Sunday, October 8, 2017 pm                                        NT Church 2017 Index

Women and Leadership Within the Church 

                We have been examining leaders in the Lord’s church that past few weeks.  In this we have noted some errors advocated by many, even among, so-called brethren.  We have addressed why women cannot serve as deacons.  And two weeks ago, we began to examine the what the Bible says about women serving as leaders in the church and worship.

                Not only among the denominations, but also within liberal minded churches of Christ, we are finding some that advocate “gender justice” meaning that we are now living in times where whatever a man can do, so can a woman.  I am convinced this is in large part the product of feminism and its influence. 

In our last lesson we noted that we must respect the restrictions God has placed upon the role of women in the church.  We find the examples of the New Testament (elders, deacons, preacher, apostles) who led the congregation were all males.  Also we read in 1 Corinthians 14:33-35 and 1 Timothy 2:11-15 the limitations God has placed upon women both in worship and in matters of teaching and authority over a man. 

We also began to examine the arguments made by advocates of “gender justice”.  The appeal of some is that Galatians 3:28 tells us times have changed and that “in Christ Jesus” there is neither male nor female.  However, we noted that such is an abuse of Paul’s message in Galatians where he is emphasizing that in God, salvation is available, on equal terms, to all, both Jew and Gentile, both slave and free, both male and female.  Nowhere does this text address the leadership role of women (or men) in the church. 

We also addressed the argument that 1 Corinthians 11:4-5 which speaks of both men and women praying and prophesying.  It is argued that this is clearly addressing the assembly of the saints and that as such women can teach in the assemblies.  We answered this by noting that the text is ambiguous to being about the public assembly of worship.  The text IS dealing with God’s chain of authority (1 Corinthians 11:3- NOTE: Is this really respected by those who are advocating women leading the worship and within churches?)   In fact, 1 Corinthians 11:17-18 seems to indicate a change of direction toward addressing the assembly.  Furthermore, 1 Corinthians 14:33-35 is CLEARLY addressing order in the assembly and must be considered in any interpretation of 1 Corinthians 11. 

Today, we want to notice how they address 1 Corinthians 14 and 1 Timothy 2, as well as some other arguments that are made.  We will conclude with some observations about how error is justified (time permitting).

 I.                     Arguments used to justify women as elders, preachers, etc. (continued)

a.       1 Corinthians 14:33-35 – was dealing with disruptive wives in the assembly, not women being silent in general. 
Answer – as we have noted, the text is dealing with those taking lead in the worship assembly.  Paul is addressing that.   In very plain language he says women are to keep silent.  They are told to ask their husbands at home for clarification.  That implies the instructions to them is NOT about them teaching.
Argument - It is also emphasized that Paul is dealing with wives only, and in this case disruptive wives.  This is because the word gune, as noted previously, is the same for both women and wives.  Answer: Overwhelmingly, translations have “women” in this text (only the Message had wives).  While it would certainly include wives, there is nothing to limit it to wives, especially when you find the conclusion in vs. 35.  NOR is there any implication that these were wives acting up, which is the basis of this argument.  Paul states a principle. 
NOTE: This interpretation (the argument) requires great liberties and speculation are simply not stated in the text. 
Argument - Others say it was dealing with spiritual gifts (including women prophetesses) which do not exist today, so neither do the prohibitions of the text.
Answer: The text is dealing with spiritual gifts, but the governed conduct would apply in any assembly.   Hence vs. 40, “Let all things be done decently and in order.”
Note also vs. 33, For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.  The principles of this text applied to “all the churches”, even if they did not have prophets and tongue speakers. 

b.       Argument - 1 Timothy 2:11-15 – also possibly dealing with disruptive wives whose conduct and apparel showed a lack of respect and propriety for their husbands, in public and specifically the assembly of the saints. 
Further some contend that Paul was dealing with particular false doctrines (some say the forbidding of marriage might have been one of those errors – 1 Timothy 4:3) and that the women addressed were the ones advancing this.  Thus Paul was addressing this distortion of the gospel and thus he was seeking to silence those women. 
Answer:  First, the text doesn’t specify when we are assembled.  While it does deal with teaching and prayer, these are matters that can be done with and without the assembly.  Modesty is something to be practiced at all times, etc. 
NOR does the text address a particular false doctrine.  Paul is outlining a principle that is consistent throughout scripture, UNLESS you want to be more permissive.
Also, Paul gives the reasons – man was formed first, and Eve sinned first.  Some want to appeal to Eve being in subjection to her husband (cf. Genesis 3:16) and limit anything passages to the husband/wife relationship.  But note that Paul also appeals to Adam being formed FIRST.  God defined these roles and we must respect His boundaries.

c.        Argument - Examples of women who served as leaders – yes there are women who are mentioned and recognized.  Consider the following (mentioned last week)

                                                   i.      Acts 21:9 – Philip had 4 daughters who prophesied.

                                                 ii.      Phoebe – Romans 16:1-2, “a servant of the church at Cencrea.”  Advocated she was a deacon.  We addressed this last week.

