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Feminism and the Bible
What the Bible Really Says About the Role and Value of Women
For the past 100 years, women have ardently fought for equality and autonomy in the home, workplace and society. But today the term feminism makes a lot of Christians uncomfortable or indignant. So what exactly does the Bible have to say on this controversial topic? In this classic message, Chip looks at the issues of feminism and gender equality, through the unchanging lens of Scripture. He unpacks how women have been viewed throughout history and the results of the women’s rights movement. Don’t miss how God defines the sexes, the important roles He’s given men and women, and what this all means for us today.More from this series
Feminism is not a dirty word. Feminism is a controversial word. I mean, we’re going to get a stir here and we’re going to have some fun. But it’s not a dirty word. You know what Webster’s says feminism is? Webster’s says that, “Feminism is the principle that women should have political, economic, and social rights equal to men.” Now, I don’t know where you come from, I don’t know where your background, but we are going to sort of tip the scales all directions today. But as I read the Bible, I really can’t find anything in the Bible that would be against that definition, of a woman having social, political, and economic rights equal to that of a man. In fact, it seems to make kind of good sense, like, people are people.
But when you say the word “feminism”, boy, lights go off. And so, here’s what I’d like to do. We are going to start with understanding feminism and I’m going to look at its roots all the way back into pagan cultures, look at a little bit of Rome and in Greece, Jewish cultures,
After we look at the roots, then I want to look at some of the ideology, the belief systems that have developed out of feminism. And then from there, let’s just look at the impact. And I can’t spend a lot of time. In fact, if you think I’m talking fast, wait until later.
And then once we get a view of understanding what feminism is, with people coming out of that culture knowing Christ, two huge questions come up. What does the Bible really say about gender issues and what is the role of women inside the Church? And so, we are going to try and tackle both of those.
Let’s look at the roots of feminism. First of all, let’s look at history. In pagan cultures, along with Greek and Roman culture, women have been massively exploited. They were equal to or less than slaves in those cultures. They were bought, sold, traded, and were objects and considered objects and not people.
You’ll not find one female philosopher in Greece. Things got so bad at one period in the Roman Empire in 331 B.C. and then again in 180 B.C. there were massive poisonings of husbands. Can you believe that? I mean, they didn’t have any laws, they didn’t have any recourse, so the women got together and said, “You know what? We can solve this.” You know? Probably started, you know, the cyanide small groups or something.
As I read on a bumper sticker recently, it said, “We sent one man to the moon, why not send them all?” These ladies in Rome, life was tough. In fact, at one point in the Roman,
in the Roman world, women were so mistreated that if you asked them their age, they didn’t give it in the years that they had been born, they gave it by the number of divorces they had had and who was emperor at the time. They were traded and shuffled around like pieces of property.
The Jewish culture came in and made a stark contrast – God’s Word different from every pagan religion actually had women and children as a part of the covenant community. There are laws in the Old Testament to guard and protect women. Again, a radical thought in that day. And, in fact, in Proverbs 31, you had the Jewish literature saying a woman’s value is greater than rubies and jewels. And if a man ever finds a godly woman, it’s better than anything else he could ever find.
Unfortunately, the Jews had the inspiration from God, but they didn’t always live it out too consistently, as we will see the Church has fallen in the same trap.
With that, imagine, just, I mean, before we go on, imagine what it is like on this planet for most of the centuries to be a woman, to be sold, to be the just object. In Greece, the by-word was there are three kinds of women. We have one set of women for our pleasure, our concubines. We have another set of women for servants, to take care of household duties. We have a third set of women that we marry for our offspring that will be legitimate and carry on our names.
Can you imagine being part of a world – and that was the height! I mean, that’s when things were going kind of good for them. Into that comes the greatest women’s liberator.
Jesus Christ. I mean, He was so committed to the value of women, God could have come to this planet in any way. Guess how He decided to come – He came inside a woman. Immaculate conception by the Holy Spirit. And He found the most godly young woman, probably a fifteen to seventeen-year-old named Mary.
