May 12, 2018 Matthew

Can Women Lead in the Church?

In Paul’s mind, men take after Adam and women take after Eve according the flesh which still battles against us every day. Our individuality may be our own and we may born again new creations, but our male and female humanity stems from Adam and Eve.

So in 1 Timothy 2:14 Paul says,

And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. (1 Tim. 2:14 NASB)

The two words deceived and fell are key words in this text as they are not used of Adam. Adam transgressed willfully.

and I fear, lest, as the serpent did beguile Eve in his subtlety, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in the Christ; (2 Cor. 11:3)

The major, time-tested commentaries recognize a connection between Paul not allowing women to teach or rule men in the Church (authentein) in 1 Timothy 2:12 and Eve having been deceived. The Cambridge Bible commentary notes that Paul’s language infers that “the past event is viewed as having a present influence, and continuing in its effects.”

I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. (1 Timothy 2:12)

Paul is referring to believers in this text. Non-believers, sons and daughters of Adam and Eve, only need to hear that they are dead and need to repent and be reborn. This does not apply to men and women in the world. It applies only in the Church among the born-again. “Exercise authority” comes from the unique Greek word authentein. Paul chose this word, authentein, very carefully. It’s the only place in Scripture it is ever used. That’s what makes it so significant. Had he used the word for “authority by right”, exousia, we would have something of a contradiction. For in 1 Corinthians 7:4 Paul said,

…likewise the husband does not have [exousia] authority over his own body, but the wife does. (1 Cor. 7:4).

The believing woman possesses an exousia-authority over only one man’s body–her husband’s. Matthew Poole’s Commentary on the verse tells us this:

But I suffer not a woman to teach; not to teach in the public congregation, except she be a prophetess, endued with extraordinary gifts of the Spirit, as Mary, and Anna, and Huldah, and Deborah, and some women in the primitive church, concerning whom we read, 1 Corinthians 11:5, that they prophesied.

Why is prophesying allowed of women, but not teaching? The Geneva Study Bible explains,

(8) The first argument, why it is not lawful for women to teach in the congregation, because by this means they would be placed above men, for they would be their masters: and this is against God’s ordinance.

Jesus provides us in no uncertain terms what it means to be a teacher and how different this is to prophesying:

A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. (Matthew 10:24)

In the realm of teaching the teacher is above the disciple. Judge for yourselves. It is right for women to be masters over male disciples?  Paul says all of this in one breath: I do not suffer a believing woman to teach or usurp authority over a man in the Church because her mother, Eve, was deceived. This doesn’t mean women can’t teach. It means they can’t teach/disciple men in the Church. There are a couple of exceptions, obviously. Gill’s Exposition of the Bible reminds us,

They may teach in private, in their own houses and families; they are to be teachers of good things, Titus 2:3-4. They are to bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord; nor is the law or doctrine of a mother to be forsaken, any more than the instruction of a father; see Proverbs 1:8. Timothy, no doubt, received much advantage, from the private teachings and instructions of his mother Eunice, and grandmother Lois; but then women are not to teach in the church; for that is an act of power and authority…

A favorite book of mine, Handbook for William, was written by a 9th century Christian mother name Dhouda. The entire work was a manual on manhood aimed at exhorting her son to be a man, a brother, and to never ever bring dishonor to his father. Two women missionaries, the McBeth sisters, were sent by the Presbyterian Church in the late 19th century to evangelize a tribe in Idaho. In a rather ironic outcome Sue McBeth, an educated linguist, established a school for Nez Percé men and successfully raised up a couple dozen men to be ordained ministers. Yes, the sisters raised up exclusively men to be in authority in the Church and not women. The irony! They themselves were not ordained ministers with authority in the Church but instead taught men to become ordained ministers. Maybe they were following the example of Deborah in calling men to lead? There is a reason the McBeth sisters’ achievements are left out of feminist studies.

And no, Deborah did not have authority over men nor did she arise as a teacher, priest, ruler, or queen in Israel. She arose as a “mother” in Israel. See the study here: Did Deborah Lead Men?

The theme of order is consistent between Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Rachel, Esther and the pagan King, Moses and Miriam, Barak and Deborah, Boaz and Ruth, the Bridegroom and the Bride in Song of Solomon, and God and his wife in Ezekiel 16. None of these stories contradict the order given at the beginning. Miriam is the one example of a woman trying to usurp the authority of a man of God, and if you’ll recall, it didn’t go well for her at all. In Esther’s story we have the Old Testament example of 1 Corinthians 7:14 where the pagan King was sanctified through his believing wife Esther. In all of Esther’s submissiveness, consider the power she had over the pagan king to make him holy and thus play the instrumental role that she did in saving her people. Women, do you want to save your people? This is how it’s done.

Order, order, order. It’s about order.

