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The Role of Women in the Church

Tom Pennington Selected Scriptures


We're taking a break this summer from our study of the Book of Romans to walk through those issues that have divided the body of Christ. The elders of this church believe it's important to make clear (both for those who are a part of our church family, as well as those who may be considering that) exactly where our church stands on five key issues that divide the church today. In fact, the elders have written brief statements on each of these issues. We call them "our distinctives." Specifically, our distinctives address these issues: creation, the reality of a changed life in regeneration, the role of women in the church, the sufficiency of Scripture in sanctification, and the cessation of the miraculous spiritual gifts with the age of the apostles. This summer, we're working our way through those five distinctives. So far, we've studied the first two of them, and we've noted that our church believes that Scripture teaches, number one, that God created all things out of nothing in six literal days versus any form of macroevolution. Secondly, we discovered that the church believes the Scripture teaches genuine faith always produces a changed life versus the flawed and popular theories of easy believism, or what is called no-lordship salvation.

Now, today we come to the third distinctive and we want to consider what the Scripture teaches about the role of women in the church. Simply put, Scripture does not permit women to lead and to teach men in the context of the church. Now, as with our other distinctives, let me begin by saying that what our church believes about this has been the historic position of the Christian church. I could give you numbers of examples. Let me just give you a few.

Let's go back to the second century to Tertullian. Here's what Tertullian wrote: "It is not permitted to a woman to speak in church; neither may she teach, baptize, nor claim for herself any function proper to a man, least of all the sacerdotal office," that is, the office of elder or pastor. Let's go to the third century. Origen, the early church father, writes, "If the daughters of Philip prophesied (referring to that passage in Acts), at least they did not speak in the assemblies, for we do not find this fact in the Acts of the Apostles." Origen goes on to comment on those Old Testament women who were prophetesses, Deborah, Miriam, and Hulda, and he says this: "There is no evidence that they delivered speeches to the people as did Jeremiah and Isaiah." John Calvin taught that Paul completely prohibits women from speaking "in an ordinary service or where there is a church in a regularly constituted state." He goes on to say, "Paul excludes women from the office of teaching, which God has committed to men only." And in talking about, again, those women in the Old Testament, who in unusual cases were put in a place of

governing or prophesying, he says, "Extraordinary acts done by God did not overturn the ordinary rules of government by which He intended that we should be bound." In other words, the exceptions only confirm the rule.

Now, I can multiply other quotes, but I'm not going to do that. Instead, let me summarize it this way: apart from an occasional sect peppered here and there throughout its history, the universal witness of the Christian church has been that our Lord commanded that men lead and teach other men in the church.

In fact, the first woman ordained in a professing Christian denomination was in the liberal United Church of Christ 150 years ago. By the way, that woman eventually became a Unitarian. In other words, she completely rejected the Christian faith and all it teaches. But even though the liberal United Church of Christ allowed a woman to be ordained, 50 years later in 1899, by their own records, that denomination still only claimed about 40 ordained women at that point. It was really not until the 20th century that this began to change on a wider scope. Really, in the last 50 to 60 years is when scores of mainline denominations have capitulated on this issue, so that today about half of professing Christian denominations ordain women. Now, most of those churches that have capitulated on this issue in the past, have been either tending toward liberalism or thoroughgoing liberals. Sadly, today many in the evangelical church have abandoned the clear teaching of Scripture in the historic position of the church, and they now allow women to serve as pastors and elders and teachers of men. Right here in Dallas, the very first church in the Bible church movement, the church out of which the early members of our own church came, has now decided to permit women to preach in the corporate worship and to serve in leadership.

So understand this: the reason the elders set forth this distinctive is because today there is an ongoing conflict in evangelicalism between those on the one hand who believe that women can serve in any position in the church, including pastor, elder, teaching men in the corporate gathering. They are often referred to as egalitarianism, or egalitarians, and basically all that means is they believe that men and women are equal, and not only spiritually, but also functionally, they can occupy any role of any kind. The other view are those who believe that women can serve in any position in the church except leading and teaching men. That position is called complementarianism. So, you have egalitarianism and complementarianism.

