Bringing Clarity to Women in Ministry
One man tried to convince me that women should be able to preach and teach men from an article written by David Scholer at Fuller Seminar called Women in Ministry. I handed this over to Ken to answer!
Lori asked me to take your comment. I was accepted at both Fuller and Talbot back in in 1979 and chose Talbot over Fuller precisely because Fuller, was in my opinion, and that of many other Christians, joining the Slippery Slope warned of by Howard Lindsell in his book, Battle for the Bible. Once the authority of the Word is undermined, it leads to what we find in the church today conveniently picking and choosing what it wants to believe.
If one accepts what Scholer is saying in his article that forms the basis of Fuller’s doctrinal position on women in ministry, God in His infinite wisdom did not see fit to give us a clear understanding of what role women were to have in the church, and furthermore, the church missed God’s real message for 2,000 years. But this professor and others finally got God’s message, which comes ironically at exactly the time feminism is taking our culture by storm. What a coincidence!
It is not that I disagree with everything Scholer is writing as the Kingdom of God is wide open to all for ministry, young or old, male or female, single or married, and there is indeed no distinction in God’s kingdom between the value of genders. All believers are called to evangelism, apologetics, serving others, and all the gifts are open to both genders.
Our position is not against women in ministry, but rather that any woman in ministry simply must heed the apostle’s clear and direct prohibition,
“I do not permit a woman to teach nor to exercise authority over a man” (I Timothy 2:12).
I would assume it is easy to understand why we hold this position, and I am baffled by those who are upset with us over it when it is the position of the church for almost 2,000 years. We are told by some to pray that God might show us “the hidden meaning” in the Word to see that the plain teaching of the Word on this matter and church history are no longer to be followed.
Space does not permit me to take on all of Scholar’s article, and again, we agree with much of it concerning women in ministry, but we must protest his fundamental conclusions as dishonest. I know his intent was biblical scholarship, but the result was nothing more than we see from many others who try make A + B = 23 when A and B are not even numbers. Inference and supposition can never wipe out a clear message from God on a matter, especially not one that is this important. Here are four of his main arguments that are invalid, especially when trying to eliminate something so clearly stated in God’s Word and defended by the whole of Church history.
Scholar takes on Paul’s appeal to the creation story as the first leg of his attack. Essentially, Scholer wants us to believe that Paul was simply wrong when he wrote, “For Adam was formed first, and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman who was deceived and fell into transgression” (I Timothy 2:13-14). I wonder how many other things the apostle was simply wrong about in God’s inspired Word?
Many do not realize this, but it is vital for Scholer and others to try and wipe out what Paul says here, because if what Paul is saying is true, then the whole argument that Paul’s admonition is cultural gets wiped out by Paul’s own explanation right there in the context. Paul’s defense of his admonition is not to appeal to anything in the culture of the day but goes to the very first culture ever, creation. Paul says that women are not to teach men or lead them; First, because it is God’s order of things; and second, because Eve was deceived and Adam was not. This may reflect that women can be more easily deceived, or is a result of the curse of the fall, but either way, by Paul defending his admonition with the creation story it wipes out any argument that what he is saying is “cultural.”
“The word ‘helper,’ then, is not to be understood as an expression of submission and service to man; rather, the woman as helper serves God with man.”
So to Scholer, Eve was not to be Adam’s helper but was to be God’s helper. He argues that God is called our Helper in 29 places in scripture so Eve’s position as helper should not be seen as service to her husband. Of course the whole church for 2,000 years missed this important point.
Scholar goes on and says,
“The statements of judgment for disobedience (Genesis 3:14–19) are descriptive ones of future realities, which involved a supremacy/subjection relationship between man and woman. These statements are not creation mandates; rather, the relationship of mutuality, partnership, and equality portrayed in Genesis 1:1–3:7 is now sadly marred by sin.”
