female bibleWhether or not women should be allowed to be pastors or leaders among the believers is a difficult matter to tackle. It is made especially so by the so-called “feminism” of our day, which seems far more concerned with making women as much like men as possible than it does with truly promoting what it means to be female. But leaving that aside, we turn to the Scripture to see what it has to say about women being pastors. Most of what we can find on this subject is in the books written by Paul. This has caused some to accuse Paul of being “against women,” but this was not the case. First of all, the idea that there is neither “male nor female” in Christ was a radical concept that originated in the books written down by Paul. This was something that was foreign to the thought and religion of that day, where women were considered as less than equals, and often were barely even allowed out of the house, not to mention being considered as being equal with men in anything. The spread of Christianity was greatly responsible for improving conditions for women. It is only in recent times that some have dared accuse it of being harmful to women. The second problem with the idea that Paul was “against women” is that these books, although written down by Paul, are actually written by the Holy Spirit, and thus reflect the opinions of God, not of Paul. If God thinks women are inferior, then shouldn’t we agree with Him? But this is not what these verses are saying at all, so we fortunately don’t have to tax our faith in this manner. Nevertheless, let us look at what is actually said.

First of all, let us examine I Corinthians 14: 34-38. This would seem to be the most relevant, as it actually mentions a woman’s place in church.

“Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church. Or did the word of God come originally from you? Or was it you only that it reached? If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord. But if anyone is ignorant, let him be ignorant.”

Paul speaks very severely here, perhaps because God knew that the things He was having him write would not be received well by some of the women who were attempting to speak in church. He points out the superiority of the word of God to their opinions, and that if they truly think that they are spiritual then they should acknowledge that what he is writing is not the bias of Paul, but the very commandment of the Lord. Many fall short here, even in our day.

So does this settle it then? Are women not to be allowed to speak in church? What does this mean? The image immediately comes to mind of women getting up front and singing in church, or giving the testimony, or even preaching the message. Is none of this to be done? What about women teaching Sunday school? Is this “speaking in church,” or is only speaking to adults what is meant? Should women cease speaking as soon as they enter the building, or at least when they enter the sanctuary? Or is it okay for them to speak in the pews, just not up front? Or can they speak up front, but they just can’t give the message? Or can they give a message, just so long as they aren’t the pastor and so aren’t the ultimate authority? All of these questions come to our minds as we consider these words.

But all of these questions are based on a very important assumption. This assumption is that God was speaking of churches such as we have when He gave this commandment. This is what we automatically assume, of course, for this is what we think of when we think of a “church.” But is this the truth? The fact is that there was no such thing as a church building in the day in which this was written. Meetings were done in homes, or at the local synagogue, for most of the believers of that time were still Jews. To “speak in church” could not possibly mean to speak in a church building or a church service such as we have today, for such things did not exist.

What is meant by “church” then? The word translated “church” in our Bibles is the Greek word “ekklesia.” This comes from two words in Greek, “ek” which means “out,” and “kaleo” which means “to call.” In this form it means “out-called,” and, speaking of a person, an “out-called one.” But even this is confusing, for what is an “out-called one”? The most common explanation is that it means believers, whom God has “called out” of the world to serve Him. So anyone who is a believer is automatically a member of the “church” or the “ekklesia,” and is automatically an “out-called one.” When we become members of a church we then become members of a local group called a “church” which is a local branch of the universal group of believers or out-called ones. But is this actually a correct explanation of what an “out-called one” is?

This issue is not an easy one. The World Council of Churches shortly after their formation broke up their very first meeting having only dealt with one issue, and upon that issue they were not able to reach any sort of consensus. They had attempted for their entire meeting to come up with a definition of the word “church,” and had utterly failed to reach agreement. Some try to claim that it is simple to give a definition of this word, but these have not studied the matter thoroughly. I myself have been puzzling over this word for some time, and have readily admitted to some that I really do not know what a “church” is, nor whether I should consider myself a member of the ekklesia or not. Most people have admonished me that surely I am, being a believer, but I am not willing to accept this quite so quickly. Now I believe that I have finally started to get a handle on the word and come to some conclusion as to what it actually means.

