What Does The Bible Teach About A Womans Role In The Church, Home and Government?
Pastor David L. Brown, Ph.D.
1996 David L. Brown
In 1963 Betty Freidan s book, The Feminine Mystique, was published and it popped the lid off "Pandoras Box" releasing the Womans Liberation Movement. American culture has not been the same since. Womans lib has touched every facet of American culture and now it is increasingly coming into the evangelical and fundamental church.
This past year my aunt Mildred died. She was one of the almost 4,000 ordained and licensed women in the Assemblies of God.
I was brought up in the United Methodist Church. I remember on more than one occasion having a woman preacher in the pulpit. In fact, there are 4,743 women "clergy" in the ranks of the United Methodists today. One of them pastors the Methodist church in this town.
Our family briefly vacationed in Florida this past winter. We stayed with a retired Christian friend. I had been the assistant pastor of this womans husband back in the early 70s. We attended church with her the Sunday we were there. It was a Southern Baptist Church. I was shocked when a woman got up and preached the sermon. Upon doing some research I find that there are about 1000 ordained Southern Baptist women clergy despite a 1984 Convention resolution stating that the Scripture "excludes women from pastoral leadership." In a September 1993 meeting of the SBC Executive Committee, a measure to expel congregations for ordaining women was rejected unanimously.
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has 2,419 female leaders. In 1979 the United Presbyterian Church, forerunner of the Presbyterian Church U.S.A., adopted a resolution REQUIRING the congregations to elect women elders. This politically correct denomination also voted to ban the ordination of any man who opposed women clergy and gave such men 10 years to change their minds or get out (EP News Service, June 21, 1980).
The United Church of Christ has 1,803 female leaders while the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has 1,358 ordained women.
The Episcopal Church in the United States, which approved women's ordination in 1976, has more than 1,000. The Episcopalians ordained the first Anglican female bishop in 1989. The General Synod of the "mother church" in England endorsed the concept of female priests in 1993. In 1991 Queen Elizabeth paved the way for female priests by appointing a woman as one of her royal chaplains in Scotland.
The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, though more conservative than other Lutheran bodies, is beginning to allow women to preach in regular worship services. A survey showed that about 1,000 LCMS clergymen maintain that the Bible is not opposed to the ordination of women (Christian News, Feb. 13, 1989).
The focus of this study is going to be, What Does The Bible Teach About A Womans Role In The Church? If you read the April 8, 96 issue of Christianity Today you might be convinced woman preachers are OK. Is that true?
I think a good place to begin is to point out the fact that...
Linda and I recently attended a biblical counseling seminar. One of the topics that Dr. Ed Bulkley was addressing was the biblical chain of command and how it related to men and women. He shared a little statement that may be helpful to you, it was to me -- In soul men and women are equal (Gal. 3:28). In role & function there are differences (Eph 5:23; 1 Tim 2:12).
Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
This verse points out the fact that the spiritual standing of every human being regardless of nationality, class or gender is the same. I like the way one author put it, "the ground is level at the cross. Women matter as much as men..." That is true when our spiritual standing is in focus! And that is clear to see from the life and ministry of Jesus Christ and the apostles.
Luke 10:38-42 Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word. 40 But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. 41 And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: 42 But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.
Luke 8:3 And Joanna the wife of Chuza Herod's steward, and Susanna, and many others, which ministered unto him of their substance.
Acts 16:13-15 And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither. 14 And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul. 15 And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.
Lydia was one of the first European converts to Christ.
I refer you back to an earlier quote -- "the ground is level at the cross." There is no difference in the spiritual standing between men and woman. A Christian woman has as much access to God as a man does. God cares about his children regardless of their nationality, race or gender.
THE ROLES OF MEN AND WOMEN ARE DIFFERENT
Though the spiritual standing of men and women are the same before God, he has ordained that men assume the leadership role in the church and home and that women assume the support role. From the dawn of creation men and women were created for different roles, that is clear. Gen 2:18 & 20-24 show that God created Eve from Adam to be his "help meet" (helper or aid).
Genesis 2:21-24 And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; 22 And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. 23 And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. 24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.
Note that the support role of women was established before the fall. (See 1 Cor. 11:7-9 for further support). The role of a wife is to support her husband, to make him successful.