Now, the key issue here is ultimately not what the early church fathers said, or what John Calvin said, or Martin Luther, because as Luther himself noted, "The church fathers and the councils have erred. They are ultimately men." So the real question is: what does the Bible teach, what does the Bible say? Now, here's how the elders have expressed what we believe the Bible teaches about this issue. Here's our distinctive:

We believe that both men and women bear the image of God, and that those in Christ enjoy equal spiritual standing before God. But Scripture teaches that God has assigned different roles and responsibilities to men and women,. In the home, the husband is to be the gracious, loving head, and the wife is to submit to her husband's leadership. God has provided equally clear roles in the church. While there are many ways women can serve, we believe that Scripture forbids women from teaching and leading men, or in any way exercising authority over men in the context of the church.

Now I want to examine what the Scriptures teach about this issue, but as we have done with the other distinctives, I want to begin by clarifying what this distinctive is meant to deny. What we deny about the role of women in the church is this: we deny that the biblical commands regarding the role of women in the home and the church were culturally conditioned to Paul's first century readers and are therefore no longer binding on Christian women. We deny that they were culturally conditioned and not permanent commands. We also deny that the biblical commands merely lay out, as some would teach, a desirable trajectory; and if you simply take the trajectory of the Old Testament and the New Testament and draw the line out to today, you discover, they say, that that trajectory ultimately justifies the total abolition of all differences in male and female roles in the home and in the church. We deny that. We deny that 19 centuries of the church's interpretation of the Scripture was flawed, or that it's now outdated in light of modern sensibilities. And we deny, finally, that a legitimate interpretation of Scripture will ever permit for women to lead or teach men in the context of the church. That's what we deny.

But let's move where we want to spend most of our time this morning, and that is to what we affirm about the role of women in the church. Because you know, if we're not careful, we can allow our discussion about this issue to become entirely negative. As a result, frankly, I think we can lose sight easily of the incredible contribution that women have made and continue to make to the Christian church. If you study church history, you will find that women have played a remarkable role in the ministry and the progress of the Christian faith. Now, I think that is caused by a number of things. One of the things it's caused by is Jesus' own respect for women and the crucial role that they played in support of His ministry. In fact, let me challenge you to do this. Read the Gospels, read the Book of Acts, read Paul's letters, and you will discover that they are filled with references to godly women and their key role in the advance of the kingdom and the life of the church. In fact, let me put it to you this way: wherever true Christianity has spread, it has never denigrated or enslaved women; rather, it has honored and elevated them. Let me challenge you to travel to places in our world where false religions reign, as the Lord has given me opportunity to do, and I can tell you, whether it's Hinduism or Buddhism or Islam, you will find that where false religion is, women are mistreated often and misused, or at best ignored and tolerated. But that's not true when it comes to Christianity. Why is that? Well I think, obviously, Christ's own view and respect of women, but I think, also, because of what both the Old Testament and New Testament teach about the place of women. So I want us to look at that this morning. I want to lead you through a series of affirmations that the Scripture makes about women and their place and role. There are seven of them. We're not going to spend a lot of time on any one of them. So let's get going; buckle your seat belts; here we go.

Affirmation number one: women are made in the image of God and are, therefore, spiritually equal to men. This is foundational to understand. Go back to the creation account. Go back to the first chapter in the Bible, Genesis 1:27, and you will read this: "God created man (man there in the general sense, humanity, mankind) in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them." Under the inspiration of the Spirit, Moses says God created all of mankind in His image. He created male in His image; He created female in His image. This sense of spiritual equality is woven into the creation story. It's also woven into the results of redemption. In Galatians chapter 3, as Paul goes through the great doctrine of justification by faith, he ends that chapter in Galatians 3:28, with these words: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus." Now this verse has sometimes been abused to say things it's not saying. This verse is about spiritual equality. As believers, we are all spiritual equals. But this is not about the abolition of all role distinctions. Take even males, for example. All males are spiritually equal, but not all of them are qualified to serve as elders. So, it doesn't say anything about roles, it's talking about basic spiritual equality. Guys, get this into your head. That discussion that is often had in the locker room about women being less than man is a flawed perspective. It is unbiblical. They are made in the image of God and are intrinsically inherently equal to us.

