Women's Role in the Church
Since the disappearance of the early church, there has arisen much confusion concerning the role of women within marriage and the Sovereign Father's earthly family of believers. Some believe women should only participate in marriage and the church in a passive manner and be completely subordinate to the authority of men, while others believe women should have equal status with men in marriage and as spiritual leaders in the church, fulfilling the functions of preaching and teaching the gospel message.
Although volumes could be written about the relationship between men and women within marriage and within the Sovereign Father's earthly family of believers, this chapter will only present an overview of these topics and will examine the following seven subject areas in order to define the role of women within the congregations of the elect:
- The intended relationship between men and women at creation and the adjusted relationship after Adam and Eve's disobedience.
- The relationship between men and women under the New Covenant.
- The culture that affected the early church.
- The marriage relationship between men and women as the elect.
- The instructions for order within the formal teaching and worship assemblies of the elect.
- Authorized leadership according to the biblical record.
- Women's functions and responsibilities within the early church and its ministry.
THE ORIGINAL RELATIONSHIP
It was God's original intent for men and women to live together in a harmonious, sharing relationship:
"And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper that is fit for him" (Gen.2:18 KJV Para.).
The English word helper in verse 18 is translated from the Hebrew word ezer, which can mean partner. The usage of this Hebrew word shows that Adam and Eve were to have a harmonious relationship with different roles in order to contribute to the success of their marriage.
The apostle Paul's statements about the creation of humanity also show that the first man and woman were supposed to live in a harmonious partnership:
"For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man. Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither
the woman without the man, in the Lord" (1.Cor.11:8-9, 11 KJV).
THE ADJUSTED RELATIONSHIP
After Eve took the forbidden fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and gave some to Adam, the relationship between them was altered forever. One of Eve's punishments for her disobedience was the loss of equal status in the relationship between a man and a woman:
"God said to the woman, "You shall bear children in intense pain and suffering; yet even so, you shall welcome your husband's affections, and he shall be your master" (Gen.3:16 TLB Para.)
Eve's punishment represents a significant change from the original intent of the man-women relationship. Instead of being an equal partner in the marriage relationship, the woman was to be subservient to her husband, be his property, and be second in authority to man.
Today the only women exempt from the penalty imposed on women because of Eve's disobedience are righteous women who are king-priests in the Sovereign Father's earthly family. These righteous women are not property, but along with righteous men are the Father's earthly children, and joint heirs of his kingdom with Christ. See Rom.8:14-17; 1.Pet.3: 1-7.
In his instructions to Timothy concerning how godly women should conduct themselves and perform their role in the marriage and the church, Paul wrote:
"For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing [a looking toward the Savior's birth], if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety" (1.Tim.2:13-15 KJV).
Because of their disobedience in the garden of Eden, the relationship between men and women has been altered. The same rules of conduct and responsibility which existed in the garden no longer apply to the man-woman relationship. Instead of an equal partnership within the marriage, the man must now bear the full responsibility before God as the authority figure in the marriage and the woman is responsible before God to follow her husband's leadership.
THE NEW COVENANT RELATIONSHIP
It is extremely important to place the New Covenant relationship between men and women in the proper context in order to understand women's role in the church:
"For as the body is one, and has many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body [both men and women], whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many" (1.Cor.12:12-14 KJV).
"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you be Christ's, then are you Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise" (Gal.3:28-29 KJV).
What Paul wrote about spiritual equity within the Body of Christ is the inspired word of God; there is absolute spiritual equity among males and females. All the elect are coheirs with Christ; however, there is not equity in function and responsibility within the Body of Christ. In his first letter to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul explains the different functions and responsibilities within the Father's earthly family of believers during the gospel age of salvation:
"And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which works all in all" (1.Cor.12:5-6 KJV).
"Now you are the body of Christ [both men and women], and members in particular. And God has set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongue" (1.Cor.12:27-28 KJV).
Paul explains that various members within the Body of Christ have different functions and responsibilities. Although all are members, not all have identical functions or responsibilities. The same is true of gifts of the spirit; not all have exactly the same gifts or the same number of gifts. Functions, responsibilities, and supernatural abilities and powers are given according to the Father's will and for the needs and work of the church. The scriptures show no equity in function, responsibility, and supernatural abilities or powers within the church. Christ administers what is given to each of the elect (men and women) by his heavenly Father as he sees fit in order to accomplish his responsibility before his Father for the care and work of the church.