And not only that, then He began to teach, and He treated women with equality. He broke the social morays. The woman at the well was not only a woman but of a different ethnic culture. And He sat and He talked to her.
In His teaching, He said to men in Matthew 5, “Hey, men, women are people. They are not sex objects. In fact, when you lust for one in your heart, you are violating God’s standard.”
Women are to be valued; they are people. They are special. He even allowed a group of women to travel with Him, they financially supported Him. And, of course, He was the object of a lot of gossip. The Great Commission was given to women. Guess who He told the resurrection. He didn’t tell the disciples first, He told women, “Go tell the disciples.” The early Church was planted – where? Large measure, by women: Lydia in Philippi. Aquila and Pricilla – they are Bible teachers. The prophets of Philip were daughters.
God used women in an amazing, significant way to get the holy Church off the ground and to transform an entire culture’s view of women. The greatest women’s liberator ever was Jesus Christ.
Now, you know, that’s an amazing thought if you have not done your homework and have come from a strong feminist background, isn’t it? Because in many circles, the Church is kind of the enemy and women think the Bible is against women when, in fact, it has probably been women’s greatest ally through the centuries.
Well, unfortunately, the Church and culture, the culture has won most of the time. The Church, instead of following the teachings of Jesus has in large part adopted the culture and not treated women at all as God would have them treat them.
Feminism in America has about three mountain peaks. At the Revolutionary War, women, see, women get used. The Revolutionary War, we were trying to work a deal to get out from under a country and we found a group of women that were sympathetic that way. So, you can recruit people to that cause.
Same thing happened, then, with slavery. The women’s – or – feminist movement of that day was recruited because they saw the inequality and they teamed up to help abolish slavery. And then in the 1920s, you had the movement of women trying to get the vote and they get the vote there, but then all the men go off to World War I, World War II, and the feminist movement kind of just dies down, because they are out in the factories doing jobs no one thought they could ever do as men fought.
By the time of the sixties though, the status quo, remember that? We are going to overthrow the establishment. And the radicals of the sixties came and said, “The establishment is evil.” Where we came through the sixties, the seventies, and all the rest, but a group of those radicals saw that the real problem wasn’t just the establishment. The radical feminists said, “You know, we tried to transform the culture. You know, we marched, we had sit-ins, we did it all but nothing really changed because the real problem is men. And until we get out from under all male domination, this world will never be fit for a woman.”
And let me just summarize their belief system. First, the source of society’s ills is patriarchy or male domination. Then that moves to equality means sameness. Then hierarchy of any kind or role differences automatically [imply] inequality. Fourth, feminine autonomy is the prerequisite to personal fulfillment. There’s this message being pushed that as a woman, if you have to depend on a man in any way, you’ll never be personally fulfilled.
Fifth, motherhood and childrearing is a curse, not a privilege. Significance, number six, is determined by personal production and accomplishment. And seven, family and religion are manmade institutions that exploit women. They must be radically redefined or eliminated.
Now, that’s a strong agenda. That’s the radical feminist agenda, but that agenda cuts through and has seeped in all manner of institutions.
Now, it has had impact. The general feminist agenda to bring equality is one thing. What I just cited is something of a little bit different category. Now, let’s look at the impact. And as I read these through, again, we could make comments both directions. Some of the impact has been very positive, some of the impact has been very negative, and some has been mixed.
The impact, in summary, would be first a blurring of the sex roles. In fact, a lot of us men, boy, it sure has hit the Church. I mean, we have got guys going away to football stadiums and singing and crying and hugging one another! We would have never done that, would we? Men have feelings too. So, there’s some positives, but there have been some negatives.
Second is women in the workforce, the equal rights amendment, and stereotypical roles. Again, some of that has been very positive. Women have had opportunities in the workforce and some great things have happened. And, yet, there has been some other things. Some of the stereotypes were very negative and need to be shed, others were built on some truth and the ways relationships should have run and they are being disbanded. Marriage, motherhood, and children are devalued. People are saying, “I don’t want kids.”