There's a second affirmation that Scripture makes, and that is that God intentionally designed women to be different from men. Again, this is woven into the creation story. Go back to Genesis chapter 2, and Moses makes this very clear in verse 18: "Then the Lord God said, 'It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.'" Note the word "suitable." That translates a Hebrew, compound, prepositional phrase. If I translated it literally, instead of "suitable," it would be something like this: "like opposite him." It's found only here in the Hebrew Scriptures. It literally means "exactly corresponding to." The intention of these words is very similar to male and female. God made humanity male and female in such a way that they complement each other, that they exactly correspond to each other, not only physically, obviously, but also in terms of their souls, their makeup, their being. So in this passage, God intrinsically, or I should say, God underscores the intrinsic equality of men and women, and He lets us know that one of His purposes for marriage was not only companionship (the beginning of verse 18) but to provide man with a helper who would exactly correspond to him. Now, that doesn't mean that it's God's will for all men and all women to be married. There are those according to 1 Corinthians 7 with the gift of singleness, and to be single is not to be a second class person. Jesus Christ Himself is a perfect example of that. But what it does mean is that women were designed by God to be different from men and to complement them, to correspond to them.

That brings us to a third affirmation: because our God is a God of order, He has established clear lines of authority in all relationships. Now, what really amazes me about this is, this is true even in the being of God Himself. We worship one God, eternally existing in three persons. And yet, although there is complete equality, there is at the same time, there are clear roles, there are clear lines of authority among the Trinity. Think about this. The Son, who is absolutely equal to the Father and the Spirit, nevertheless, eternally submits Himself to the Father. In fact, there's an interesting verse in 1 Corinthians 15:28, where Paul is talking about the future, when the eternal plan of redemption culminates. He says, here's what going to happen: "When all things are subjected to (Christ), then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God (the Father) may be all in all." In other words, even though the Son is inherently, intrinsically equal to the Father, He will eternally subject Himself, submit Himself, to the Father. Why? Because this is part of the character of God. This is part of His essence. He's a God of order. And even in His own being there are lines of authority, and there are clear roles outlined.

Same thing is true with angels. There's a hierarchy of leadership among angels. There are the archangels. Only one of them is named in Jude 9, Michael. That title archangel indicates authority over other angels. In fact, Revelation 12 says he leads the angelic army. But Daniel 10 says he's only one of the chief princes, which implies there are other archangels. There is this structure among the archangels. In Colossians 1:16, we have other parts of the ranking of angels, and there are several mentioned. So whether you're talking of the being of God, whether you're talking the intelligent, powerful beings we refer to as angels, there is order, there is structure.

The same is true when it comes to human beings. Think of human government. When God established the government of Israel, He established a hierarchy of leadership. In the monarchy, there was a distribution of duties between the king, the prophets, and the priests. In addition to that, if you read the Old Testament, you discover that there were elders over families, elders over tribes, elders over cities, elders over the nation as a whole who were taken from those other elders. And so there was this leadership structure, this detailed organization. The New Testament assumes and tacitly affirms such a hierarchical structure among even human government. For example, in 1 Peter 2:13-14, Peter says, "Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether (as) to (the)… king…as the one in (ultimate) authority, or to (the) governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right."Peter says, "Listen, there's this structure in human government." This is because God is a God of order. And as we will see in the next couple of points, the home and the church are not exceptions to this tendency in God for order and structure by leadership.

So let's move on to affirmation number four: in the home, Scripture commands women to submit to their own husbands in everything except when to submit would be contrary to Scripture. Turn with me to Ephesians 5, one of the most familiar passages on this front. In verse 18, Paul says we are to be filled by the Spirit. You put that together with Colossians 3, we are to be filled by the Spirit with the Word. And when we are Word-filled by the work of the Spirit, there are some consequences. Verse 19: we will have a love for God centered music. When we are filled by the Spirit with the Word, verse 20, we will have a pattern of thanksgiving in our lives. And when we are filled by the Spirit with the Word, verse 21, we will be subject to the authorities in our lives: "Be subject to one another in the fear of Christ."

Now, that word "be subject" doesn't mean that we're to be subject to every other person, every other Christian, because it's a specific word. It is a word that means "to order oneself under someone in authority." It's used in military context of submitting yourself to someone over you in rank. It's to acknowledge the rightful authority of that person and to voluntarily order yourself under their authority. So the word' s never used in any way but that. So it's not talking here about "you submit to me, and I'll submit to you." It's talking about submitting to human authorities, and the rest of Ephesians, basically, bears that out.