My research has led me to understand that, because of Paul’s use of the unique word, authentein (to usurp authority), the passage means that women can teach in certain circumstances and even lead but they cannot step in between God and the man. That’s the crucial issue. God has special directives, dealings, and disciplines for the man. He means to say that we need to keep things in order—“For Adam was formed first, then Eve;” (1 Timothy 2:14 ESV). When a woman exercises authority over a son of God, a brother of Jesus, she is compromising the God-ordained order and actually hindering those men from becoming men of God. Worse, she will end up making them men of women, which are no men at all. And what good is that to the sisters? Only lesbians want to be married to another woman! Under the authority of a woman’s teaching a man would not become a man of God but an effeminate man which is against God’s will (1 Cor. 6:9 NASB). Women, usurp the leadership of men in the Church to your own peril. And when your marriage or relationships with them become unbearable because they are so weak and passive, you will only have yourselves to blame.

It would be incorrect to say or think that women couldn’t study, research, or learn and so consequently teach things. Women make excellent teachers in all sorts of capacities, obviously. 1 Timothy 2:14 is Paul’s explanation that Adam is the one with the responsibility for the teaching of the truths of God’s Word in the Church. God gave Adam the law and expected Adam to teach it to Eve. God renamed Abram, but commanded Abram to rename his wife Sarai. God never circumvents the husband’s or father’s authority.

Men are not granted authority by virtue of being a man but they are under obligation and responsibility to shape up and lead as a man. They are granted authority when they walk in obedience. Their power and authority grows the more they pursue, obey, and abide in Christ. It is indisputably God’s will that his own sons become powerful, mighty, and authoritative. Why would he want less of them than the example and standard set by Jesus, the firstborn among many brothers? Therefore women can teach, be missionaries, do ministry, lead, etc. etc., but they must not seek to usurp (authentein) the will of God for his sons to be authoritative and powerful witnesses, preachers, teachers, and leaders. In other words, a woman’s leadership, teaching, and ministry must be submissive to the man’s leadership, teaching, and ministry.

God’s character as a father and the man Jesus can only be fully represented, illustrated, mirrored, and imitated by men for obvious reasons. If men fail to step up as witnesses of God in this world, there will be no witness of God as a father, warrior, brother, son, or savior and that is a major problem for God. He will not have it.

But you will receive power [ability] when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8 ESV)

God desires to bring his sons to a specific glory:

For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, saying,

“I will tell of your name to my brothers;
in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.” (Hebrews 2:11-12 ESV)

And that glory is not the same as for the daughters:

There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory. (1 Corinthians 15:41 ESV)

God symbolizes the father and the mother as the sun and the moon to Joseph in Genesis 37:9-10 which he set in the heavens to be “for signs and for seasons and for days and years…” (Genesis 1:14 NASB) The Bridegroom is symbolized as sun in Psalm 19:4-6 and the bride compared to the moon in Song of Solomon 6:10, as well. God is very specific and focused on men rising up and learning to fear him,

“this is the commandment, the statutes and the judgments which the LORD your God has commanded me to teach you…so that you and your son and your grandson might fear the LORD your God.” (Deuteronomy 6:1-2 NASB)

For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are his pleasant planting; (Isaiah 5:7)

For He established a testimony in Jacob, And appointed a law in Israel, Which He commanded our fathers, That they should teach them to their children (Psalm 78:5 NASB)

This is consistent with the relationship between the mother and father. A mother could be the only godly person in the household teaching the Bible because the father is a dimwit and refuses to do so. She could also be the only one disciplining the children because the father refuses to do so. But never does the Bible teach that the woman or mother can usurp the headship or responsibility that God wills for the man because God’s will is for the man to teach and guide his family. Women, and mothers, play a role in teaching in the Bible but there is a clear order. A mother’s instruction does not usurp the instruction of the father.

Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, And do not forsake your mother’s teaching; (Proverb 1:8)

Do not forsake your mother’s teaching because I said so.

Hear, O sons, the instruction of a father,
And give attention that you may gain understanding,

For I give you sound teaching;
Do not abandon my instruction.

When I was a son to my father,
Tender and the only son in the sight of my mother,

Then he taught me and said to me,
“Let your heart hold fast my words;
Keep my commandments and live;

(Proverbs 4:1-4)

The mother has amazing things to teach such as the oracle of Proverbs 31. But Proverbs 31 only becomes authoritative because of King Lemuel, her son.