Okay, let’s assume that God’s original design of mutuality, partnership, and equality is sadly marred by sin, why didn’t Jesus and the apostles, or God in His Word, address that this should change in the church and tell us directly that women may teach and lead men? Just a few examples might have done it, but certainly a direct command would have changed Church history forever. Instead, God’s Word says the exact opposite of what Scholer is advocating.
The third leg of Scholer’s argument we have no issue with on its surface:
“Jesus’s inclusion of and ministry to and through women within his own life and teaching were a powerful witness to the early church of the partnership of women and men within its membership and ministry.”
Jesus certainly did raise the status of women in His day and treated them with respect. Christ and Christianity has done more for women than any other religion or manner of thought. Women are indeed, as person, equal with men yet created different for different roles. God also outlined an order of things, not because He favors man, but because it is what is His best for the church and society.
The fact that women gave the first news of the resurrection or that the Samaritan woman evangelized her whole town, is not preaching or teaching. Just because the church desperately needs women in ministry, and God greatly uses women in ministry, does not invalidate what God’s Word clearly teaches about woman not to teach men or exercise authority over a man.
Unfortunately, Scholer is being intellectually dishonest here to try to get things the way he wants them to be and not what the Word teaches. How do we know this? If God intended for female leadership home and church He had every opportunity to set the record straight throughout history by elevating women into leadership, as Kings and priests in Judaism, as disciples of Jesus, as elders in the early church, as pastors, priests and church leaders throughout history. The “many” examples Scholer and others refer to throughout history could all be named on less than half a page.
One may be able to, as Scholar does, go grasping for straws on this question and find a Deborah and Priscilla, even a Phoebe, Junas, add them all up and assume they were ministers, you will not find one who is said to be a leader of a church, in a church, or teaching a man. Not one. And among these “few” women in ministries, not one can be shown to teach a man or exercise authority over him in the church. No not one of the six to ten women that can be named.
Now we have the apostle Paul, God’s top theologian, writing authoritatively, “Let wives submit to their own husbands in everything” and “I do not permit a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man.” It’s not like this important correction Scholer is arguing for could not have been made when Paul taught us about the home and church leadership. Yet instead of being inclusive of women as elders, Paul wrote an elder is to be, “The husband of one wife!”
On all counts, and every turn of history, Scholer wants us to believe that God in his infinite wisdom allowed a mistake in understanding the Christian woman’s role in the church … until now of course, in the age of liberation and feminism. This is in direct contradiction to what the apostle Paul writes, but Scholer has discovered by “many inferences” the truth, long hidden from the church. Truth that is setting countless women free to teach men and lead churches, all the while rarely, if ever teaching what God’s Word commands them to teach to the younger women. Because if they followed it, it would wipe out most of their ministries as God commands the older women to:
“teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed” (Titus 2:4-5).
In conclusion, God has always been quite clear and the church has been clear. Scholar and all the others who want to define women’s equality as not having to accept male leadership in their home or church are being dishonest with the Word, history and themselves. The best one can do on this subject from the view Scholar is taking is to be honest enough to accept that God’s intent was indeed male leadership and yet, somehow in these latter days, God has poured out His Spirit and gifted women to do something that goes clearly contrary to His Word.
This is very dangerous ground, as what else is God no longer holding to in His Word? Is gay marriage and polygamy next? Will God adapt His will and desires as cultural mores change, or are we to be salt and light, fixed upon the narrow road given by His inspired and inerrant Word? Unfortunately, once started the church and parachurch organizations seem bent on sliding down the slippery slope of making modern culture authoritative over God’s Word.
If Jesus can go to a cross fulfilling each and every word God had spoken, we should be doing the same, even when it doesn’t fit with our desires and what we think of as potential in life. After all is said and done, Jesus and God’s Word are inseparable. Let’s not let the latest feminist outcry push us into “culturally” making God’s Word and church history all wrong on this important matter. Instead, let’s assume that ALL Christian women, especially those gifted in teaching, do indeed have a great place in God’s ministries, but it is not in teaching men or exercising authority over them in the church.