And specifically, notice verse 22. Here's the first example: "Wives, be subject." Notice, the words "be subject" are in italics. That's because the verb is borrowed from verse 21. "Wives, (you) be subject to your own husbands…." To whom are you wives to voluntarily order yourself under in rank: "…to your own husbands…." All women are not to submit to all men. Verse 22 also tells us with what attitude you're to do this: "…as to the Lord." In other words, ask yourself this: are you following your husband's leadership in the same way you would if Jesus Christ were your husband? Why? For what reason should you do this? Verse 23: "For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church…." In other words, just as God has put Christ over the church, He's put the husband over the wife. This is what God has done.

And notice verse 24. In what areas is a wife to be subject to their own husbands: "…as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their (own) husbands in everything." Are there exceptions to that? Yes. There're two exceptions: when your husband forbids you to do what Scripture commands, or when your husband commands you to do what Scripture forbids. In other words, there's really only one exception: when your husband tells you to do something contrary to the Scripture. How do we know that's true? Both in Acts 4 and Acts 5, the apostles are commanded by the authorities in their life, the governmental authorities: stop preaching. And you know what their response was? "We must obey God rather than men." When our authorities tell us to do something that's contrary to what God has told us to do, we have to obey God. Now men, I'm talking about women, so I'm not going to spend a lot of time here. But I want you to notice verse 25, he begins to talk to us. Women get three verses. We get the rest of the chapter, because we have a tendency to mistake the leadership we've been given and to abuse it. Scripture does not allow us to be domineering despots. You don't get your model of what it means to be a manly leader from John Wayne but from Christ. We must be loving, gracious leaders, who pattern our leadership after Christ and who sacrifice for our wives. We sacrifice our desires, we sacrifice what we want, because we love our wives, even as Christ did for His church. And when you and I use our leadership selfishly, we lie about Jesus Christ, because we tell our wives and everybody else who's watching, Jesus Christ doesn't care about His wife; he's all into himself. So, it's clear: in the home, Scripture commands women to submit to their own husbands in everything, except when it would be contrary to the Scripture.

That brings us to a fifth affirmation: in the church, Scripture commands that all the members, including women, submit to the loving leadership of the elders. Turn to Hebrews chapter 13, Hebrews 13:7. The writer of Hebrews here talking about the leadership in the church, and he says to these Jewish Christians, "Remember those who led you…." By the way, here's a job description of pastors or elders: they lead, they speak the Word of God to you, and they become a pattern for you to follow. "Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith." But he gets even more straightforward in verse 17: "Obey your leaders and submit… for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief…." In other words, don't go along in such a way that you make their lives miserable, because this would not be profitable for you, "…this would be unprofitable…." So, obey and submit to the leadership of the church.

Now, it's important to note here that the elder's authority, my authority, the other elders of this church's authority, is a delegated authority. The Chief Shepherd has delegated authority to us as under shepherds. It is also a limited authority. I don't have the right to tell you what to do in every area of your life. Elders have the right to demand obedience and submission of you only for what Scripture directly commands or directly forbids. That's where authority for us ends and begins. It's with the Scripture. But, all the members of the church, including women, are called to submit to the leadership of the church, to the elders.

Number six: Scripture requires that the elders of the church be biblically qualified men. The church is to be led by a plurality. I don't have time right now to prove that to you. I've done a series on that. You can go online and listen to church government and understand why I say that, but churches are to be led by a plurality, and that plurality of leaders are to be biblically qualified. You understand that from Titus 1, 1 Timothy 3. The qualifications are spelled out. And one of the biblical qualifications is that they must be men. Look at 1 Timothy chapter 3, verse 2. Paul says here's one of the qualifications for an elder. He must be "the husband of one wife." Literally, the Greek text says he must be a "one-woman man." He must be the kind of man who, in his mind and with his body, is committed to one woman. What's interesting about this is, the Greek word for man, one-woman man, it's not a generic word for man, the word anthropos which can sometimes be used of mankind, meaning men and women. Instead, it is a very specific word for male, and only male. So, the leadership of the church must be those who can be said to be one-women men.