THE CULTURE OF THE DAY
In order to have a clear picture of the problem concerning relationships between men and women in the early church, it is necessary to know something about the culture that existed during the beginnings of the early church and the general attitude which most men had toward women at that time.
In the Greek culture, respectable wives led a very secluded life. They took no part in public affairs and rarely, if ever, appeared at meals or social occasions with men. Moreover, they were severely limited in their opportunities for recreation and other social contacts. They were mostly kept at home where conversation between the husband and wife was neither valued nor expected. Wives were expected to bear children and to serve the needs of men. Moreover, the Greek culture greatly influenced the Jewish culture and the relationships between men and women.
Another prevalent view at that time was the Stoic philosophy, which taught that women were a distraction and a temptation to men and should be avoided by men so they could be free to pursue things which make men superior.
Both the Greek and the Stoic philosophies underlie the traditional interpretations of the writings of Paul regarding women's roles in marriage and the church.
The question of educating women was never wholly settled in ancient Judaism, but rarely were women educated. A rabbinical teaching about women says, "It would be better to see the torah burnt than to hear its words upon the lips of a woman." And another says, "Teaching a girl is the same as starting her on a road to depravity" (Yerushalmi, Sotah 3:4.).
Within the practice and tradition of Judaism at that time, many Jewish men included the following statement in their prayers: "I thank God that he has not made me a Gentile, a woman, or a boar "(Rabbi Judah bar Ilai.). Josephus also records how the Jewish law declared that the wife "is inferior to her husband in all things" (Josephus Ant. XVII, I, 2).
With the understanding that the membership of the early church was heavily influenced by the Greek and Jewish culture and the Stoic philosophy of their day, and that a situation existed wherein women who were mostly uneducated and had little exposure culturally or socially to the society around them were being called to be part of the body of the elect, it is easier to understand the cause of some of the problems between men and women in the early church. Furthermore, it can be understood why Paul wrote the things he did about women's participation in formal worship assemblies and their need to be taught how to conduct themselves in their newfound freedom within the Body of Christ.
THE MARRIAGE RELATIONSHIP
In Ephesians, chapter 5, the apostle Paul addresses issues concerning authority within a marriage relationship, the attitude of male superiority, and the mutual love and respect husbands and wives should have for each other:
"Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the savior of the body. Therefore as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything" (Eph.5:22-24 KJV).
Paul writes that the husband is in authority over his wife just as Christ is in authority over the church; therefore, it is the duty of the wife to be subject to this authority.
"Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loves his wife loves himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourishes and cherishes it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones" (Eph.5:25-30 KJV).
Paul's instructions to the husband in verses 25-30 were in opposition to the culture of the day. Paul says that wives are not to be treated as property or second class citizens, but they are to be treated as befits a child of God. Paul says that, because the husband is in authority over his wife, he is responsible to love his wife in the same unselfish sacrificial way that Christ loves the church. The husband must diligently work to preserve and nourish his wife as Christ does the church. Moreover, a husband must love and care for his wife as he does his own body.
For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined to his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband" (Eph.5: 31-33 KJV).
There is no doubt that the husband is first in authority in a godly family unit and his authority must be tempered with love and concern for his wife as they work together to serve the Father, Christ, and each other toward their goal of salvation.
An Erroneous Assumption
Some men feel that, because they are called the head of the wife and the wife is subject to them, they have absolute authority over their wives in everything. This erroneous assumption is the cause of much distress between men and women within the church. In order to clearly understand the authority of men in the church, the original meanings of the Greek words translated into English as head, subjection to, and love, which are in Ephesians, chapter 5 need to be understood.
For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church . . ." (Eph.5:23 KJV).
The Greek word used to designate a leader who has absolute authority over another person in a hierarchical structure is arche. Paul did not use this word that describes absolute authority over another person when he spoke of the husband's authority in the marriage; he chose a word that has an entirely different meaning.