                                                iii.      Priscilla – Romans 16:3, 6    “fellow workers in Christ Jesus.”  Some might advocate that she was doing the same thing as her husband and Paul.  One source said they were “missionary evangelist/minister”[1]

                                                iv.      Junia – Romans 16:7 – a women who was described as “of note among the apostles.” Some even argue that this means she was an apostle. 

                                                  v.      Tryphena, Tryphosa and Persis – Romans 16:12 – all who “labored in the Lord.”

                                                vi.      In each of these (and other examples of women), exactly what they did is not mentioned.  There is nothing in the text to imply that they held offices or were presiding over men in the church.

                                              vii.      Answer: in each of these examples, the broadest possible interpretation of the wording is taken.  These are statements that are general and do NOT have to include women taking leadership roles.  Being a “servant of a church” doesn’t necessitate being appointed to an office; being a “fellow worker” doesn’t mean you are doing the exact same thing – they were all working toward the same cause doing their job; being “of note among the apostles” does not mean you are an apostle, but simply recognized by them for what you are doing; “laboring in the Lord” can be done in many ways and SHOULD be done by every Christian; etc.  When one is determined to justify something, they can make a scripture say what they want it to say (cf. 2 Peter 3:16).

d.       Others may appeal to emotional or social arguments (times have changed, Paul was a misogynist, what is important is that we love each other and seek for unity – even in diversity, etc.).
These are easily dismissed as they have no real scriptural bearing and are typically used by those who outright reject the authority of scripture. (NOTE: Many of the advocates of gender justice who are attempting to justify their arguments with scripture do not deal with these arguments, but other do). 

 II.                   Answering some questions

a.       What if the elders give the woman permission or ask her to preside over men in a public capacity?  Some contend that as long as they are under the elders, they are submissive as they do what they are told. 

                                                   i.      We have studied about the work and qualifications of elders recently. 

                                                 ii.      Elders are NOT legislators. The only authority they have is to shepherd the church according to God’s dictates.  They lead by example and by enforcing God’s word.    
Titus 1:9-14, Acts 20:27-32 – clearly what Paul wants is for them to recognize what he had taught them. 
1 Timothy 5:19-20 speaks rebuking sinning (elders included), not giving them a “blank check” to do whatever they want to do.  Also note vs. 22, do not partake in other people’s sins.
James 3:1 – teachers (which includes elders) will receive stricter judgment, being held accountable for what they teach. 

                                                iii.      Acts 5:29 – we ought to obey God rather than men.  If the elders told you to teach or to accept error in doctrine or moral principles, what would you do?

                                                iv.      There is no more dangerous action than to dismiss God’s pattern by appealing to what some man authorizes.  Also, how selfish is it to say, “Since the elders authorized it, I can do it!  If God rejects it, that is their problem.”

b.       Can a Christian woman teach a man that is not a Christian what he needs to do to be saved?

                                                   i.      Not specifically addressed.  However, consider the following:

                                                 ii.      A soul is at stake.  IF, a woman is the ONLY one available to teach a man, it could be done respecting God’s laws and authority.  The bigger challenge is once he obeys. 

                                                iii.      Priscilla helped Aquila teach Apollos. (Acts 18:26) But you had a man with a woman.

                                                iv.      The Samaritan woman went into the village after learning from Jesus that He was the Messiah.  John 4:28-29, 39- 42.  But notice that she brought them to Jesus, the Messiah. 

                                                  v.      1 Peter 3:1-6 – a believing wife, by her godly conduct, teaches her unbelieving husband.

                                                vi.      In whatever she does, she must understand the principles scripture teaches – e.g. 1 Timothy 2:11-15, 1 Corinthians 11:3

                                              vii.      Also, even if this is acceptable, it does NOT authorize a leadership role for her in the worship or public gatherings of Christians where she teaches over a man.

                                             viii.      Thought: IF a man is available, seek to utilize him to remove all doubt. 

 III.                 Tactics used to promote doctrinal agendas

a.       Question the integrity of the Bible – it is corrupted and has been changed.

b.       Times have changed – examples do not apply today, only the broadest of principles. 

c.        Appeal to general principles of scripture to the neglect of the specifics – e.g. love, (the Bible is a love letter), tolerance, sincerity, etc.

d.       They take general verses and make them specific, beyond their intended generalities   
And/or take specific verses and generalize them.

e.       Redefine terms and texts – what does submission mean?  Etc. 

f.         Label those who challenge you – prejudice people against those who stand for truth, villainize them.

g.       Find an alternate interpretation of scriptures that condemn the behavior – we seen how texts are relegated to specific circumstances that do not apply to us.

h.       Find examples that imply the behavior is acceptable – see examples of women above.

i.         A progressive approach to Biblical interpretation – some boast in being progressive. 

The above tactics are used by those advocating an expanded role of women, they are also used by those advocating the acceptance of homosexuality. 


NOTE:  NOT ALL who advocate the expanded role of women (or justify other behaviors) would use all of these arguments (some soundly reject some of them – e.g. one congregation advocating that women can do anything in the assembly, rejected Galatians 3:28 on the basis of its context, but all are arguments that have been made.)  But they will use some of them depending upon the degree of progressiveness they are advocating.

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.


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