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Welcome back to week 21. In week three of ecclesiology we will briefly examine the role of women in church. What is the biblical teaching on women being ordained as officers of the church?

In answering this question, it should be helpful to first define what an ordained officer in the church does. An ordained officer is one who has the role of preaching, teaching, and God-given spiritual authority over men.[1] An ordained officer in the church is a man who can teach God’s Word and exercises God-given authority over others. 

God’s Word makes no allowance for women to exercise this authority or operate in this office. In fact, the Holy Spirit inspired Apostle Paul teaches about the role of women in the church. In 1 Timothy 2:11-12 he says:

A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. 

But what is the reason for this teaching? Paul gives us the answer in verses 13-14. He says: 

For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. 14And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.

Paul is saying that women’s function in the church is based on created order. God’s created order determines how women are to function in the church. So, let us briefly look at what this does and does not mean. 

It means that women are not allowed to teach or hold authority over a man in church (i.e. not being an ordained officer in the church). It also means that a woman’s character should be that of a silent and submissive learner in church who does not seek to usurp the ordained leadership. 

While some might be tempted to cry chauvinism after a brief scanning of the text, it is actually teaching the exact opposite. This teaching of Paul was quite revolutionary in the ancient world (i.e., Greek and Jewish cultures) because women were not valued and were uneducated back then.[2]

This does not mean that Paul is not teaching further restriction of woman, rather he is teaching that women “must…receive instruction” (1 Tim. 2:11). This verse is not teaching that women are less valuable than men. It is teaching that woman function differently than men. This is not an argument of value or worth. It’s an argument of differing function or roles. 

Examples of differing function or roles can be seen throughout the world. For example; women have the important function of childbirth, but men do not (1 Tim. 2:15). A different function does not make one less or more valuable, it just makes one different. Not everyone on a football team is a quarterback. Not everyone in an office is the boss. If either of those were the case there would be chaos. People have roles to play that differ from one another and that do not speak to value. Someone might be tempted to think of a boss as more valuable than the employees, but take the employees away and the boss has no company to run. Each person in that scenario is valuable, but there are differing functions. 

There is a much higher example of value and function we could think about. In fact, it is the highest model of the topic. The Trinity. The Trinity has differing roles, known as functional subordination, which do not speak to ontological value. We can see these roles in the plan of salvation.

The Father initiated the plan of salvation. He sent the Son to demonstrate and validate salvation. Then, the Son sent the Holy Spirit to activate, to seal and empower salvation. One Person of the Trinity is sending the other to do a job and at the same time all Persons are equal in value. All three Persons are God. All three Persons had a differing role. Yet, the differing function does not speak to the intrinsic value of each Person.

Similarly, God created man to function as the spiritual head of the woman in order to most glorify Himself and protect her (1 Tim. 2:13-14; Eph. 5:22-33). When people do not follow God’s plan, they can count on bad things happening. It did not turn out well for Adam, Eve, or the rest of us when they did not follow God’s plan (cf. Gen. 3). Likewise, it won’t turn out well for us if we fail to heed God’s plan for us in His church. Worse than that, God will be dishonored. 

We hope our short time considering the role of women in church was helpful. Lord willing, next week we will consider whether or not the church has authority over individuals and the counseling process. Until then may our Lord bless you and keep you.

[1] 1 Tim. 3:1-13; Titus 1:6-9. Also, note the exclusively masculine pronouns used in these verses to refer to leadership.

[2] MacArthur, John, Jr. The MacArthur Study Bible (electronic ed. Nashville, TN: Word Pub., 1997), 1863.

Foundations of Biblical Counseling: Ecclesiology, part 2 Foundations of Biblical Counseling: Ecclesiology, part 4