If women are to teach, they should make it a priority to teach that which God instructs them to teach other women how to be great wives. moms and keepers at home. This is the message sorely lacking in our modern churches, not one more Biblical expositor, no matter how gifted or talented she may be in public speaking and motivation. These things are not the gifts of the Spirit, but human gifts, now mistakenly used to lead many women away from their primary roles, hence helping Satan achieve His ends as feminism wreaks havoc on our Christian families, and often their own family.
For what does it profit a woman pastor/teacher if she merits the whole church, but loses her family and the next generation of godly children?
For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
27 thoughts on “Bringing Clarity to Women in Ministry”
One quick comment for all of us to think about. There is a difference between “ministry” and “teaching and having authority”. We tend to merge the two especially when we have paid professional “ministers” something that was not present in the first century church. The two roles, minister and teacher are different and have different functions in the body of the church. Why is it that the two gifts of ministry and teaching separated when Paul spells out the spiritual gifts? Thus we do see that woman can minister but they are not to teach an have authority over men. Just something more to think about.
Thank you, Ken for your solid consistent teaching here.
Thank you, Ken and Lori, for clearly teaching women their God-given roles in ministry! I visit your blog daily… my husband likes me to read your posts to him as well.?
Sorry if it’s a little off the subject but I have a question about the I Timothy 2:12 verse. Is that only for teaching the Bible, or is that for anything? For example, if I wanted to teach my husband how to swim this summer, or teach my father in law to make my recipe for salsa? That’s definitely teaching men, but I’m not sure if it’s off limits or if it’s ok since it’s not teaching Scripture.
Of course I want Lori or Ken to comment on this, but that verse goes on to explain that women are not to teach or exercise authority over a man. The authority is the issue. If your husband asks for your help in learning something new to him, like swimming, I think that’s a perfect opportunity for you to respectfully instruct and encourage him. If he is not asking for your help, and you are pushing it on him, that would be an inappropriate exercise of authority over him. It’s about the posture you have toward him.
Excellent Tiny Tim… the church would be no where without every member in ministry of some sort, but just as God is the head of Christ, and Christ the head of the church, and elders to be the overseers of the church and teachers of the men. All other ministries are open to women which is a broad number and purpose. We will have to ask God all of why He determined this order but many of us can surmise why, and the apostle Paul actually gives us reasons why.
Great Holly! Thanks for letting us know. And no, your reading one of Lori’s posts to your husband at his request is not teaching him :). Some takes these things to a point of nonsense.
Great post and teaching, Ken. Very well done.
My husband & I teach each other stuff all the time. I had to step in and teach him about gardening really quick before he killed half my crop and he was grateful for it. I can’t imagine marrying a man not open to learning something from me, his wife. He wants me showing him stuff about what I know same as I want him to teach me from what he’s good at.
As Taylor pointed out, I think that is reffering to scripture. Just make sure you are teaching them a new skill etc with respect. And not come across as bossy or know it all. Or be condescending.
If you are not leading him and teaching him the Word in an authoritative manner in the church, it’s pretty wide open for the rest of things wives may want to share or teach, or a husband asks them to teach them. A husband should value his wife’s knowledge, opinions and thoughts, even as she allows him to lead her.
Thanks Lady Virtue! We have fun doing it and love the true life changes that Lori hears about almost every day from those who are deciding to do things God’s ways and seeing His blessings come true in the life.
Thanks for answering, Ken, that makes sense to me.
For what does it profit a woman pastor/teacher if she merits the whole church, but loses her family and the next generation of godly children? Ken you need to read the Bible. “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life’. Mark 10: 29-30.
How might you address the clear and direct prohibition just a few verses before in verse 9 about braided hair, pearls and gold jewelry. Are we to take that as letter of the law as well?
Yes Rhonda, that may be one way to look at it and I am sure these women ministers do. I will let them take that up with the Lord, when one shirks their primary God given responsibilities for a higher calling that God specifically tells them they should not be doing.
If God has called these women to teach other women, so be it. Let them stay within the boundaries of God’s Word, and love and submit to their husbands, be keepers at home, and teach their children to love. If these women are losing their families, it is proof that they are outside God’s design on their lives.
