Biblical Pattern for Pastoral Ministry, Part 5 :: By Dr. Donald Whitchard

1 Timothy 2:8-15: The Role of Women in the Church

“I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting, in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but which is proper for women professing godliness with good works. Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or have authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was created first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived fell into transgression. Nevertheless, she shall be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control” (1 Timothy 2:8-15, NKJV).

This section of Scripture is controversial to some. It seems to put women in a secondary role, and on the surface, somewhat chauvinistic to modern thinking. It goes against what some evangelicals believe is a teaching that was acceptable in the culture in which Paul wrote these words, but does not speak for women today, who feel that they have as much right to present the Word of God to a congregation or peer group as a man who has been called to serve the LORD. This thinking is primarily a product of the increasing presence of women in the workforce and in positions of authority in the business, military, academic, and professional fields, with the ideology of feminism being a root cause of this trend over the past few decades.

There is nothing wrong with women working for a living. The “greatest generation” that survived the Great Depression and fought against the tyrannies of World War II saw everybody pitching in for the war effort.

Both men and women joined the military. The men saw the rigors of combat, and the women served in the auxiliary, as nurses on the front, as office workers, and aided in the sale of bonds to finance the means of winning the war against Germany, Italy, and Japan. Other women went to work in the factories making tanks, planes, guns, jeeps, ration kits, parachutes, and other material to ship to the front. The famous poster of “Rosie the Riveter” and her catch phrase, “We Can Do It,” inspired the U.S. to put their best effort in assuring that the Nazis and all their ilk would soon be defeated and life could return to some semblance of normalcy, with the men coming home to an America that would, in turn, be the international powerhouse for freedom and productivity.

The post-war years (1950’s – present) saw many women returning to the home to manage the affairs of rearing a family and taking care of a household while the men went to work and were the primary breadwinners. However, many women liked the idea of working outside the home and contributing to the income and well-being of their families, and also be able to purchase homes and other goods that helped to define “the American Dream” for much of the nation.

There were some women who didn’t want to settle into a family routine until they felt that they were ready, and instead went to college or lived on their own, working in offices and other places in order to establish their own incomes and ability to go where they pleased and discover their individual personalities and where they fit in the scheme of the American landscape. Again, there is absolutely nothing wrong with this scenario. Both my parents worked outside the home. My mother was an officer in one of the largest banks in southwest Louisiana, and my Dad worked for the petrochemical industry, ending up as an operator for offshore oil production. I never knew a day when both of them were not trying to make ends meet in our lower middle-class neighborhood.

My mother would in no way ever have identified herself with the women’s liberation movement that swung into being with the publication of Betty Friedan’s manifesto on the role and influence of women in society entitled The Feminine Mystique (1962).

Mrs. Friedan, and her disciple Gloria Steinem, advocated for the freedom of all women to choose how they wanted to live their lives without the influence of men and their expectations of what women’s roles should be in the modern world. The seedbed of what would be termed “family planning” and childbearing as expected of women would be the invention of the birth control pill and the idea of pregnancy termination as a viable means of it as well. Abortions became legal in New York and California by 1969, and the cry for “safe” and “legal” abortions brought about the Roe v. Wade (1973) Supreme Court decision that made abortion on demand a part of the American fabric, with the result being that over 60,000,000 unborn children have been killed using the term “reproductive rights.”

It’s murder for the sake of convenience and irresponsibility. Deal with it.

The “Sexual Liberation” movement that started in the late 1960’s with the idea of sex without commitment or consequences laid a foundation for the abortion process. If a woman discovered she had conceived as a result of a “one-night stand,” she could go to the clinic, pay the fee, and terminate the pregnancy. Single and married women used this procedure as a definition of “choice.” Not too long after the start of the “Women’s Liberation” movement came the birth of the “gay rights” movement in New York in 1969. Sexual freedom and choice inevitably came to the choice of whether or not you wanted a same-sex or opposite sex relationship, and that included the choice of women deciding to follow the route of lesbianism.

What began as a progressive method of thinking gave way to radicalism, which has only intensified in the past few years to where now children are questioning their gender, and the roles of men and women have become gravely blurred, and the idea of masculinity has been denounced and ridiculed. It seems no one knows their roles or responsibilities anymore, or choose to demand that everyone bow to their choices on pain of lawsuit or worse. This has crept into the ways that many mainline Protestant denominations operate and view what women are supposed to do in terms of Christian ministry, often with results that do not line up with the standards of Scripture or what true Christianity means.

The event that seemed to legitimize the idea of women serving in ministerial leadership was not the brainchild of the feminist movement, which downplayed the influence of religion in many cases, but with the start of what would be known as the “Charismatic Movement” that began over a hundred years ago in force through the incident known as the “Asuza Street Revival” of 1906 in Los Angeles.

At this alleged “move of the Holy Spirit” and “new move from God” came the idea of female preachers and their “anointing” to proclaim the Gospel. The most famous of these “ministers” was Aimee Semple MacPherson, who began the “International Four Square Gospel Church” and Angelus Temple, again in Los Angeles. Her sermons and actions were overshadowed by personal scandals and alleged sexual impropriety while “missing” for several days in 1927. Her antics, and that of other ministers like Billy Sunday (1862-1935), who made religion a business, set the stage for authors such as Sinclair Lewis to write his biting novel about a religious huckster entitled Elmer Gantry (1928). This work and the antics of some “evangelists” soured many Americans on the idea of religion for some time.

In spite of this stain, the Pentecostal churches still allowed women to proclaim the Gospel in revivals and meetings throughout the early to mid-20th century. This practice stayed confined to this sect primarily along with its unusual practices explained away as “Spirit-filled” until 1966, when an Episcopalian minister named Dennis Bennett claimed to possess the gift of “tongues,” a practice that had been confined to Pentecostal teachings.