The English word head in verse 23 is translated from the Greek word kephale, which denotes the head of a body. This word is also used to mean foremost in terms of position, much as a capstone might be used in construction; however, kephale is never used to mean leader, boss, chief, or ruler. The kephale was the man who went before the troops in battle; he was the point man. Thus, the intent here is that the husband is the head of the wife as the leader, the point man, the one out in front, not as the one who has absolute authority over another person's life.
Paul said that the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. As head of the church, Christ has deep love for the church and leads by example. Therefore, a husband is to also lead by example.
Be Subject To
"Therefore as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing" (Eph.5:24 KJV).
In verse 24, Paul, did not use the Greek word Hupotasso, which means to subordinate; he used the Greek word Hupotassomai, which connotes a voluntary and willing support role and implies allegiance to, to tend to the needs of, to be supportive, to be responsive to.
Paul also expressed the need for the same type of hupotassomai attitude within the entire church when he said, "submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of the Lord" (Eph.5:21). The willingness to be supportive and responsive to the needs of another person in the church is necessary for there to be peace and harmony within the church.
"Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it" (v.25). The English word translated as love is the Greek word agapao, which is almost identical in intent and meaning to hupotassomai. Both involve a suppression of self-interest in order to serve the needs of someone else. Agapao is being responsive to the needs of others with a willing sacrificial type of love whereby one is willing to lay down their life for others.
The Husband-Wife Relationship
The husband-wife relationship is very important to one's spiritual growth and one's relationship with the Father and Jesus Christ. The principles of leadership and responsibility before God are the same regardless of whether one or both mates are members of the Father's earthly family. The apostle Peter wrote the following about husbands and wives who are both of the elect:
"In like manner, you husbands, dwell with them [the wife] according to knowledge, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered" (1.Pet.3:7 KJV).
Both men and women are called equally to be in the first resurrection. However, in regard to their specific roles, there are some differences. This is important for the husband to understand, because if he does not have the proper attitude, behavior, and respect for his wife, his prayers to the Father will be hindered, because he will not be in harmony with God's laws concerning his relationship with his wife.
WOMEN AS SPIRITUAL LEADERS
In many biblically based churches and organizations there are women holding positions of leadership. Some are ministers, pastors, preachers, teachers, and evangelists. These women and the membership of these various churches and organizations firmly believe that the Bible authorizes women to occupy these positions of leadership.
Does the biblical record authorize women to occupy leadership positions within the church or is this belief in error? The answer to this question is extremely important because Jesus said the following about those who falsely assume they are doing his and his heavenly Father's will, but clearly are not:
"Not every one that says to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but the one that does the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name? and in your name have cast out devils? and in your name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess to them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that practice lawlessness" (Matt.7:21-23 KJV Para.).
The reason these individuals who think they have secured salvation by their works are not worthy of eternal life is that all of the good works they have performed have not been done within the framework of God's law. Therefore, they are guilty of practicing lawlessness, and the penalty for practicing lawlessness is death. See Rom.6:23.
It is important to understand the basic laws, concepts, and principles governing those who are sanctioned to be leaders of God's chosen people in order to see whether or not the Sovereign Father allows women to occupy positions of leadership within his earthly family and to represent him in an official capacity to the world.
Promises to Ancient Israel
The Creator God gave these promises, instructions, and warnings to national Israel through Moses prior to their entering the promised land:
"And the Lord shall make you the head, and not the tail; and you shall be above only, and you shall not be beneath; if that you pay attention to the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you this day, to observe and to do them: And you shall not go aside from any of the words which I command you this day, to the right hand, or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them" (Deut. 28:13-14 KJV Para.).
The Creator was very clear in his instruction to the nation of Israel. He demanded absolute loyalty and obedience, or else the promised benefits would not be given. Instead, curses would come upon them as noted in verse 15:
"But it shall come to pass, if you will not pay attention to the voice of the Lord your God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command you this day; that all these curses shall come upon you, and overtake you" (Deut.28:15 KJV Para.).
After the death of Moses, the Creator God gave Joshua similar promises, instructions, and warnings:
"Be strong and of a good courage: for to this people you shall divide for an inheritance the land, which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be you strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded you : turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth; but you shall meditate therein day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall have good success" (Josh.1:6-8 KJV) See also Deut.5:29.
