowed to use their abilities in the church. Some women are able to teach, preach, and lead better than many men. Why should they not be allowed to bless the church in their own ways?
The Bible does not restrict women to teaching children. Woman’s role in the private teaching of God’s Word is also referenced in Scripture. In Acts 18:26, Priscilla with her husband, Aquila, privately taught a good, but misinformed preacher, Apollos “the way of God more accurately.” Titus 2:3-5 commands older women to train younger women in Christian living.
Although women can teach privately, as we learned from the example of Priscilla, women are forbidden to teach men publicly (1 Timothy 2:12). The common practice today of women being accepted as pastors is not a practice approved in the New Testament and should not be practiced in the church (1 Corinthians 14: 34).
The only activity women are restricted from is teaching or having spiritual authority over men. This logically would preclude women from serving as pastors to men. This does not make women less important, by any means, but rather gives them a ministry focus more in agreement with God’s plan and His gifting of them. In the New Testament, Phoebe played an important role in the church at Cenchrea (Romans 16).
There is no doubt that women supported Paul in many areas and were great helpers in the church (Acts 2:17; 18:24-26; 21:8-9), only men are given the responsibility to serve as pastors, bishops, elders and deacons in the church of the living God. Although Scripture is quite clear on this point, there are many individuals, churches, and denominations that choose to disobey God’s commandments in this regard and allow women to function in pastoral and teaching roles.
The great emphasis today on the rights of women should not cause Christians to question the Lord’s forbidding of women to assume certain roles in the church. Even if no reasons for this action were given we should accept by faith what God has revealed. Some reasons, however, were given. Consider the following:
1. Woman’s role in the church reflects the original act of creation in which man was first created (1 Timothy 2:13).
2. Woman’s role in the church reflects that it was the woman who was first deceived by Satan and fell into sin (1 Timothy 2:13).
3. Woman’s role in the church is closely connected to her unique role in the home. Woman alone can give birth to children (1 Timothy 2:15). The man must care for and provide for his wife and love her as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:25).
The woman’s willing submission to her husband is most likely to call forth the best of his care (Ephesians 5:22,33). In order for there to be the greatest amount of happiness in the home, God has established different roles for men and women in the home. This difference is likewise to be reflected in the church.
Finally, here are two thoughts for us to consider on the issue:
1. We need to draw a distinction between women in church leadership, and women in leadership OUTSIDE the church. The Bible never forbids a woman to assume political or civic leadership. It is only church hierarchy that is addressed in the scriptures.
2. If a married woman is submissive to her husband in the home, how would she take off that submissiveness in the church and be the spiritual leader of her husband?
A wife is NEVER to be the spiritual leader of her husband; it’s the other way around. Ephesians 5:23 says that the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ is the head of the church. The wife’s role is to lovingly, respectfully submit; the husband’s role is to lovingly, sacrificially lead.