It wasn’t long until the Charismatics wielded their influence to mainline denominations, with many ministers and laity embracing “Holy Spirit baptism” with tongues following, emotional experiences, seeker-sensitive ideas, preaching that began to emphasize blessings of wealth over true spirituality, unusual “signs,” and the idea of women pastors, now found in the Methodist, Episcopal, Lutheran, and Progressive Baptist churches.

Women such as Joyce Meyer, Paula White, Beth Moore, Juanita Bynum, and the late Jan Crouch are examples of this line of thought and have notable ministries, often being in the camp of the “prosperity gospel” movement; and in so doing, are promoting error. Mrs. Moore, a Southern Baptist, has allegedly begun to be more vocal in the support of the LGTBQ movement, as is the current President of the SBC. Again, like the social feminists and their twisting of the roles of men and women, this mindset has infiltrated the churches, and the cause of the Gospel has been compromised or forgotten altogether.

Other factors have contributed, to be sure, but I wanted to present this overview and how some see it, less the controversy, as grounds to legitimize the call for female clergy and respective places of church authority.

It doesn’t matter about the societal expectations or historical developments; the question is what the Scriptures tell us. First, let God be true and every man a liar (Romans 3:4).

Let’s approach this topic the way the LORD would have us to do, and that would be to examine what He has decreed for the church to function according to His will and direction. Verse 8 states that in worship, the men are to provide leadership since God made them the spiritual head of the household (Deuteronomy 6:7, 20; Proverbs 22:6; Ephesians 6:4; Colossians 3:21; Titus 2:4). This responsibility has been neglected and maligned in contemporary thought and behavior, and a lot of men today avoid it because of spiritual ignorance, apathy and societal pressure.

Paul also addresses the issue of how to dress for services (vv.9-10). The basic rule here is to look, act, and be your best before God, and that goes for both sexes. Don’t be gaudy in your appearance and draw attention to yourself instead of toward God. Church is not about you, but is a time of sacred and reverent worship and instruction concerning the Sovereign God of All. The issue is that you are appearing before the King of the Universe, so dress and groom yourself accordingly. Anything else borders on legalism.

Women (as well as men in the congregation) are to learn the Word of God by listening to the teaching from the pastor or elder in an attitude of respect and subservience (vv.11-12). Church is not a “free for all” where everyone throws out an opinion or “revelation.”

Paul had to deal with this kind of chaos in Corinth years before, and he doesn’t want this type of mindset to pollute Ephesus and undermine the work that Timothy was doing. There is an underlying observation about this rule, and that is that Christian women were given the freedom to study the Scriptures at home and talk about them with their husbands as a way of applying and understanding what the LORD expected of them. In discussing the things of God in the home, women gained far more knowledge not only of the Word, but also the understanding that there were two worldviews in conflict with each other: one of the LORD, and one of Man in his sinful state, with the LORD being the victor at the end of days.

When we read the Gospels, we find our Lord Jesus not just talking with women, but helping them to understand the character and nature of the Father by involving them in His work by their support (Matthew 27:55-56; Mark 14:3; Luke 7:37-38), and they were the first witnesses of His Resurrection (Matthew 28:1-8; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-12; John 20:1; 11-18). This in and of itself proves the validity of the account due to the subservient role of women in Jewish society at that time, and that if this were merely a story, the men would have been recorded as being there first. Dr. Frank Turek, a Christian apologetics specialist, notes that there were embarrassing details such as these that would have been conveniently left out of the narrative if it were not an eyewitness account.

Verse 12 does not need a variety of explanations or interpretations. It is clear. Women are NOT supposed to be pastors or elders. Church leadership is the responsibility of the men, and it is a shame on them to allow the women to have to take care of functions in the body of Christ that are to be overseen and handled by men. That is nothing but pure disobedience and laziness; and these men who shirk this responsibility, especially in the matter of being the spiritual head of the home, will have to answer to the Lord Jesus when their time on Earth comes to an end.

The issue then is what role do the women have to play in the church that is biblically sound?

I firmly believe that older women should be in the role of teacher and mentor to younger women in the faith, and to help them understand the God-given responsibility they have to help rear their children in the fear and understanding of the LORD as well as their home duties, being a “helpmeet” for their husbands (Genesis 2:18-25; Ephesians 5:22-33; Titus 2:4; 1 Peter 3:1).

Single mothers have the duty to teach their children about the things of God and to find a body of believers that will assist them not just with physical aid, but for the godly men of the church to help rear those children and show them the standard of authentic biblical manhood and what it means to follow Jesus Christ. The church should also pray that the family can be reconciled in Christ if possible or for a godly man to step up and assume the role of Father and husband as God decrees. No woman should have to bear this alone. It’s not right and goes against the standard for families as God designed them.

It is clear that the Scriptures give women the privilege of being exemplary role models and guides for the younger generation as well as aiding their husbands in the direction and function of the household. That requires maturity, selflessness, dedication, commitment, and submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

This generation that is coming up now is in desperate need of this style of life and purpose, and the church needs to step up and seek the LORD in reaching these idealistic but lost souls. A lot of pastors don’t have this conviction, but there are some sharp women who have their focus not on trends, social expectations, worldly opinions, or the lack of true leadership, but upon the Great Commission and their desire to see not just young people, but their peers come to Christ for salvation and purpose and see that He is what they need both here and now.

All right, ladies, you’ve got your marching orders. Men, get off your lazy backsides and get in the fight. The harvest is plenty and there is work to be done. This is ministry, and it works for both sexes. Isn’t that what’s important?