The Creator demanded absolute loyalty and obedience in order to reap the benefits promised for obedience.
If the Creator God was interested in loyalty and obedience from the Israelites, how much more is the Sovereign God interested in loyalty and obedience from those he sent his Son to save? From what is said in the New Testament, he is very interested in our loyalty and obedience.
Jesus said the following about God's law that he gave for the benefit of mankind:
"I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smaller letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished" (Matt.5: 18 NIV).
Are heaven and earth still here? Yes, they are! Has everything in God's word been fulfilled? No, it has not! Is the Law of God still in effect? Yes, Jesus says it is! Jesus said the following about anyone who would dare violate this law:
"Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least [i.e.,less than nothing] in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commandments will be called great in the kingdom of heaven" (Matt.5:19 Para).
What does God's law have to do with whether or not women can occupy positions of leadership within the Father's earthly family and represent him in a formal way to the world? The answer is that the Sovereign God is a God of law and he has set in place a specific organizational structure through which he expects to be served and worshiped. What follows will clearly show this organizational structure as it pertains to those who are authorized to serve him as leaders of his chosen people.
When Ancient Israel was formed into a nation, the Creator God chose men from the tribe of Levi to serve him as priests and spiritual leaders of his people. God said to Moses:
"And I will sanctify the tabernacle of the congregation, and the altar: I will sanctify also both Aaron and his sons, to minister to me in the priest's office" (Ex.29:44 KJV).
The biblical and historical record of ancient Israel clearly shows that the Creator God chose only males of the tribe of Levi to serve him as the spiritual leaders of Israel.
Prophetesses of Ancient Israel
When the subject of leadership is discussed, those who advocate women being placed in positions of leadership will almost always cite the scriptures that speak of women prophetesses. It is true that both men and women were given this function and responsibility in ancient Israel. However, the biblical record shows a major difference between men and women in their performance of this function and responsibility.
It is important to understand that a prophet or a prophetess is always directly chosen by God for a specific task, such as delivering a message of repentance to God's people, foretelling or delivering punishment for disobedience to God, blessing or cursing people or nations on behalf of God, foretelling future events, and in some cases, teaching spiritual lessons. It is also important to understand that there is a clear difference between the function and responsibility of a prophet and a prophetess shown in the biblical record.
Although male prophets in ancient Israel were at times leaders of God's people, prophetesses were never shown as being authorized to hold positions of leadership by the Creator God. To this statement many will reply, What about Deborah the prophetess who judged Israel?
The simple fact is that a linguistic analysis of the biblical record shows that Deborah did not judge Israel in the sense of governing Israel as its civil or spiritual leader; rather, she conveyed God's condemnation of the Israelites for evil practices, foretold future events concerning them, and reminded them of God's instructions to wage war with Sisera the captain of Jabin's army:
"And the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord, when Ehud was dead. And the Lord sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, that reigned in Hazor; the captain of whose host was Sisera, which dwelt in Harosheth of the Gentiles. And the children of Israel cried to the Lord: for he had nine hundred chariots of iron; and twenty years he mightily oppressed the children of Israel" (Jdg.4:1-3 KJV).
The context in which Deborah the prophetess is mentioned is that of national Israel's punishment for their evil behavior before God.
"And Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, she judged Israel at that time. And she dwelt under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in Mount Ephraim: and the children of Israel came up to her for judgment" (Jdg.4:4-5 KJV).
Here, the English word judged is a translation of the Hebrew word shaphat, which means to judge, i.e., pronounce sentence (for or against); by implication, to vindicate or punish; by extension, to govern; passively, to litigate (literally or figuratively).
In this verse, the English word judgment is a translation of the Hebrew word mishpat; which means properly, a verdict (favorable or unfavorable) pronounced judicially, especially a sentence or formal decree, divine law, individual or collective, including the act, the place, the suit, the crime, and the penalty; abstractly, justice, including a participant's right or privilege (statutory or customary), or even a style.
