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Sunday, July 10, 2016 pm

WHAT IS THE ROLE OF WOMEN IN THE CHURCH? (1)

 

A while back I was asked to address this particular subject.  It is an important issue, that must be weighed based upon what God’s word teaches rather than what society thinks.

We are living in a society where the Biblical role of women is challenged and hotly debated.  Because of feminism, women who desire to obey God are sometimes belittled and viewed as weak.  To limit or even question the role of women in the church (or the home and society) is politically incorrect and viewed as sexist and chauvinistic.  Men who desire to stand up and lead according to God’s directives are villainized and in many cases emasculated.  If this were not enough, both God and His word have been viciously attacked as uninspired and irrelevant.   

AND, as is typically the case, when so-called churches give into society’s ungodly worldviews rather than defend the Bible, it gives strength to its critics and makes it far more difficult.  AND when the men and women of a congregation buy into the world’s wisdom in such matters (i.e. men refusing to stand up and lead, women who refuse to submit, and all who seek to appease society rather than God) it is only a matter of time before changes begin to happen.  These are just a few of the challenges we face as we deal with the subject at hand. 

Among the issues related to the role of men and women in the church include:

1.       Can women assume leadership roles such as elders and preachers, etc.?

2.       Can women serve as deacons?

3.       Can women serve in a leading role in the worship assembly – preach, teach, preside at the Lord’s Table, lead singing and prayers.  Can they serve the emblems if permitted to by the elders?

4.       Should women be allowed to attend and participate in the decision making process of the business of the church – i.e. business meetings?  Should we have congregational meetings where women “vote” on these decisions?

5.       Exactly what role do women have in worship services and other assemblies of the church, such as classes?

 

These are some of the questions being discussed among brethren.  ALL of them are advocated by various factions of so-called churches of Christ.  And they are DIVIDING churches and brethren!

In this study, we will not tackle all of these issues because of time, but they are subjects worthy of our study and consideration.   In this study we want to deal specifically with the role of women in the church, primarily as we assemble to worship.  We also want to notice what women CAN do where the church is concerned.  This will be (at least) a two-part lesson, this week and next Sunday evening (and beyond if necessary).

 I.                     Principles to consider

a.       We ought to obey God rather than men!  Acts 5:28-29 as Peter and the other apostles are again standing before the council they are rebuked because they did not cease teaching in the name of Jesus.  Peter’s response, “We ought to obey God rather than men.”  Friends, this must be our attitude as we approach scripture. 
John 17:17, Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them by Your truth.  Your word is truth.”  It is the word of God that sanctifies us to Him!
Romans 1:16-17, the gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation.  In it, the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith.  As I understand this, Paul is saying that “the faith” of the gospel (objective) produces our “faith” (subjective).  That being so, our FAITH must be not in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God, which is the gospel Paul preached (1 Corinthians 2:4-5).
There is a way which seems right to man but its end is the way of death (Prov. 14:12)
In Matthew 28:19-20, we find the mindset to observe all things commanded as we learn them.
Obeying God does not depend on whether or not we like it or agree with it (with our human wisdom)!   Twisting of scripture – 2 Peter 3:15-16
We CANNOT question God!

b.       We need to be open minded as we study His word on any subject!  While we should be firmly persuaded, we should never be so arrogant as to think we cannot be wrong. 
We need to be as the Bereans who searched the scriptures – Acts 17:11
Acts 10:33, Cornelius and his household were there ready to hear what God had to say through Peter. 
But being open minded does not mean being tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine (Eph. 4:14). 
Proverbs 15:14, “The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge, But the mouth of fools feeds on foolishness.
Stephen was stoned by closed minded Jews – Acts 7:57.  The corrupted Jewish leaders in dealing with both Jesus and the early church refused to even consider what He taught. 
Matthew 23:13, 15 – the hypocritical scribes and Pharisees would shut up the kingdom against men both for themselves and those seeking to enter.  They would travel land and sea to win a proselyte, but only to convert them to their closed minded thinking!
Matthew 13:14-15 – Jesus taught in parables because of closed minds. 
FRIENDS, what if you’re wrong about something?  Is your heart good and honest so that you will openly consider what others say? We need to!
It is a challenge in a world that everywhere is telling you something different than the Bible about the role of women to not let that influence your reasoning.   But we can’t.  We must WEIGH what we hear with the truth of God’s word.  We should study ANY subject with the intent to get out of it what is intended rather than seeking to insert our prejudices and conclusions into our interpretation. 

c.        This is not a question of worth for men and women Society would have you to believe that the Bible teaches that women are second class citizens and worth less than men.  That is simply not true. 
Galatians 3:28 – we are all one in Christ Jesus. 
1 Peter 3:7, calls for husbands to dwell with their wives with understanding, as being heirs together of the grace of life.
The feminist movement has attacked scripture in these matters.  In 1896, Feminist Elizabeth Cady Stanton said, "The Bible and the Church have been the greatest stumbling blocks in the way of woman's emancipation" (“Free Thought Magazine”, Vol. 14, 1896)
Ann Patrick Ware, associate director of the National Council of Churches Commission on Faith and Order said in 1980, “The Scriptures are unredeemably sexist”[1]
We cannot be caught up in this and be pleasing to God.

