Sunday, September 24, 2017 pm                                    NT Church 2017 - Index

The New Testament Church 2017 - Special Study
Women and Leadership Within the Church (1 & 2)


Last week we address a challenging topic as we discussed whether women could serve as deaconesses?  We established that such is contrary to scripture based upon God assigning the role of leadership within a congregation to men (elders, preachers and teachers).  However, because the office of deacon involves service, some contend that women can serve as deacons and they cite some translations and the wording of 1 Timothy 3:11 and Romans 16:1.  We addressed those passages noting the word used is primarily that of a servant, unless a text warrants that it be used in another way.    We also noted other considerations. 

The subject of deaconesses is controversial and contentious, especially in the society we are living in.  But the discussion of the role of women in leadership positions does not end there.  Despite what scripture says, many churches make little or no distinction between men and women in these matters.  Today churches, including some churches of Christ, are seeking to expand the role of women up to and including, appointing women as elders, utilizing them in the pulpit and officiating in various capacities in worship service and her work. 

 While the limitation of women as leaders is even more clearly defined in scripture, yet, like so many other things, what it says is dismissed with numerous arguments.  Tonight, we want to address what the Bible says about women as preachers and elders, or talking leadership positions in worship.

We need to note that while progression is a great concern, not every congregation that endorses an expanded role of women takes it to the extreme.  There are varying levels of utilization.  Not every congregation would use the arguments we are going to address, but there are some who do.  So let’s get started.

 I.                     The Limited Role of Women in the church

a.       The scriptures demonstrate that men are to be the leaders.  Elders and deacons were to be men (1 Tim. 3:2, 12, etc.); The apostles were all men.  Every writer of the Bible were men.  Every declared evangelist in scripture was a man (some argue there were women, but as we shall see the texts do not say that); Every specified example of teaching with authority over men or leading within the congregation were men, etc.  This is the Biblical pattern for the church.  And there are passages that bear this out. 

b.       1 Timothy 2:11-15 – I do not permit a woman to teach or usurp authority over a man.  A call for women to learn in silence – quietness or not domineering (over a man) with submission.  She is not to teach or usurp authority over a man.  Let women, like a Christians, fulfill their God given roles in hope of salvation.

Contextually, this passage is not limited to when we assemble to worship, but in other spiritual occasions as well.  
Reasons are given – Eve was created from Adam, and she sinned first.

c.        1 Corinthians 14:33-35 – let your women keep silent in the churches.  This IS a text that is dealing with order in worship.  Paul gives several admonishments for this orderliness.  It includes instructions to women concerning silence.  We have noted that silence does not mean they can’t utter a word, rather (for then they couldn’t sing or confess, etc.).  Rather the text is dealing with those who are teaching before the congregation (in this case, some with miraculous spiritual gifts).   The instruction to wives would be to ask their husbands at home. 
Paul notes it is shameful for women to speak (overstepping their boundaries) in church.

 II.                   Arguments used to justify women as elders, preachers, etc.

a.       Galatians 3:28

                                                   i. is dedicated to recognizing “gender justice” among churches of Christ.  The premise is Galatians 3:28 which says we are all one in Christ. 

                                                 ii.      One position paper[1] appeals to this “new creation” making the following argument.

1.       When God created Eve from Adam they were completely equal (cf. Genesis 1:28) prior to the fall.  The subjection of Genesis 3:16 to her husband is the only subjection addressed and applies to controversial passages as we shall see.
Answer: The consequence to her curse IS passed down from Him (cf. Ephesians 2:13-14)

2.       When Christ came, His interaction of Jesus with women demonstrated a breakdown in barriers.  He viewed them differently, and with more respect, than the Law of Moses and the traditions of the Jews.
Answer: Yes Jesus treated women with respect and dignity, more so than others and the traditions of the day, and so should we!  That shows His love and caring for EVERYONE!  This is NOT denied.  But HOW does that prove that He appointed or intended for them to become elders and preachers, etc.? 