But this is not the place to go too far into the meaning of the word “ekklesia.” Perhaps that would best be tackled in a later message written entirely for the purpose of examining the word. Let it suffice to say that our assumption that the “out-called ones” are believers in general is not necessarily true. It is very likely that in many passages in the Scripture the “out-called ones” were actually called out of BELIEVERS, not out of the world. In other words, those who were members of the “church” were actually specially called believers who were given a position over and above other believers. In other words, the ekklesia was actually the group of believers chosen to be the leaders of the general congregation of believers, and not just believers in general. This may be the meaning of the word in many of the passages in which the word occurs. And it most certainly is the meaning in I Corinthians 14:34-38. (Note: I say this fully realizing that the idea that all believers make up the church was an idea propagated to refute Romish error. By saying this, however, I certainly do not hold with the idea that the so-called “Holy Catholic Church” is in any way what is meant by ekklesia.)

So what does this passage mean when it says that a woman is not to be allowed to speak in the church? Well, once we understand that the church was actually the leadership body of the believers and not just believers in general, we start to understand that her speaking there does not mean that she is not allowed to exercise her vocal cords. To speak in a governing body is to have a place or a position in that body. No one can speak in Congress unless that person is properly elected and therefore given the authority. Many may enter the building and speak to each other or even to the actual members of the Congress, but no one can officially “speak” in Congress unless he has the authority of being a Congressman, or unless the members of Congress grant him permission. So this is what Paul and the Lord are referring to here. A woman was not allowed to have an official position as a member of the ekklesia at that time. She could not be chosen to lead the believers or to have any place in the governing body. This was the judgment of the Holy Spirit at that time. This is why the passage refers to her need to be “submissive.” The women were to take the position of obedience to the leadership that God had instituted, not attempt to force their way into it. Moreover, they were not allowed to ask questions during a meeting of the ekklesia and thus try to force their way into the decision-making process. It is likely that the women who were doing this were actually wives of ekklesia members, as the Lord admonishes any such women to keep silent and to question their husbands at home about matters they observe in the ekklesia. This was the judgment of God on the matter.

So how does this affect us today? The answer is not much. The fact is that God does not set up our churches, nor does He give their rules. There is no body of believers who can claim to be called out by God for a governing position over their fellow believers. If there were, then ALL believers would have to obey them, not just the members of their particular church. But the fact is that the leaders who are in the churches are out-called by men, not by God. They act according to rules set up by men and they are chosen by methods devised by men. To try to apply the rules of God and His divinely appointed ekklesia to our modern-day church governments will only result in confusion. Our churches are not the same as God’s church, and we cannot claim that they are and then try to conform to the rules God set up for His church. This will only result in confusion, and in the end we will only end up doing what we ourselves think is right anyway. The fact is that if we want to appoint women to our leadership positions we can do so…no one is going to stop us. Why? Because our churches are set up by men and run by men, and therefore operate under the rules of men. The only way this passage might help us is if we view it as advice given by God. We might say that if God found fit to only allow men to lead in His ekklesia, then perhaps we should do the same in ours. But we are not forced to, and can do what we like in this matter. But there is no stipulation against women speaking in the buildings we call “churches.”

The next passage we will examine is Philippians 4:3.

“And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life.”

It should be obvious from this passage that the command for women not to “speak” in church did not at all exclude them from the ministry of the gospel. Paul here gives credit to two women whom he calls his “fellow workers.” These women could apparently preach the gospel to women and men alike, and this was considered a good and proper labor. There is nothing wrong with a woman teaching a man about Christ…in fact, if the man chose to come to Him through her witness, what a wonderful thing that would be! This passage makes it clear that women are just as free to dispense the gospel as they are to receive it.

Now let us examine I Timothy 2:11-15.

“Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.”

This being one of Paul’s later books, we find it very difficult to believe what some claim, that this was a cultural thing limited only to believers of the day. Certainly this command was for believers of the day…in fact, one specific believer, Timothy. Paul gives Timothy advice on how to set up the leadership of believers at that time in this book. This is quite a change from the time when only God chose the leaders, and indicates that a definite change in dispensation has taken place since the beginning of Paul’s ministry in this regard (although there was still one dispensational change remaining after this.) At any rate, Timothy is told how to set up the leadership of believers, and this is one of the commands he is given. Again, although this time it is a man setting up the ekklesia and not one set up by God Himself, he is still commanded by God to only choose men for leadership positions. Again not having authority is equated with being in silence, and this time it is also equated with teaching. Notice though that it is teaching a man that is not allowed, not teaching in general, for women have ever been the great teachers of children. And this time an explanation is given by Paul, for now he is setting up rules for forming an ekklesia, not dealing with one already set up by God like that in Corinth, and thus must give explanations for why such rules are given. So he explains that the reason women cannot have authority over men goes all the way back to the story of Adam and Eve. (Notice how important our belief in the book of Genesis is to even this, one of the last books of the New Testament. Surely if we reject the testimony of that very first of books it will stunt our faith in all the rest of Scripture!)