But there's another powerful argument for male leadership, and that brings us to our seventh and final affirmation: Scripture explicitly forbids women from teaching or leading men in the context of the church. Now again, don't misunderstand. Scripture does allow women to teach and to lead in certain contexts. They are commanded, for example, to teach other women. It's not an option, you have to. Titus chapter 2 says this very clearly. Verse 2, or excuse me, verse 3, the "Older women," verse 4, are to so live "…that they may encourage (or train, or teach) the young women to love their husbands, to love their children…" and so forth. In other words, it's not an option. You get to be an older woman, you are commanded to teach the younger women.

Also, women are to teach children, including male children. Notice 2 Timothy 3:14-15, Paul, addressing his young son, Timothy. Probably Timothy at this point is in his early 30's. He says,

You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

Paul says, "Listen. long before you met me, from childhood you've been taught the Scriptures." By whom? Turn back to 2 Timothy 1:5: "For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well." It's very likely Timothy grew up in a home with a father who was not a believer, and his grandmother and his mother, even though he was male, taught him the Scriptures so that he understood them. And when Paul came along, he was ripe to be further taught and to follow Christ.

So, women are commanded to teach other women; they're to teach children, including male children. We even have an example in Scripture of a woman alongside her husband teaching a man in a personal, informal context. In Acts 18:26, we meet a man named Apollos. And it says, "(Apollos) began to speak out boldly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they (plural, both of them) took him aside and (they) explained to him the way of God more accurately." In a personal setting, this woman alongside her husband helped a man, who was already called mighty in Scriptures, understand more accurately the teaching of Scripture.

So, women can teach, women can lead in certain contexts, but, Scripture is very clear that women are not to teach or lead men in the context of the corporate gathering of the church. In 1 Corinthians 11:1-16, it's made clear that woman is to exercise a submissive spirit in the context of the church. Let me take you to two passages, though. Look at 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, and I'll just cite this one and then we're going to move to the main one I want you to see. This is in the context of the exercise of the Spiritual gifts, and particularly the miraculous gifts. Tongues is primarily in view. And Paul says,

The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church.

The idea here is sort of commandeering the corporate gathering of the church, either to teach, or to interrupt and correct, or to interrupt to find something out.

But I want you to turn to the main text where this is made crystal clear. Turn with me to 1 Timothy chapter 2. Notice first of all that this section appears in one of the books we refer to as the pastoral epistles: 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus. Three pastoral epistles. Why do we call them that? Because those three books were written to church leaders, Timothy and Titus, to teach them how the church is to function. In fact, look at 1 Timothy 3:14-15:

I am writing these things to you (Paul says), hoping to come to you before long; but in case I am delayed, I write so that you (Timothy) will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.

Paul says, "Listen: I wrote this letter, Timothy, so you'd know how to conduct church life."

Now with that in mind, go back to chapter 2. In chapter 2, Timothy is learning about how to conduct certain aspects of public worship. Paul begins in verses 1 to 7 talking about prayer in the public worship. In verse 8, he deals with the conduct of men in the public worship. And then, in verses 9 through 15, he deals with conduct of women in the public worship. He starts out in verses 9 and 10 talking about women's dress when the church comes together. Verse 9: "Likewise (in the same way I've given you instructions about men in the public worship), I want women to adorn themselves with proper…",( that is, appropriate clothing, both appropriate to the occasion and appropriate to godliness. And here's what I want it to be. It needs to be modest.)"

Ladies, when you come for the corporate worship, and not solely then, you need to dress in a way that is modest. Now guys, let me just say, don't you dare use a woman's immodest dress as an excuse: well, it's their fault. You are accountable for what you think before God. But ladies, you are to dress in a modest way, in a way that doesn't draw attention to you, to your body, and certainly not in a sexual way. "…And discreetly…", that is, not ostentatiously. Don't do it so that everybody says, "Wow!" And he gives a couple of examples in the first century: "Not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments…." I wish I had time to fully explain that. Let me just say this. He 's not outlawing those things. He's not saying you're sinning if you wear pearls, any more than Peter, in 1 Peter 3 is saying you're sinning if you wear dresses. He's saying, "Don't let this be your preoccupation, don't let this be your focus, don't intentionally make a show." That's the point. If you're going to worry about how you're dressed, verse 10, make it good works, be clothed with good works. That's really what is fitting to someone who claims godliness.