The same applies to pastors and missionaries of all sorts. One cannot claim that God’s ministry trumps the family God has entrusted to them.
Mark 10:29-30 is referring to the normal result of our accepting the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His grace, resulting in putting the Lordship of Jesus Christ first. When we accept the Gospel of grace, we surrender our house, possessions, family and so on to Jesus’ Lordship in a general sense. Then God gives these things back to us to fulfill what He has called us to.
I think the better verse for women preachers is this one to ponder in that many are so “hell bent” on doing God’s will that they pass over their primary responsibilities God has given them because they want to help God so badly.
“And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force” (Matt 11:12)
Good question Stephanie,
The clear and direct command is to be modest within the church. I would not be so concerned about having no braids, or no gold jewelry so long as they are both discrete and not elaborate. But elaborate braiding, or anything that would attract fellow believers away from the attention to God and His Word and draw attention to one’s self should be avoided in the church; and one could argue with other modesty passages, even outside the church.
The only verses of the NT concerning the church that one may decide is not for them, and a matter of conscience, is the wearing of a head covering. And in this passage the Paul makes it clear: “If anyone is inclined to dispute this, we have no other practice, nor do the churches of God.”
Hi Ken, I have a question about this comment:
The same applies to pastors and missionaries of all sorts. One cannot claim that God’s ministry trumps the family God has entrusted to them.
I have a family member (male) that has told me (and not in a judging way, he just stated that this is what he believes) that he thinks I should be attending church as a witness to my husband who isn’t saved. He said he thinks my husband will eventually get tired of being left alone on Sundays and want to know what it is all about. I understand what he is saying, but I done this for many years, and will be honest and say that I never had peace about it. It was like something was missing when I was in church. I then decided to stay home with my husband on Sundays and have felt a peace about it. I pointed out that God says in His word many times that I am to honor, obey, submit to and reverence my husband and the only verse about church (that I know of) is the one about not forsaking assembling. He then pointed out that a wife is to submit to her believing husband (again, this was not done in a mean-spirited or judgemental way, we were just having a conversation) and I told him that I disagree with that, God says a wife is to submit to her husband, it doesn’t say as long as he is a Christian. Anyway, can you point me to any scripture that might prove his point or shed light on the situation? And I also need to point out that not once has my husband told me or asked me to not attend church, but it feels like things are more peaceful and he is pleased with me not going.
…” even as she allows him to lead her.”
Think about this. She is to follow, not allow him to lead her. Big difference. That is full of condescension we get in the pulpit. That is like a child allowing their parent to make the decisions. Or better yet, the Church allowing Christ to lead her.
I agree with you. I believe you will see it in 1 Cor 7:14. This doesn’t say church attendance, it states belief. Have him find a verse that state one must attend church. Are you fellowshipping with other believers as much as you can? Praying? Reading your bible?
Also in 1 Pe 3:1-6.
We do not attend church due to the fact that my wife’s rebelliousness toward me has led us to 5 churches in 4 years all in the name of the Holy Spirit leading her to each one irregardless to where I wanted to attend.
We study as a family, sing hymns, read the bible, and break bread.
I am not encouraging you to not go to church, but in my opinion I do not respect the women I know for going to church when they have an unbelieving husband or their husband does not attend even if he does believe.
I see no problem with going to a women’s social group or attending Sunday school, but the assembly… no. If a believing husband is sick or out of town is different.
If my wife started attending a church without me. It would be very rocky.
You are correct Anonymous,
I believe there is time for extraordinary sacrifice on the part of pastors/ministers/missionaries, but they must still keep family in focus as they minister. I can’t explain why exactly, but my Dad was a hard working missionary and gone 10-14 hours a day and many evenings. At one point I remember him being gone 6 weeks straight and I missed him terribly. But he did a great job raising his kids in the Lord, and in large part because of the great wife he chose to be his helper in all of this.