As we go on, continued impact is this whole concept of any kind of hierarchy is intolerant while egalitarian or equality in every way or sameness is politically correct. For women today, careerism and personal fulfillment emerge as the women’s new agenda versus a domestic model. And, again, we are going to talk about that. Does the Bible say that a woman shouldn’t have a career? Absolutely not. But it’s an issue about priorities, it’s an issue about what comes first.
And then, finally, final impact is women’s roles have been redefined in marriage, they have been redefined in the Church, they have been redefined in the business world, and in society at large. In many ways, very positively, but in some ways, very detrimentally.
So, let’s pretend. Okay, I don’t have to pretend I have a good friend, in fact, she’s here today. She’s seventeen years old, she probably bought fairly hook, line, and sinker – that might be an overstatement – but to a large degree those seven beliefs. And then she trusted Christ here about two and a half, three months ago. And she is really growing, but guess, do you think she’s got some questions?
When you come out of that ideology, then you find Christ, He fills the void in your soul, you are born again, you have new life, but you say, “Wait a second. What does the Bible say about these gender issues? And if I’m really a committed Christian, does that mean the only thing I can do is work in the nursery? I mean, you know, what’s the role of women in the Church?”
So, with the remaining time, fasten your spiritual seatbelts and what I want to do is address those two issues with this disclaimer. I can’t develop the passages. I will err in trying to, but what I want you to do is when I skip over them, what I want to do is I want to frame the issue so you know what the Bible says without all the whys and wherefores and I’ll tell you where you can get the other information.
But with that said, there are four absolutes in Scripture about gender issues. And if you haven’t turned the page, do that and we’ll look at these two big questions.
First question, what do the Scriptures teach concerning gender issues? First absolute is that men and woman are equal in God’s sight. Genesis 1:27, “So God created man in HIs own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Male and female, both made in the image of God, both equal.
The apostle Paul makes it even more clear in Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.” The context of this passage means there is equality with regard to our salvation, there’s equality with regard to our standing before God, and there’s equality with regard to a man’s value before God and a woman’s value before God. Male and female are equal in God’s sight.
Absolute number two from Scripture is that men and women are not the same. In fact, if I could restate this, all I want to say, men and women are not identical, because I don’t mean here just separate but equal. What I mean is they are functionally, fundamentally, not identical. They are different. But the real push in our day is to blur and the thought is the only way to be genuinely equal is if we can have some sort of, I heard it actually on the radio, on a talk show. A lady was talking about the need for sexual convergence where we come to the day where male or female become so blurred, it’s like they are indistinguishable.
The Bible says no. God has made a unique design – male, female – they are distinctive. They are not identical. In the creation account beginning in Genesis 2, verses 19 to 25, we get this idea. “Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air and He brought them before the man to see what he would name them, and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock,” and you can see God’s design. He sets Adam out here in the garden and there are two giraffes, you’ve got two elephants, you’ve got two monkeys. There’s an object lesson coming up.
So, he names them. Two, two, two, two, two, two. “But for Adam, no suitable helper was found.” And, ladies, don’t get stung by the word “helper.” That word is used in the Old Testament multiple times for God Himself. The Hebrew means there was no corresponding part. There wasn’t a match. There wasn’t a completer. God created man in the image, male and female. Now we are going to see what He does. And the design is to take some aspects of mankind and lodge them in the male sex. Other aspects of mankind lodge them in the female sex and then create an interdependent need for one another for unity and intimacy and fulfillment.
Let’s see how God does it. Verse 21, “So the Lord caused the man to fall into a deep sleep and while he was sleeping He took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh,” God can do surgery any way He wants. “Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib He had taken out of the man.” I would just note that the woman isn’t independently made. Something came out of mankind to become woman. “And He brought her to the man.” Notice, she is precious. God brings the woman to the man. She’s a gift.
His response ought to tell us this, “The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh.’” One Hebrew professor said, “If you could get the gist of this, it was his eyes got this big and he went, ‘Whoa! Like, wowee! I mean, I was naming giraffe, giraffe, elephant, elephant, monkey, monkey, but man, whoa! We are on a different planet on this one. This is exciting!’”