Most translators of the Bible follow the lead of the King James translations and interpret the words judged and judgment to infer that Deborah governed Israel; however, the Hebrew words shaphat and mishpat do not convey the meaning of governance in the context of the biblical record concerning Deborah. These words convey a condemnation of Israel for their evil behavior, which is consistent with the historical record of Judges, chapters 4 and 5.
A careful review of Judges, chapters 4 and 5 do not show an authorization from God for Deborah to govern or lead Israel in any capacity, but shows the lack of male leadership in Israel at that time and their unwillingness to assume their function and responsibility as leaders of Israel.
The context of these chapters also documents a lack of male leadership in Israel at that time. Clearly, no male prophet was in Israel at that time; therefore, people sought counsel from Deborah who had shown herself to be a righteous person and prophetess through whom God would give insight and instructions.
The song of Deborah is a further indication that these Israelite males were not diligently performing their responsibilities as leaders of Israel and were behaving as little children who needed a mother to care for them:
"The inhabitants of the villages ceased, they ceased in Israel, until that I Deborah arose, that I arose a mother in Israel" (Jdg.5:7).
The biblical record does not show Deborah in a leadership position in Israel, it shows her as a person given the responsibility as a prophetess to convey the Creator's condemnation of the Israelites for evil practices, to foretell future events concerning them, and to remind them of God's instructions to wage war with Sisera the captain of Jabin's army.
The biblical record shows that the prophetess Deborah advised the Israelites concerning God's will for them, gave them warnings from God and conveyed knowledge of prophetic events. Huldah the prophetess warned King Josiah and the people of Judah of punishment because of their rebellion against God, and Anna the prophetess spoke of the advent of Christ. But, none of these women were in positions of leadership.
DURING CHRIST'S EARTHLY MINISTRY
During Christ's ministry, he chose twelve men to be his close companions and prepared them to occupy leadership positions in what would be his Father's holy nation and earthly family. To these men he revealed the identity of his Heavenly Father and his good news message of salvation. Christ also chose 70 other men (Lk.10:1-12) and sent them with great spirit-power (Lk.10:17-20) to proclaim the Kingdom of God.
After Christ's death and resurrection, he gave the 11 remaining disciples, who were later to be known as apostles, their commission:
"You go and teach all races. He that believes and is baptized shall be saved; but he that does not believe shall be damned" (Mk.16: 15-16 Para.).
THE EARLY CHURCH
Christ delegated the administration of the early church to the apostles who in turn delegated some of their authority to other men, just as Moses had done when he appointed judges over Israel:
"Truly I say to you, Whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them" (Matt.18:18-20 KJV Para.).
There are many scriptures that show the apostles using their authority to make decisions concerning the written law. The apostles also had the authority to set forth oral law which was just as binding on the Father's earthly children as the written law. These apostles were sitting in Christ's seat of authority over the Father's holy nation during their lifetime, just as those who sat in Moses' seat of authority over national Israel. See Acts 15:1-41; 1.Cor.5:4-6; 1.Tim.1:17-20.
The organizational structure of the early church as set forth by Jesus Christ was clearly a theocratic system governed by men through which the Sovereign Father's earthly children were to worship and serve him in temples of flesh.
The following scriptures outline the organizational structure of the early church:
"Now you are the body of Christ, and members in particular. And God has set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healing, helps, governments, diversities of languages. Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak other languages? do all interpret?" (1.Cor.12:27-30 KJV Para.).
The English word prophets in 1.Cor.12:29 is translated from the Greek word prophetes, which means one who foretells, an inspired speaker, or by extension, a poet. Although this is the Greek meaning of the word prophetes, the intent of its usage in the New Testament goes far beyond its Greek meaning. Prophecy in the early church seemed to encompass the full range of the meaning of the word prophetes. Future events were foretold, God's message to mankind was proclaimed, instructions from God were given, and mysteries of God were revealed. See Acts 11:27-28; 15:32-35; 21:10-11; 1.Cor.14: 29-33; Eph.3:3-6.
ORDER WITHIN FORMAL ASSEMBLIES
In his first letter to the Corinthian church, Paul address serious problems concerning disorderly conduct during formal assemblies of the church and gives the following instructions to eliminate this situation:
"Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonors his head. But every woman that prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head: even as one shaved" (1.Cor.11:4-5 KJV Para.).