I know Lori has tackled your question before about wives married to unbelievers and do they go to church or not. I would lean towards “go to church” so long as your husband does not object. I know this is a lonely thing to do until you get some really good friends sitting around you and supporting you, but you are witnessing to him by attending church regularly how important your faith is. More importantly, you need a solid group of believers surrounding you each week to help keep you strong. You can just go for the service which is just 75 minutes in most churches then back home.
If you have a strong church body with a smaller group that you can meet with during the week, perhaps this meets your needs, and staying home or playing on the weekend with your husband is up to your conscience and the Spirit that is inside of you.
Either way, I would think you would want to be certain that your husband knows without a doubt how vital your faith is, and yes, submission is still required so long as he is not asking you to sin. In this way, you may win him. If I were a spouse married to an unbeliever I would have a set quiet time in a room where my spouse knows what I am doing at the same time every day as a witness to how important my faith is. I would ask if he would mind if I pray before meals, and if I could read just a brief passage from a devotional or the Bible to the kids before each meal. If he objects don’t do it, but if he is open, be quick and trust that God’s Word will not return void. :). Try to get him with you to Christmas and Easter … and I am all for bribery if that is what it takes… of course with smile and not with compulsion.
That’s my thinking … my best to you and I pray the Lord helps you win your man to Christ Jesus! You will have so much fun growing old together with Jesus at the center of your lives. We trust in His promises as we remain faithful to what He asks of us.
…” even as she allows him to lead her.” is beautiful wording, and very much along the same lines that I would expect Jesus to use.
When we follow Jesus, it’s a choice that we make. God has given us free will, He wants us to make that choice to follow Him.
It’s the same with our husband – God has given women minds, and wills. He wants us to ‘choose’ to let our husbands lead us. He wants us to make a conscious decision to do so.
I showed my husband your comment (my husband grew up in a Christian home and knows his bible inside-out, and while he did turn away from his roots for a time, he is once again a very faithful man now). He told me that he doesn’t want me to just follow blindly – he didn’t marry a puppet. But he does want me to choose to submit to him. He wants me to question and give my opinion, but to choose to go along with his decision, even if I disagree with it.
He wants me to model “choosing” to submit to him, rather than having no will of my own, so our daughters can grow up learning that their opinions, their will, and their worth is of inherent value, and no man can take that away from them, but they need to find that one man they love and trust, and choose to submit to that man.
Because of the experiences I have gone through with a man who has battled addiction which meant his entire personality changed, I know how important it is for women to “allow” their husbands to lead, but also to stop allowing it, when it puts themselves and their children in danger. When our cupboards were empty and my children were hungry and the grocery money had been spent on sinful things, I had to make that choice to stop “allowing” my husband to lead because, quite frankly, at that time he was doing a terrible job of it, and our children’s needs were not being met. The church was in full support of my decision to refuse to allow his leadership, for a time, until he sorted himself out.
I am not exactly sure of your point, Jeff, as it seems you find a big difference between “following” and “allowing one to lead.” I would suggest that by allowing a husband to lead a wife is naturally following, and by her own volition instead of regrettably following. There is no way one can ignore the free will and choice of a person, wife, and to try to split hairs here seems unfruitful.
Obedience to Christ still demands our willingness in today’s age, and although it should be complete and without question or wavering, it also demands our willful participation in the family and order of God. Angels follow without allowing, yet when Christ demands our obedience it is in the choice to follow or not that our true love for Him is shown. Love can only be expressed if when one chooses freely, and the same should be of the submissive, godly wife.
KAK I am sorry to hear about your woes. It is a rare but important distinction when a husband is under the influence of addiction, and no longer the man you know is inside of the shell he has taken on. In such cases a wife must cling tightly to Jesus, submit in all things but those that are sinful, and it would be sinful to not care for the children.
Then allow him his rightful place back as soon as he is in a place that represents a sound mind and actions. Getting your pastor involved and close Christian friends is important, to try and get him back to a condition where you can again willfully follow without harm to you or the kids.