Verse 24, here’s the logistics, the rationale, the why. “For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and they will become one flesh.” Now, notice the commentary and that’s why I said this. “The man and his wife were both naked and they felt no shame.” And the nakedness here goes so beyond the physical issue. They were naked psychologically, they were naked spiritually, they were a hundred percent vulnerable with one another. And the two key words are the man leaves to be united and they become one flesh.
The issue of the sexes from God’s perspective is never competition. It’s never who is superior or inferior. It’s not man against woman. The whole focus and design of making them different is for unity, oneness, completion, mutual fulfillment. It’s a design issue.
It’s like an engineer is thinking, What is the ultimate best we could come up with? And taking one part of the machinery here, another part here – independently they don’t work. Put them together, they produce something with a synergy beyond what either could ever imagine.
In marriage, because of their differences, they have different roles. Ephesians chapter 5, verses 22 to 27. Verse 22, “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the Church, His body, of which He is the Savior. Now, the Church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. So just as Christ has authority over the Church, the man has authority over his wife.” And we’ll talk about what that means and what it doesn’t.
Before you get too scared, though, let’s look at verse 25. “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her.” Radically, sacrificially, putting the Church’s needs ahead of His own, laying down even His body and dying for the Church.
Husbands, Christ is the model. The way He loves the Church, that’s how you love your wife. Whatever it takes for her to become all that God wants her to be, that’s the heart of God on this issue.
Ephesians chapter 5 verses 22 to 27. Verse 22, “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the Church, His body, of which He is the Savior. Now the Church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her.” Radically, sacrificially, putting the Church’s needs ahead of His own, laying down even His body and dying for the Church. Husbands, Christ is the model. The way He loves the Church, that’s how you love your wife – whatever it takes for her to become all that God wants her to be. Now, back up to the word.
“Submission” means, it’s a Greek word, hupotasso. Hupo means to be under; tasso means to be rank or order. It’s a military term. It’s like having a lieutenant and a captain and a general. There’s hupotasso in each of those relationships.
The Scripture says, ladies, God’s desire in the design, not because of superiority or inferiority, but for the design to work for oneness, mutual benefit, and relational unity, and a testimony of God’s greatness, you are a vice regent on the planet. And God wants you to submit. But the word is in the middle tense. It means to do it voluntarily, to do it in and of yourself. This is a willful act of submission unto God first, and the design that He has. And then to be a fellow team player where you mutually agree about: How do we live out this life in Christ together?
Submission is not a club. Submission is a response to a design. Men, we step up the plate and love our wives the way God wants us to. The easiest thing to do in the world will be to submit to someone that is absolutely busting it to make your life better, richer, deeper, because you’re the most important person apart from God in his life.
And my challenge to you, men, is the real issue in our culture and in the Church is not women submitting. It’s a generation of passive men that haven’t had the courage to step up to the plate and give at home what you give at work every day. And my challenge to us is to say: Let’s do it. Let’s make it easy. Let’s love them in such a radical way that the issue isn’t conflict over power issues. The issue is over who gets to outdo one another in loving each other. And then the design works in a phenomenal way.
In fact, the last four verses of Ephesians 5 is the fourth absolute. Role differences are designed to provide relational unity – no competition – mutual benefit for both man and woman, and a spiritual testimony. Let me read it.
“In this same way,” husbands, as Christ loved the Church, “husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the Church – for we are members of His body.”
The little phrase “feeds and cares for” is a phenomenal passage. It’s used of how parents nurture, encourage a child in some contexts. It’s what God does for His children in terms of providing an environment to reach their full potential. Men, you know what one of your biggest jobs is? One of your biggest jobs is to free your wife. You know how you free your wife? You create an environment in your home where she discovers her gifts, her talents, her creative ability, and you help her become everything God designed her to become. That’s work, man. And she’ll never feel pressured; she’ll never feel boxed in.