The English word prophecies in verse 5 is translated from the Greek word propheteuo, which is a derivative of the Greek word prophetes and means to foretell events, divine, speak under inspiration, and exercise the prophetic office:
Yes, women receive revelations and can reveal these revelations to others as many scriptures indicate. The daughters of the evangelist Philip were among those of the early church whom God chose to receive and convey information to others of the elect. See Acts 2:14-18; 21:7-9.
The question is not whether women can prophesy, because righteous women can and do prophesy. The question is, whether or not it is proper for a woman to prophecy in the congregational assemblies of the elect?
Notice what Paul wrote about how men should conduct themselves when speaking to the congregation in a formal assembly:
"Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the others judge. If any thing is revealed to another that sits by, let the first hold his peace. For you may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted. And the spirit of the prophets is subject to the prophets. For God is not of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints" (1.Cor.14:29-33 KJV Para.).
The English word prophets in verse 29 and throughout this text is translated from the Greek word prophetess, which means a foreteller (a prophet); by analogy, an inspired speaker:
Clearly, not everyone should be speaking at the same time if they have been given a revelation or have special understanding. Paul stresses order among the elect in a formal setting when they come together to worship the Father, to learn, and to share in learning.
Continuing to instruct the elect at Corinth in the proper conduct that should be exhibited during their formal assemblies, the apostle Paul issues the following decree:
"Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted to them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also says the law" (1.Cor.14:34 KJV).
The English word silence in verse 33 is translated from the Greek verb sigao, which means a voluntary silence and connotes a request for silence in the midst of clamor and disorder. Additionally, Paul says that it is a shame for a woman to speak in church. The English word speak is translated from the Greek word laleo, which means to talk.
Paul approved of women being together with men during formal assemblies of the church, because in Christ they are one. However, these were new and radical ideas to both Gentiles and Jews. This newfound freedom led to a disregard for orderliness and courtesy during their formal teaching and worship assemblies, especially on the part of women who were not accustomed to listening to public speakers or participating in public worship.
Paul backs up his decree by invoking the authority of God's law. But, of what law is Paul referring? It is the law concerning the authority between a man and a woman which was first given to mankind after Eve disobeyed God's instructions by taking and eating the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil:
"To the woman he said, I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; in sorrow you shall bring forth children; and your desire shall be to your husband, and he shall rule over you" (Gen.3: 16 Para.).
This law does not speak to the intellect or worth of an individual, but to responsibility and function within the theocratic system through which God governs his people. Men are to be in authority over women, so says God's law.
Paul was taught as a Pharisee and clearly understood God's law, thus his decree that women should keep silent in the assemblies of the elect. Although women are permitted to sing praises to God in the congregation, they are not allowed to preach, teach, or prophecy in congregational assemblies:
"And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church. What? came the word of God out from you? or came it to you only?" (1.Cor.14:35-36 KJV).
The English word shame in verse 35 is translated from the Greek word aischron, which means a shameful thing (i.e., indecorum). In verse 36, Paul states the fact that God's truth and way of truth was delivered to mankind through men, not women.
Paul's instruction to the elect at Corinth in chapter 14 concerns the issue of authority and order in the congregation. Men who receive a revelation should speak in an orderly fashion and women should not speak-out in the congregation, but must keep silent.
This silence of women within the congregational worship assemblies when a minister or other men are speaking, not only shows respect for God and his law but also for the authority of the spiritual leader and the other men in the congregation. Moreover, it is evident that, if women are to be silent in a formal congregational assembly, they are also prohibited from prophesying or teaching within a formal assembly.
Although righteous women are sometimes chosen and authorized to convey messages and prophecies from God, women cannot, according to the authority structure of the church, formally proclaim these messages or prophecies within formal congregational assemblies. Therefore, in order for a prophetess to fulfill her responsibility, she must do so within the authorized structure of the church; otherwise, she acts without divine authority, and usurps the divinely appointed order of authority.
In summarizing his decree concerning the issue of authority and order within the formal assemblies of the elect, Paul again invokes his authority and God's law in order to firmly establish his decree:
"If anybody thinks themselves a prophet or spiritually gifted, let them acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord's command. If anyone ignores this, let them be ignored" (1.Cor.14: 37-38 Para.).