Now, if man had not sinned, he would always have ruled with wisdom and love; if the woman had not sinned, she would always have obeyed with humility and meekness. But both Eve and Adam sinned. Turn to --
Genesis 3:16-17 Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. 17 And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened (obeyed) unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;
The first role reversal in the marital relationship came when Eve submitted to the serpent and not God or her husband and when Adam obeyed Eve and not God. As a result God said that the husband would rule over his wife and she was to submit to his headship. The word rule means to govern or to have dominion.
Now, perhaps you are wondering what does this have to do with the church and the womans role in the church.
A WOMANS ROLE IN THE CHURCH
To answer that question we need to look at -- 1 Timothy 2:11-14 Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. 12 But I suffer not (do not allow) a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. 13 For Adam was first formed, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.
These verses do not leave much to the imagination. First, a woman could and should be a learner. But she is not to teacher or preach the Word to men. That would obviously preclude a woman from being a pastor or deacon. Titus 2:4 clarifies that a woman can teach women and children.
I will conclude todays message by turning your attention to 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 Let your women keep silence (to hold their peace) in the churches: for it is not permitted (given liberty) unto them to speak (preach, speak); but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. 35 And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.
Biblically, a woman can neither be a pastor or deacon in the church. Neither is she to teach the Word to men. Having said that, I want to make it clear that woman are important to the church and do important things. Their ministry is to revolve around support, service and ministry to woman and children.
The woman who fulfills the role God established for her is not inferior but is a Godly woman.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN MEN FAIL TO LEAD?
God has established in His Word that men are to be the leaders in the home, church and society. The Biblical role of women is a support role. But what happens when men fail to fulfill their leadership obligation? There is a very sobering passage of scripture that answers this question, Isaiah 3:1-12. There are two verses in this passage that I want to look at -- Verses 4 & 12 And I will give children to be their princes, and babes shall rule over them. As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths.
These verses indicate that when men fail to lead as they should then women and children will fill the vacuum. When that happens the results are disastrous. God sends judgment when he is disobeyed. There are several biblical examples to support this. Queen Jezebel is one example (1 Kings 18, 19 & 21) of a woman who usurped her husbands authority. She persecuted the prophets of God and put a price on Elijahs head. As for child oppressors, consider for a moment the rule of Manasseh. He was installed as king at age 12. His reign was long and wicked (696-642 B.C.) and the Lord blames him for the downfall of Judah (2 Kings 21:10-16).
I want to make it clear. Gods perfect will is for men to lead in government, in the home and in the church. It is Gods perfect will for women to assume the support roles in the home, church and perhaps the government not the leadership roles. When men are strong and obedient to Gods commands, there is not a serious problem with what the women, particularly when the women are obedient to Gods will. But when men are weak, lazy or cowardly, there are going to be problems. When men are not obeying God and not being spiritually what they are supposed to be, God responds in judgment by allowing a role reversal to take place, that is dominant women and oppressive children.
Thats why there are major problems in homes, churches and government in our day. Thats why the youth crime rate is going ballistic. Thats why women are "wearing the pants" in the family and the church. Thats why more women are being elected to public office.
Perhaps there are those who are wondering, "If you really believe that men are to be in the leadership roles and women in the support roles, then how do you explain Deborah (Judges 4:4-5)? Why did God make Deborah a judge in Israel?" The answer is not difficult. God's perfect will is for men to lead, but when men will not assume their responsibilities, God uses women. The men in Deborah's day were weak and chicken-hearted. Barak, the captain of the armies of Israel, proves this to be true. He refused to go into battle unless Deborah went with him. Deborah had to remind him that God had said it is time to fight. Deborah had to encourage and challenge him to go. Deborah had to go with him!
"And Barak said unto her, If thou wilt go with me, then I will go: but if thou wilt not go with me, then I will not go" Judges 4:8
Deborah clearly realized that this was neither right nor natural for her to have the leadership position. She even tells Barak it would result in shame upon his name. "And she said, I will surely go with thee; notwithstanding the journey that thou takest shall not be for thine honour; FOR THE LORD SHALL SELL SISERA INTO THE HAND OF A WOMAN..." Judges 4:9.
Obviously it was a period in Israel's history during which God could find no man to do His will, so He used a brave, willing woman.