The words of King Lemuel—an oracle that his mother taught him: (Proverbs 31:1)

As the following commentaries point out, the text teaches that the woman is more susceptible to being beguiled or deceived. Not allowing women to take authority unto themselves over men in teaching is a matter of keeping women and everyone else protected. A woman teaching math, reading, art, a language, etc. is scarcely at risk of attack by someone wanting them to teach falsehood. A woman teaching God’s Word is. Paul reminds us that Satan is crafty. His attacks are thought out and calculated. He is going to go after our vulnerabilities the most because he is not stupid. It is we who are stupid if we think that Satan isn’t selective in who he chooses to attack and how as though he doesn’t care how effective he is. Satan’s own attack on Adam and Eve is one of the best evidences for how different we are. You can’t be ignorant of how Satan works and stay out of his traps

so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.  (2 Corinthians 2:11)

The common mode of argumentation in feminist women who take Scripture into their own authority is along the lines of, “God didn’t really mean…” or “The scripture doesn’t really mean…” or “That wasn’t meant to be taken literally…” And why should that be surprising when Eve, the woman, is precisely the target of the deception, “Did God really say…”?

The curious thing today is that all the traditional and authoritative commentaries of the last few centuries are now literally being usurped by feminists and women in the Church when it comes to the various passages that explain concretely the different and unique functions of the man and woman and Paul’s teachings forthwith. They are taking all authority unto themselves and proclaiming, God didn’t really mean that and Paul didn’t really mean that.

Bengel’s Greek Gnomen

1 Timothy 2:14. Οὐκ ἠπατήθη, was not deceived) The Serpent deceived the woman; the woman did not deceive the man, but persuaded him: Genesis 3:17, thou hast hearkened to the voice of thy wife. In the preceding verse, we are taught why the woman ought not to exercise authority, now, why she ought not to teach; more easily deceived, she more easily deceives; comp. Ecclesiastes 7:29. Deceiving indicates less strength in the understanding; and this is the strong ground on which a woman is not allowed to teach.—ἀπατηθεῖσα ἐν παραβάσει γέγονε, being deceived, fell into[18] the transgression) i.e. was guilty of falling into the deception (Genesis 3:13, ὁ ὄφις ἠπάτησέ με), and so she began to be in the transgression. It is not said, ἘΝ ΠΑΡΑΒΆΣΕΙ ΓΕΓΟΝῦΙΑ ἨΠΑΤΉΘΗ, having come to be in the transgression, she was deceived. Therefore γέγονε does not apply to the very origin of the woman; for the deception followed not until after that; but γέγονε closely agrees with ἘΝ ΠΑΡΑΒΆΣΕΙ, which has the meaning of a noun; see Acts 22:17 [ἘΝ ἘΚΣΤΆΣΕΙ, in a state of trance]; and comp. note on John 1:15. The state of transgression which quickly followed the deception, once for all admitted, is here intended. A phrase very like this is found at Numbers 26:10, ἐγενήθησαν ἐν σημείῳ.

Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

14. the woman being deceived was in the transgression] The compound verb should be read as in 2 Corinthians 11:3, ‘as the serpent beguiled Eve’; ‘Adam was not beguiled,’ a general negative, limited by the compound verb following, ‘you may say he was not beguiled in comparison with the complete direct beguiling of Eve’; the woman being beguiled is found in transgression.

‘Was’ does not represent properly the perfect, lit. ‘is become,’ used, according to Greek idiom, because the past event is viewed as having a present influence, and continuing in its effects.

Here it helps the transition from the particular case of Eve in the past to the general case of women now. This is also aided by the further change to the future in ‘shall be saved.’

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

Being more easily deceived, she more easily deceives [Bengel], (2Co 11:3). Last in being, she was first in sin—indeed, she alone was deceived. The subtle serpent knew that she was “the weaker vessel” (1Pe 3:7). He therefore tempted her, not Adam. She yielded to the temptations of sense and the deceits of Satan; he, to conjugal love. Hence, in the order of God’s judicial sentence, the serpent, the prime offender, stands first; the woman, who was deceived, next; and the man, persuaded by his wife, last (Ge 3:14-19). In Ro 5:12, Adam is represented as the first transgressor; but there no reference is made to Eve, and Adam is regarded as the head of the sinning race. Hence, as here, 1Ti 2:11, in Ge 3:16, woman’s “subjection” is represented as the consequence of her being deceived.

To conclude, there is nothing in scripture that prohibits a woman from teaching, exercising influence, guiding, leading, etc. (as King Lemuel’s mother, the mother in Proverbs 1:8, Esther, Deborah, etc. did). The clear and consistent teaching from cover to cover however is that the woman’s teaching, influence, guidance, leadership, etc. cannot and should not usurp a man’s. This is consistent with the “Bride of Christ”, the “Mother of us All” being commissioned by Jesus to “go into all the world and preach the gospel.” The Church in no way can usurp the authority and teachings of Jesus, its husband and savior. If a man does not step up to fulfill his duties then obviously there is nothing to usurp.

Consistency and continuity makes all the difference in getting the right interpretation of the scripture. You have to ask yourself does the said interpretation line up with everything else in Scripture? Answering such a question honestly means doing a lot of legwork. But such is the call and duty upon us to be devoted to the Word for the “the unfolding of your words gives light to the simple” Psalm 119:130

“I have not neglected your word.” Psalm 119:16


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