"And God has set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, . . ." (1.Cor.12:28 KJV).
Here, the English word teacher is translated from the Greek word didaskalos, which means an instructor.
As with the function of a prophet, both men and women are noted as fulfilling the teaching function. However, the teaching performed by the men of the early church is different from that of women. The teaching performed by men was instruction in God's truth to the elect and the proclaiming of the good news message to the world. Whereas, the older women were to teach the younger women by a righteous example, as well as by oral instruction:
"But you speak the things which become sound doctrine: That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience. The aged women likewise, that they be in behavior as becomes holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed" (Titus 2:1-5. KJV Para.).
The function of teaching within the church carries with it the responsibility to make sure that what is taught is truth, because what one teaches, if not correct or not thoroughly explained, has the potential to adversely impact a person's life and spiritual growth.
The New Testament shows teachers can be men or women depending on what is taught and the circumstances surrounding the teaching process. For example, older women with more experience in the Father's truth and the practical application of a righteous lifestyle are to teach younger women as noted in Paul's letter to Titus (Tit.2:3-4). However, Paul's instruction to Titus does not authorize women a teaching office or position of authority within the church, nor does this instruction relieve men of their leadership responsibility within the church.
The biblical record clearly shows that Christ delegated the responsibility of spiritual leadership and the teaching of his heavenly Father's truth and way of truth in an official and formal capacity to men. And after Christ returns, men will still be responsible for spiritual leadership and the maintenance of the worship system at the temple in Jerusalem.
Paul's Instruction To Timothy
In his letter to the evangelist Timothy, the apostle Paul gives the following clear instruction concerning women and the church:
"A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have [usurp] authority over a man; she must be silent" (1.Tim. 2:11-12 NIV).
The clear inference of the first part of verse 12 is that women of the church were not the teachers of God's truth, but were to learn these things from men who are authorized to teach.
Verse 12 warns women to not usurp the authority of a man. The English phrase usurp authority is translated from the Greek word authenteo, which literally means to act of oneself and figuratively means to dominate. At one time, authenteo described one who kills with his own hands. Later, it was used to indicate how one may act on his or her own authority and dominate others in an autocratic manner.
The English word silent in verse 12 is translated from the Greek word hesuchia, which means stillness i.e., quietness, or silence.
Many men seize upon Paul's instruction to Timothy in verse 12 to prove that women in the Body of Christ are prohibited from functioning in any kind of teaching responsibility. However, this is not what this scripture says; otherwise, Paul would have been contradicting himself, because he told Titus to have the older women teach the younger women (Tit.2:1-5).
Some who attempt to justify the practice of women in positions of leadership within the church feel that Paul was just stating an opinion to Timothy; however, this was not Paul's opinion in this matter, it was Paul's instruction to Timothy regarding a problem, which needed to be rectified.
Women Serve With Men
Paul mentions many women in his letters. His comments about some of these women shows that they had a significant role in serving the church membership and supporting its work and the work of the ministry. These accounts also show that both men and women worked together to accomplish the goals of the church and its ministry. The following examples show how women helped in supporting the work being done by the apostles and other elders.
Euodias and Syntyche
"I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord. And I entreat you also, true yoke-fellow, help those which labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellow-laborers, whose names are in the book of life" (Phil.4:2-3 Para).
Here, Paul shows that there were two women (Euodias and Syntyche) who worked with him as he proclaimed the gospel. Paul does not say exactly what these two did, but whatever they did, he considered them an integral part of his evangelistic team.
Aquila and Priscilla
Aquila and Priscilla were a married couple who helped Paul in his ministry and allowed the church to meet in their home. It is interesting that the husband Aquila is mentioned first in Paul's letter to the Corinthians and Priscilla is mentioned first in his letter to the Romans, which may indicate special recognition for her service to the church:
"The churches of Asia salute you. Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the church that is in their house" (1.Cor.16: 19 KJV).
"Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus" (Rom.16:3 KJV).
"I commend to you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea: That you receive her in the Lord, as becomes saints, and that you assist her in whatsoever business she has need of you: for she has been a helper of many, and of myself also" (Rom.16:1-2 KJV Para.).