Now, are there boundaries to draw, hard discussions, issues to cover? You bet. But when you do it out of a heart of love and you say, “I want my wife to be all God wants her to be,” and that’s your goal, again, not hard to submit to.
Notice verse 31, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery – but I’m talking about Christ and the Church.” You see, as a part of this design, the one fleshness is, yeah, intimacy, emotionally, spiritually, completeness. In fact, someone ought to just back up, call a big time out and say, “Okay, we’ve got all this feminist controversy and the role of women and what about this and what about this?”
Someone ought to just call a time out and say, “Okay, wait, wait, wait.” Now, women have been exploited, absolutely. But let’s look at the new agenda. How is the new agenda working in our culture for relationships? I mean, just as a casual observer, just stepping back, how is it going? Are women really more fulfilled with an idea that feminine autonomy is the key to fulfillment? That significance comes from production? That marriage and family are to be devalued? Are women really more fulfilled now than they were? If I have done my homework, it seems like the divorce rate is higher than ever, the dissatisfaction rate – we have more single families led by women who are poorer than ever, and the people that have seemed to be shortchanged the most are kids.
Now, with that said, what I’d like to just say is the Bible on gender issues says: Male/female – equal before God. Male and female – different; they are not identical. Because of them not being identical, then, male and female have distinctive roles in marriage. And finally, those distinctive roles are for a purpose – to produce not conflict, but relational unity, mutual benefit, and when families operate that way, there’s a tremendous testimony as people see a family that loves and works.
Now, with that, I want to stop and say, okay, I’ve got one big question to answer. And so, now we are going to fly.
Okay, we got the design, we understand the gender issues, but what can I do? Am I assigned to the nursery forever? Does it mean I can only teach kids? Does it mean that I can use all my gifts and talents and leadership ability everywhere but the Church of Jesus Christ? I’m going to tell you, the answer is no.
But are there some qualifications? Yes. So, let’s face the three most difficult passages, at least in my experience, in the Bible. I will simply read them and I’ll give you the conclusion. I can’t develop them, which some of you are saying, “Good, because I don’t really want you to go on much longer anyway!” But are you ready? Let’s roll.
1 Corinthians chapter 11. The context is worship in the Church. The apostle Paul writes, inspired by the Holy Spirit, “I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the teachings just as I passed them on to you. Now, I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and that the head of a woman is man, and that the head of Christ is God. Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. And every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head – it is just as though her head were shaved. If a woman does not cover her head, she should have her hair cut off; and if that’s a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or shaved off, then she should cover her head. A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man.”
Now, there are contextual things and worship and these false idols and temples. Just listen for the conclusion. What is the issue here? The issue is there needs to be a sign of authority or submission from men and woman and it has something to do, at least in this day with either covering your head, not covering your head. And it’s going to now get into a couple haircut issues.
Here’s the reason, “For man did not come from woman,” argument from design, “but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. For this reason and because of the angels,” apparently they watch our worship, “the woman ought to have a sign of authority on her head. Now, in the Lord however, woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as woman came from man, so man is born of woman.” There’s a cycle here. “But everything comes from God. Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered?” That’s the question they’re asking. And there’s a lot of cultural issues I’m not going to deal with.
But here are three conclusions and they are going to build one on another. Conclusion number one: In the New Testament Church, women fully participate in worship. From this passage, forget whether their head should be uncovered or not, they are praying in the services and they are prophesying in the services, alright?
Observation or conclusion number two, men and women demonstrate signs of being under spiritual authority respectively. A man is supposed to not do certain things or do things, and a woman is supposed to do certain things. But the issue is a sign of spiritual authority.
Three, women and men are different but they are interdependent. There is no sense of crushing, there’s no sense of, “This is the way it has got to be.” There’s a sense of interdependence on one another and God is the ultimate authority for both.
Now, keep that in your mind, because the next passage raises some issues. We are going to move quickly. 1 Corinthians 14, the problem here is chaotic worship and not following God’s design.