First, it is pointed out that Adam was first formed, not Eve. The significance of this to the argument is difficult, but the Lord may be implying here that this was partially done because Adam was meant to be the leader and thus was made first of all. At any rate, the next argument comes from the circumstances of the fall. It seems that Eve was totally deceived by the lies of Satan. She actually believed his words and thought that eating the fruit would be a good thing and would not cause them to die. Adam, however, knew that the words of Satan were a lie, but he ate the fruit anyway. Perhaps he thought he’d rather die than lose Eve, or maybe he falsely believed that he could save Eve somehow if he ate the fruit as well. At any rate, this fact that Adam was not deceived is set forth as the reason he was placed in leadership. For after all, if you are deceived concerning right and wrong then no matter how much you desire to choose right you cannot do it, being deceived. If, however, you are not deceived, then you have an opportunity to choose what is right. Although Adam did not choose what was right, he at least knew that what he was choosing was wrong, and thus proved to have more leadership material than Eve. Whether this is true of all men and women is doubtful, for there are certainly some very gullible men and some very sharp women. Nevertheless this was the reason that this decision was originally made, and the Lord urges Timothy to stick by it in his choice of leaders for the believers.

Again, though, does this apply to us today? Although God had not set up this ekklesia Himself, nevertheless He still had commanded Timothy to set it up. We, on the other hand, have no such command, and set up our churches of our own accord. Whether or not we can truly apply such commandments to our version of churches is questionable at best. I am not saying it would be a bad thing to do so, for we know that God had a reason for giving this command to Timothy and we have little reason to believe that that reason is no longer valid today. Still we are setting up our churches by our rules, and so can do it however we wish.

Titus 2:3-5. “…the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things—that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.”

In this letter to Titus we come to what I believe is the real crux of the matter today. Here the Lord is giving commands as to His expectations for old and young men and women among the believers. His command here is what older women are to teach younger women. Some of the interesting lessons to be learned are to love their husbands, to love their children, and to be homemakers (or “keepers at home” as the old KJV has it.) This is the commandment that I believe is really the fuel for the fire that causes the whole “should women be leaders in the church” argument. The issue is not really whether or not women can be leaders in the church, but whether or not women should be expected to be homemakers.

There are few more unique characteristics of our times than the mass exodus of women from the home into the workplace. This massive shift in culture has resulted in daycare, preschools, children unsupervised after school, and many other phenomenon associated with women giving up the raising of their children. In these verses in Titus we learn that homemaking, loving their husbands, and loving their children are three of the most important lessons young women can learn. Yet few young women place the highest priority on these things, putting rather their careers and earning potential first. Yet how can one bring up her children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord when she is not even bringing up her children, but is rather farming them off to an institution to do it? This reality is a harsh and cruel one for children, but their needs are considered less and less by women who are becoming increasingly more insensitive to the needs of their own offspring. Even many basically decent women don’t even consider staying home with their children because they think they are expected to work. But this neglect of the needs of children has been a major contributing factor in the rebellion of young people around the world. Always we reap what we sow!

So to me this is the real issue that we are facing when we discuss women leading in the church. It is not should they be allowed to lead, but what will happen to their children while they are doing it? If the answer is they will be in a daycare, then this is utterly unacceptable. If the answer is that they will be with friends or even grandparents, this is still unacceptable. No one is qualified to raise children like their own parents, and anyone else is just a substitute. It is bad enough that women are neglecting their children to have jobs in the world, but if we allow them to do so while at the same time supposedly “serving the Lord” then we are promoting this sinful neglect by doing so.

I personally believe that many of these arguments that some women start about whether or not they should be allowed to do this job or that job are really just a smoke screen to hide the fact that they are not doing the most important job, which is caring for their children. Women know instinctively that being a good mother is the most important thing for them, and they are forced to justify leaving their children in the hands of strangers every day. Thus they are driven by guilt to support women in any and every job in society, using this argument and their righteous indignation about being excluded from anything to cover over their guilt over going into the workplace in the first place and leaving their children. So women in leadership in the church is for many just another argument to justify women with children working in the first place.

I would personally place ten-thousand times greater importance on women caring for their children than I would women working as leaders in the church or not. If there are no children being neglected then I really do not have that big of a problem with a woman being a leader. But it is the issue of families that is really the most important. If by allowing women to lead we are condoning the abandonment of their children then yes, women leading is wrong every time.