Paul introduces Phebe as a prominent member of the church who should be received with the courtesy and respect due to a child of God. Paul had apparently sent her to Rome to accomplish some task for him and he instructed the elect there to assist her in the things that she had to do there. This account shows that some women in the church were trusted with responsibilities that would affect the church and its ministry.
After Christ Returns
The prophet Ezekiel was inspired to record that, after Christ returns and establishes God's government on earth, men of the tribe of Levi will be the spiritual leaders of God's worship system on earth:
"But the priests the Levites, the sons of Zadok, that kept the charge of my sanctuary when the children of Israel went astray from me, they shall come near to me to minister to me, and they shall stand before me to offer to me the fat and the blood, says the Lord God: They shall enter into my sanctuary, and they shall come near to my table, to minister to me, and they shall keep my charge" (Ezk.44: 15-16 KJV). See also Jer.33:17-22.
It is easily shown from the biblical record that, before the advent of Christ, the Creator chose only males of the tribe of Levi to serve him in the capacity of priests and teachers of his law.
After Christ returns to establish the Kingdom of God on earth, the descendants of Levi will be brought into the land of their inheritance. National Israel's theocratic governmental and organizational structure will be restored as it was at the beginning of the nation under the leadership of the Levitical priesthood:
"Therefore says the Lord, the Lord of hosts, the Mighty One of Israel, Ah, I will ease me of my adversaries, and avenge me of my enemies: And I will turn my hand upon you, and purely purge away your dross, and take away all your tin: And I will restore your judges as at the first, and your councillors as at the beginning: afterward you shall be called, The city of righteousness, the faithful city. Zion shall be redeemed with judgment, and her converts with righteousness. And the destruction of the transgressors and of the sinners shall be together, and they that forsake the Lord shall be consumed" (Isa.1:24-28 KJV).
One only has to review the qualifications which were necessary to become and remain an elder in the early church to clearly understand that the leadership of the Father's elect children is the function and responsibility of men. All the apostles, evangelists, and elders of the early church were men; there are no examples of a woman being authorized to hold a position of leadership in ancient Israel or the early church.
The biblical record shows the following about positions of leadership in ancient Israel, the early church, and the millennial rule of Christ:
- The Creator God only chose and authorized men to fill positions of leadership in ancient Israel.
- Christ only chose and authorized men to proclaim the Kingdom of God and his Father's good news message while he was alive.
- The apostles only chose and authorized men to fill positions of leadership in the early church.
- After Christ returns to conquer the earth and establish his Father's government and worship system in Jerusalem, only men will occupy positions of leadership.
No authorization can be found in the entire Bible authorizing women to hold positions of leadership within ancient Israel, the congregations of the Father's elect, or to perform the function of proclaiming the gospel message to the world.
The Early Church
The apostles and elders of the early church had tremendous latitude as to how they accomplished their responsibilities. Today, it is no different; there is great latitude in how formal worship assemblies are conducted and what responsibilities are given to men and women.
Although the primary leadership role within the church lies with men (Eph.4:11-14; 1.Tim.3:1-5, 8-12; Tit.1:5-9), the importance and the value of women's participation in the work of the church should never be underestimated or undervalued, because women are also called to be coworkers in the faith and coheirs of the Kingdom of God with Jesus Christ.
It is evident from the scriptures that men and women share an equal calling to salvation (Gal.3:28-29; 1.Pet.3:7). It is also clear there are many different functions and gifts given to both men and women within the body of Christ and that both have a responsibility to work together in harmony to fulfill God's purpose in the marital relationship, the family, and the work of the church (1.Cor.12:12-14, 27-31).
Are women who assume positions of spiritual leadership usurping the authority, function, and responsibility of men in violation of God's will and his law with regard to who is authorized to occupy positions of leadership during this gospel age of salvation?
Could the specter of women promoting themselves as leaders be a part of the prophesied curse that the Creator God pronounced through Isaiah?:
"Woe to the wicked! it shall be ill with him: for the reward of his hands shall be given him. As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they which lead you cause you to err, and destroy the way of your paths" (Isa.3: 11-12 KJV).
By B. L. Cocherell b8w9