The root problem in Deborah's day was spiritual apostasy. Where there is spiritual apostasy in a nation, a church, or a home, God sends his judgment by rendering the men powerless against their enemies. He removes discernment and true wisdom from their thinking.
This is exactly what is happening in our nation today. We are under Gods judgment because our leaders are weak and godless. Thats why parents cannot control our little children, and women are in places of leadership where they should not be. It is God's judgment because of the apostate condition of professing Christendom. Just as Israel in Deborah's day was in bondage to their enemies because of their apostasy so America is walking down that same path. Men, we need to get back to the Biblical chain of command --
1 Corinthians 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.
Men, we need to be the kind but firm leaders in our homes and churches that God has ordained in His Word. Colossians 3:19 gives husbands an important command -- In doing a word study of the phrase be not bitter I found the idea is, dont treat your wife harshly which makes her bitter. Thats good advice.
HOW CAN WOMEN SERVE CHRIST & HIS CHURCH?
While it is clear that women are not to be preachers, deacons, teachers or spiritual leaders because that would place them in a leadership role over men (1 Tim 2:11-14 & 1 Cor 14:34-35) there are other things that women can and should do.
Titus 2:3-5 The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; 4 That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.
Mature Christian women are to disciple the younger woman teaching them to exercise self-control (be sober), to be affectionate to their own husbands, to be fond of their children, to be self-restrained in their passions and desires (discreet), modest and focused sexually only on her own husband (chaste), domestic, a stayer at home, upright in character (good), and obedient to her husband.
Further, women can and should minister the word to other women as well. Turn to Acts 21:8-11. In this passage we will see that Philip the evangelist had 4 unmarried daughters that ministered the word of God. Some point to this passage as evidence that women can be preachers, but the context shows differently. Paul and his helpers stayed with Philip and his family. But when God wanted to reveal something to Paul prophetically, he did not use any of Philips daughters. He used a male prophet from another city named Agabus. This shows us that the girls ministry must have been with among other women. Lets read the passage.
And the next day we that were of Paul's company departed, and came unto Caesarea: and we entered into the house of Philip the evangelist, which was one of the seven; and abode with him. 9 And the same man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy. 10 And as we tarried there many days, there came down from Judaea a certain prophet, named Agabus. 11 And when he was come unto us, he took Paul's girdle, and bound his own hands and feet, and said, Thus saith the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.
Romans 16:1-2 I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea: 2 That ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath been a succourer of many, and of myself also.
The word translated servant is the Greek word diakonos (dee-ak'-on-os). It literally means to run on errands; an attendant, a waiter at table or in other serving duties. The word in the masculine gender is diakoneo(s) (dee-ak-on-eh'-o) appears in the New Testament about 68 times and is translated serve, minister, administer every time but 5. Five times the word refers to the office of a deacon that can only be held by men (1 Tim 3:8-13; Acts 6:1-7). I bring this up because there are some who try to say that Phebe held the office of a deacon. She did not. She was a servant, a helper around the church and she succoured (assisted, helped or was hospitable) to many, including Paul.
Turn to 1 Timothy 5:9-10 Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man, 10 Well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints' feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work.
You might wonder why I have turned you to this passage. This passage gives the qualifications for widows that were considered worthy of regular support by the local church. She was to have a history of good works, been a faithful mother, been hospitable to strangers, been willing to serve fellow Christians in menial ways, as well as help those who are in distress. In short, she has a history of diligent labor for the Lord.
Acts 9:36-39 gives us the example of this kind of woman. Her name was Tabitha or Dorcas. She had made clothes for many of the believers. May the Lord raise up many Godly women like Dorcas in this church. Women with a servants heart.
Priscilla and Aquila shared the Gospel with Apollos privately. It was a team effort but it is clear from the passage that she took part (Acts 18:26). I believe the Bible allows women can share the gospel in a non-public context with a man if the opportunity presents itself as long as 1) it is done with the husbands permission 2) it is done discreetly and 3) as long as she avoids the appearance of evil.
Further, women can be involved in support roles in church or missionary work. Philippians 4:2-4 I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord. 3 And I entreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellowlabourers, whose names are in the book of life. 4 Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.
I will conclude by saying I praise the Lord for all the women who follow the Biblical model. May God increase your number. Likewise I praise the Lord for men who are striving to be what they should be spiritually. We need you. We need MORE of you.