Verse 26, “What shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the Church. If someone speaks in a tongue, two – or three at the most – should speak, one at a time, and then someone must interpret. If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God. Two or three prophets should speak and the others should weigh carefully what is said.” That’s a key phrase.
There’s prophesying going on. There’s not a New Testament cannon. There’s not a passage they could open to and say, “Oh, yeah, what that person said; that lines up with Scripture.” And so, God is going to assign certain people to be morally responsible for what is truth and the spiritual authority in the Church, and that’s going to play big later.
“Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. The spirits of the prophets are subject to the control of the prophets. For God is not a God of disorder but of peace.” Now, here’s the key. The whole issue was they were coming to church and it was chaotic. And then the bigger issue was over revelation or prophecy that was: What’s true and what is from God? And so, the goal is to bring about some structure and unity and order.
Then he goes, “…as in all the congregation of the saints. Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but be submissive as the law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.”
Now, can you imagine reading that in your devotions, you’ve been a Christian three or four months, and you come from a feminist background. It’s like, “What? And I was just getting to love Jesus too. I can’t believe this is in the Bible!”
Now, let’s look at three conclusions. First of all, point one is that in light of the last passage, 1 Corinthians chapter 11, and the New Testament practice, this can’t mean absolute silence.
In other words, 1 Corinthians 11 says, “When you pray in the service, when you prophecy in the service,” you’ve got Pricilla teaching, you’ve got Philip’s daughters prophesying – so, wait a second. And you have all these passages. The rule of Scripture is when you have one passage that seems to contradict other passages, you take the whole and say, “What is it about this passage we don’t understand?”
Point two, the context makes it clear that it’s disruptive speech that is forbidden, not any speaking in a church by women. The issue here is someone is giving a prophecy and a woman says, “Hey, what about this and what about this and what about…?” It was order. And so, the speech that is being prohibited is not ever talking out loud. That doesn’t square with the rest of Scripture. But the issue is disruptive talking.
And third, the context concerns the prohibition of authoritative and doctrinal judgements or speech where spiritual authority is the issue. You see, when someone prophecies in the early Church or they get a “revelation” – this is from God – God has assigned the elders of that church the moral responsibility to say, “Thus says the Lord.”
And when women stand up and give evaluations on that, that is what is being prohibited. The issue in the whole women and the role of the Church revolves not around silence but around divine design that centers on authority in the Church and not usurping the God-given design that is clear in the marriage relationship and then also in the extended body – the Church.
One more. 1 Timothy 2:11 to 15. “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or have authority over a man.” If you want to get in your Bibles, you want to get a pen out and put a parenthesis around “teach or to have authority.”
We are going to learn in a second grammatically. One guy wrote a thesis just on this phrase. And the conjunction that ties these two things make it clear grammatically that “teach or exercise authority” has the idea of a single concept. It’s not that women are prohibited from teaching in the Church, even from teaching mixed groups. It’s only the kind of teaching where exercise over a man is in view.
“I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women,” generically, looking at this theologically, “will be saved through childbearing – if they continue in faith, love, and holiness with propriety.”
Now, before we move on to the three conclusions, this is such a boomerang. When you read this you think, Okay, now, women are to be silent. Ninety-eight percent of the time when you see a word in Scripture and everyone wants us to say, “I wonder what the Greek word means.” What the Greek word means is whatever you have in your Bible, about ninety-eight percent of the time.
There are times, however, because the Greek language is more expansive than English where, like, the word know can be translated two or three different Greek words. The word silence can be translated with two or three different Greek words. This happens to be one of those that the word silent means not to – it doesn’t mean not to talk. It means to receive instruction with a quiet disposition or attitude.
Now notice too, ladies, this might sound kind of harsh at first, but Paul is really in your corner, believe it or not. It says, “Adam wasn’t the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.” Never in the New Testament, never in the Scripture is Eve blamed for the fall of man. You see, God sees male/female divine design together. And when He goes to hold someone accountable, Eve got tricked. Adam went into it with his eyes open.