d.       God’s role for the man – God made man the head of the house.  And in the order of things, he is given headship.
1 Corinthians 11:3, “But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. “  This is the order God established,
1 Timothy 2:11-15, in a text we will address in greater detail later, here we notice 2 reasons why man was head over woman – 1) Adam was formed first (woman was created as a helper for him – Genesis 2:18) and 2) Woman was first deceived and fell into transgression (Genesis 3:6, 16 – he shall rule over you).
In the home, he has responsibility to lead (Ephesians 5:23-33).  Paul goes on to describe how this headship is one of love and sacrifice, even to the point of loving her as he does his own self and giving himself for his wife.  1 Peter 3:7 calls for him to dwell with her with understanding.   It is clear in scripture that his headship should not be harsh or overbearing.  In FACT, the very foundation of love forbids this (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:1-7, etc.)
Being the head means that he is responsible to make decisions on behalf of the family.  As the head of the house he needs to ACT LIKE IT!  He needs to make decisions that are for the good of the family (and not selfish pursuits), and he needs to MAKE THE DECISIONS! 
NOTE: There is nothing wrong with consulting your wife and family with decisions that involve them.  In fact it is wisdom – just as you cherish you own body shows you consult to find what is best, and as you seek to understand you wife so that you can dwell with her.  Many other Biblical principles apply here such as Matthew 7:12 – “the golden rule” (How would you want to be treated?)
One reason for such failure in our society is the men who refuse to fulfill their role as husband, father, protector and provider (cf. 1 Timothy 5:8).  In many ways our society has adapted to this, and not for the overall good – i.e. it is far more difficult now for a single income family to survive, the devaluing of marriage and dual parenthood, etc. 

e.       God’s role for the woman – Again notice 1 Corinthians 11:3. God commands that man is the head of woman, just as the head of every man is Christ.   1 Timothy 2:11 says, “Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. 
This has bearing in the home and in the assemblies (which is where the context is beginning) of the Lord’s church and in some other settings
In marriage, the wife is to submit to her husband.  This is taught in Ephesians 5:22-24, 1 Peter 3:1-5, Colossians 3:18, Titus 2:4-5, etc.  Words used in this include submit, subjection, obey, rule and headship.
NOTE: If you intend to obey God, be careful in choosing who you marry.  Ask yourself: Is this someone I am willing to submit to?
In the church there is a submission that God has put in place – 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 (which we will be addressing in our next lesson).
In teaching (spiritual matters) where men are present, God has also spoken – 1 Timothy 2:12
Her role is not demeaning, but an absolute necessity in the marital relationship and the home, and even within the church.   As she fulfills her role, the home is stabilized.

f.         Submission (or subjection) and the Bible – to better understand this submission, let’s consider what the Bible says about the subject in general. 
Many passages call for all of us to submit – James 4:7, submit to God and resist the devil.
Hebrews 12:9, be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live (as He chastens us)
1 Corinthians 15:27-28 – all things are subject to God.  In the end, even the Son Himself will be subject to Him.
Romans 13:1-5 – we are to subject to governing authorities.  Also 1 Peter 2:13
1 Timothy 3:4 – elders are required to rule over their house well with children in submission
Finally consider Ephesians 5:23-24 – the wife is to submit to the husband just as the church is subject to Christ.  NOTICE in this the need for a husband to understand submission by submitting himself!

g.       Leadership and the church – our final observation in this lesson.    When it comes to leadership in the church, men are called upon to lead!
Jesus is HEAD over the church – HIS body – Eph. 1:22-23, Matt. 16:18
All the apostles were men – including Judas’ replacement – as the church began, they were leaders in many ways (Matthew 10:1-4, Acts 4:25-27 – contributions laid at their feet; Acts 6:2-6 – 7 MEN were appointed to tend to the needs of neglected widows.  Acts 15:6 – they determined the truth when false teachers demanded circumcision of the Gentiles
Elders are men - 1 Timothy 3:1-2 – man, husband, Acts 20:17 (masculine), 1 Peter 5:1, etc.
Deacons were men – 1 Timothy 3:8-12 – husband of one wife; Phil. 1:1 – deacons (masculine)
All writers of the New Testament were men
Every example of preaching in the church describes men!  Timothy & Titus, etc.
In Acts 15, where the question of circumcision was discussed the speakers were Paul and Barnabas, Peter and James.  It was to the apostles and elders that they went to discuss this question (Acts 15:2).
Multitudes of examples of teaching in assemblies (both during the ministry of Jesus and in the church) always shows men doing the teaching.  Even where we read of Apollos in Acts 18:26 he is teaching in the synagogue.  When Aquila and Priscilla taught him, “they took him aside” outside the assembling. 

 

Scripture has much to say about the role of women in worship and in other matters.  In this lesson we have laid some foundation.  Next week we shall delve into the subject at hand.  May we in all that we do resolve to follow His will, regardless of what society wants us to do.


[1]  McQuilkin, J. Robertson. An Introduction to Biblical Ethics. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1995. Print. Page 246 
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