Strawman Ken. The words submit is used in a military form, which means follow. When you sign up for marriage the wife has agreed to follow. The private doesn’t sign up for military AND THEN allow his authority to lead. He has signed up knowing he must follow.
Using the strawman that a wife is going to be abused and led Dow the wrong path by her Christian husband is ridiculous. If he loves the Lord he is going to do what is right. Mistakes are inevitable even if he DOES take her opinion and advice. To automatically think because she is following that he will abuse his authority is why husbands are sick of cuckservaitve churches and pastors. Allowing a husband to lead, leads to directing him from behind.
I don’t get the straw man you are referring to, nor did I see anywhere in the post of comments anything about abuse.
I think you are reading into “allow him to lead” as something I am not meaning. I am not saying a wife is to give her husband permission to lead her and the family as that has already been granted by God, but rather speaking to the willful/cheerful heart that must go along with wifely submission if it is going to achieve what God intends.
Our faith is not that of Islam where “follow” means a husband can use compulsion on a wife to get her to obey. Islam demands a faith under the threat of discipline and death, and Christianity is a faith that demands the free giving of oneself in obedience to their Lord and Savior.
You are correct that the word most often translated “to submit” is a military term, most likely meaning to obey when taking orders handed down the line of command. So the idea if “follow” works, and “submit” or “obey” is better.
Carrying the soldier analogy further, the soldier follows based on training and discipline, and also because they come to trust their leader to have their best interest and the interests of the whole always in mind. One hopes that a wife will learn to trust her husband, and where she fails to trust him fully she still follows, submits, obeys, as she trusts the Lord Jesus as her Chief Commander who is always looking out for her good and the good of her family by putting her husband in charge.
The difference between what we believe the scriptures teach and the intent of God’s Word on the matter are probably small. A Christian wife must follow, but following in and of itself is not the heart of the gospel. Just as one must allow the Spirit to work within them without quenching Him, so too a wife must allow her husband to lead her. I believe allowing him to lead is a higher calling than to simply to follow because it is following with a willing and not begrudging heart.
How many Christians are following Jesus and trying to prove their love by keeping commandments, yet will not really allow Him to lead them. It was only after my wife chose to submit to me that I realized their is actually a higher plane of relationship that God wants a Christian marriage to achieve, where a wife fully and vulnerably chooses to allow a husband into her life. My wife found it easier to follow me trusting God was right, then she did “allowing me to lead her.” Because allowing me to lead meant trusting me, not just God.
Most marriages never achieve this plane of oneness spoken of in the scriptures. Oneness that mirrors the godhead in some ways where a wife and husband are fully aligned, fully committed and fully loving to each other. There is no longer any guesswork as to where things stand because of the mutual trust and love for each other.
I like to try to capture this willful nature of the submission, hence, “allowing him to lead,” or “willfully follow.” would also capture the meaning of “hupotasso” as it’s used in the Bible.
I see your interpretation of Mark the same. I struggled for years but then I thought…What about Pauls’s words in regards to the apostles taking their wives? What about when he said husbands and wives not to be separated intimately for long? How can a woman be an obedient keeper of the home if she’s left it for ‘ministry’ work? I’ve seen so many moms do this at churches, they barely had a nutritious dinner packed for their kids, because yes, mom was working in ministry and not home. I had no idea where their husbands were. The kids were resentful and misbehaved. One time a young boy whose mom was working in ministry came to me sad because he was hungry and had no food! These same women made me feel less and lazy because I’d rather be at home, ready for my husband and work ministry out of the home. They mocked my dust free coffee table. I didn’t understand it. I did things like encouragement notes, praying behind the scenes, inviting believers and unbelievers and to dinner to share our faith and fellowship…But in the church ministry meant it was like a part time job out of the home. Loud and bold. I just didn’t feel right about this and I was constantly exhausted and guilted that I wasn’t doing enough. I think it is enough and better.
A woman’s ministry is in the home caring for her husband, children, and home. This is God’s ordained ministry for them and it’s sad that it’s rarely if ever taught.