He looks at the team, the unity, the buck stops – Romans 5. “Through one man sin entered the world.” Not through one woman. The problem wasn’t Eve. Adam was morally responsible as the head of his home to decide: How are we going to respond to this temptation? She got sucked in, if you will. He went in with his eyes wide open and God holds him culpable, not her.
And then so, Paul says generically, “But women in general, in the future, how are they going to be theologically saved? Through childbearing.” You say, “How?” Because after the fall, it will be through children and the line of children that the Messiah will come and then the second Man will come, die on the cross, pay for our sins. And if a woman, in faith, that’s – there’s a condition. They are saved through childbearing if they continue in faith if they trust in Christ: love, holiness, and propriety.
I’m talking fast, aren’t I? Three conclusions and we’ll wrap it up. From 1 Timothy 2:11 to 15, first, the word for silent means with a quiet disposition or attitude, not refrain from speaking.
Second, to teach or to have authority over is a grammatically singular concept, thus, the only teaching by a woman that exercises authority over a man is prohibited,
and third, the rationale for the authority issue is not the culture of the first century. In each of these passages, Paul goes back to the divine design: Adam/Eve creation order.
With that, if you’ll turn over the page, I will summarize a couple questions and I think we will together say, “Okay, I think I got it.” The question then in conclusion is: Where can a woman minister in this church? And, by the way, the moral absolutes are over here about design. You don’t budge on those. On this other issue of where can minister, there are godly, loving, committed people that love God a lot more than I do, that are having a lot more impact than this church who would disagree on our view of women, okay?
You need to say that and you need to understand in Christendom – that’s okay. This isn’t one where you draw the line in the sand and they don’t agree with us on women. You know what? You be wise, you be kind, you be understanding. But we are responsible before God to get into the Scriptures and say, “What is our best understanding?” And then function in this body in that way.
So, where can a woman minister in this church? Anywhere except the role of an elder or functioning as an elder. And by “functioning” I mean teaching systematically in mixed groups over a prolonged period of time where the very nature of the job of pastor determines her as the authority.
And so, the Bible is real clear. The qualifications for an elder are all male, because God is going to hold the elders of the Church morally responsible for what happens here. Not what the women do, not what the other men do. And that’s the same design in the home, it’s in the church. And so, a woman can’t be an elder. Because they are inferior? No. Could they do a good job? Absolutely. Is it God’s design? No. So, there are certain pastoral positions that, like mine, where I systematically teach the Scripture and being an elder where, in this church, our best understanding, because of God’s design, not superiority or inferiority, that is not God’s will.
Questions. Could a guest speaker come as a woman and speak from our pulpit? Sure. But if you had a woman here week after week after week, the nature of that job would be communicating authoritatively what God says. What about team teaching, is that okay? Can a husband and wife team teach? That’s happening already in our church.
What about a woman as a small group leader or facilitator? Of course. She’s not exercising spiritual authority. You’re using your leadership gifts. And so, a woman can do anything in this church except where she would function as an elder or be an elder and the issue isn’t the activities. We want to embrace, help, and see women utilize their gifts to have great, great impact and the sky is the limit.
What about women in the workforce? Does all these things we have said apply out there? The Bible doesn’t talk about that, so I’m not. If you have a supervisor who is a woman, I would just submit to her and have a great attitude toward her and hope you get a promotion. And the women that I have met are very, very capable. God says this is His design for marriage, this is His design for the Church, and you know what? He doesn’t tell how the world ought to operate.
Finally, a word about unity. For those who disagree, I would encourage you to be kind, be wise, and be understanding. Let’s model what we believe in a spirit of charity and love and accept other believers or people coming from a different standpoint, understanding where they’re at, and I would pray that one day people would see by our life, not by our words, that you know what? That design works pretty well. Those marriages are strong in that church. There’s unity in that church. There’s God’s power in that church. Women are used in fantastic ways in that church. None of them feel like there’s a thumb on them that they can’t do this or can’t do that. The goal isn’t limitation. It’s fulfilling potential.