3.       His death and resurrection ushered in a new age – that is what is advanced in Galatians 3:28, and passages such as Acts 2:17-18 which notes that both sons and daughters would prophesy and His spirit would be poured out on both men and women.  This is used to say that all should use whatever gifts they have been given. 
Answer: Acts 2:17-18, Christ DID usher in a new.  With that I agree.  And during the first century, there were unique times including men and women prophesying, etc.  But we have very few details about the settings in which they did so, specifically women.  We do have other passages, that if we believe what they teach, tell us what and where women did this was limited.
Answer: Galatians 3:28 – Paul in this letter is dealing with Judaizing teachers who wanted impose Judaism on Gentiles.  Paul said no!  Galatians 3:27-28 is a pivotal passage where Paul is simply stating that in Christ, it doesn’t matter your ethnicity (Jew or Greek), your social status (slave or free), or your gender (male or female).  We are all ONE in Him.  To that I say AMEN! We all have the same hope of salvation, through Jesus Christ.  Paul is NOT in that passage dealing with gender roles and responsibilities.  It is a simple statement about our salvation in Him available to ALL.  In vs. 29 he adds, And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. THAT is his point!
Furthermore, the phrase, “in Christ” is found some 87 times in the New Testament, including some 10 times in Galatians and always has reference to the saved.

b.       Subjection only applies to the husband – wife relationship.  This is an argument advanced by advocates of women as leaders in the church.  They will argue that men/women submission is always about husbands and their wives.  This includes Genesis 3:16, and presented as cause to dismiss other texts (1 Timothy 2:11-15, 1 Corinthians 14:33-35 and 11:3-5, etc.) concerning this subject.  To add to the challenge of this, Greek and Hebrew do not have a separate word from wife and woman, or husband and man. 
Answer: This makes it convenient to limit the circumstances of a principle so that it doesn’t apply today.  We will address this as we notice these texts.

c.        The above texts that forbid women from speaking were dealing with localized or cultural problems - There are three passages that need to be dealt with in advocating women in leadership roles in the church.  The answer given by advocates of “gender justice” state that passage deal with unique and local situations that needed to be addressed. 
[2] (“Secondly, Brookline believes that what we have done is in accord with the biblical word. The two passages of Scripture most often referred to on this topic are found in lst Corinthians 14 and lst Timothy 2. We have concluded that these passages, and those of a similar nature elsewhere, are to be understood in the context of their communities.”

                                                   i.      Argued - 1 Corinthians 11:2-5ff – was dealing with the assembly and prophesying.  Rather than limiting women, it simply addressed their head covering when they led (proper decorum).  They then state that women were praying and prophesying (in a leadership role) in those assemblies.
Answer – The emphasis that is must be in the assembly when women were prophesying and praying (that they were leading these activities is assumed by them). 
The text does not specify that this was in the assembly (it could be or could not be) – consider 1 Corinthians 11:18, “First of all, when you come together as a church…”, is this where Paul begins to address their conduct in the assembly?.  What the text IS dealing with is God’s “chain of authority”.  Christ is head over every man, God is head over Christ, and man is over woman.  In this text, Paul is addressing how this must be respected when anyone prays or prophesies.
(Note: One way that some approach this is that Paul is speaking of participating in whatever way in the assembly – with prayer and prophecy being a figure of speech for everything we do when assembled together.  In this, the point is we respect God’s boundaries in what we do). 
We CANNOT separate what is said here from 1 Corinthians 14:33-35 where in dealing with the assembly Paul says women are to keep silence in the churches.  So, in whatever way you interpret 1 Corinthians 11, you must respect other passages that deal with this subject. 
But of course, they have an argument for that passage as well. 


     In this lesson we have seen that the role of women IS limited where the church is concerned.  God has given us specific directions that we need to accept.  May we appeal to His authority in all that we do.

To be continued - see part 2

[1] 9/22/17, A position paper explaining why we are to be permitted to preach.

[3] 9/22/17, A position paper explaining why we are to be permitted to preach.