Now in verses 11 through 15, he continues to instruct women about their conduct in the public worship, but specifically about their roles. Notice verse 11: they are not to lead or teach men. And he states it positively in verse 11; he states it negatively in verse 12. Look at verse 11: "A woman must quietly receive instruction…." Now, that sounds negative, doesn't it? It's not negative. What it literally says is "let the women learn." It's an imperative; let them be taught. That was shocking in the first century, because often women were excluded from learning Scripture and theology. Paul says, "No, I want women to learn, I want them to study, but, I want them to do so quietly. That is, they're not to be the ones teaching, s

and, they're to do it '…with entire submissiveness….'" That is, they are to have a submissive spirit to those who are in that role legitimately. Now that's positively. Verse 12 is negative. Same thing stated negatively: "But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet." If we were exegeting our way though this passage, I would explain it more thoroughly, but let me just make a couple of notes. "Over a man" refers to both the teaching and the exercising authority. So we could say, "I do not allow a woman to teach a man or to exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet."

Essentially, it's very straightforward, clear, not a lot of confusion. In fact, the church didn't struggle with this passage for 1900 years. The words are pretty straightforward, wouldn't you say? So, what do the so-called Christian feminists and egalitarians do with this passage? Well, let me give you their three, primary arguments. Here's what they would say against Paul's straightforward instructions. Number one, they would say, "Well Paul wasn't really saying women couldn't teach, he was saying women can't teach false doctrine." You see that? No, of course you don't see that. Where do they get that? They say, "Well if you read 1 and 2 Timothy, there's false teachers in Ephesus. Women were influenced by their false teaching, so even though it doesn't say women were teaching, they must've been teaching false doctrine, and that's really what Paul's talking about here." Now first of all, obviously, that's not in the context. There's no hint of that in the context. In addition, yes, there were false teachers in Ephesus, and they are mentioned by name in 1 and 2 Timothy. But guess what? They're all men.

The second argument that they would use against this text is that Paul only prohibited women from teaching because there were no women qualified in Ephesus, no women who were qualified to teach. Now again, there's no hint of that in the context. In addition, we know from secular history that there were many well educated women in that area of Asia Minor in the first century, and even occupied positions of leadership. It's likely there were some of those who had been saved and were in the church. Also, it is likely that the one Christian woman most qualified to teach was in Ephesus when Paul wrote this letter, and that was Priscilla. According to 2 Timothy 4:19, Aquila and Priscilla had returned to Ephesus, certainly by 67 AD when Paul wrote 2 Timothy. And based on the chronology of Acts and Paul's other letters, it's likely they were there two years earlier when Paul wrote 1 Timothy. And so, it's very likely Priscilla was in the church at Ephesus, the very church to which Paul says a woman's not allowed to teach.

The third argument they use against this text, they say Paul adapted his teaching to the mistaken views that his readers had about women. Now some of them would say he did this wisely: these weren't his views, but he knew he shouldn't rock the boat too much, so he just kind of went along with their flawed views. Others would say he was wrong. He shouldn't have done this; he capitulated; these aren't his views at all; these are the views of the people in Ephesus. Now that argument absolutely is decimated by what Paul says in the next two verses. Because Paul sets forth two arguments to support his command about women and their role in the church, and neither of his arguments has anything to do with the circumstances in Ephesus or with the first century in any way. His first argument in verse 13 goes back to Genesis 2 and to the created order before the fall. His second argument goes back to Genesis 3 and the fall itself. Look at verse 13. Here's his first argument. Notice the word "For," 'because,' 'here's why I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man but to remain quiet in the context of the church.' "For (because, reason number one) it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve." He says based on the created order, we learn something. God made man first, not because man is worth more, has more intrinsic value, but that was God's design. And He made woman second. Argument number two, verse 14: "And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression." Eve was deceived, she sinned, and Adam was not deceived, he followed her. Now don't misunderstand this verse. Some people read this verse and say, "Well, the reason women shouldn't teach is because women are just more gullible. They're more easily deceived." Well, with some women that may be true, but certainly that isn't true with all women, or perhaps even most women. There are women who are very discerning, more discerning than their husbands. Abigail would be a great biblical example of that. So, what is Paul saying here? Well, think about this. He's going back to the fall. He goes back to the very first time that a woman and a man both subverted God's assigned roles. Eve stepped out of her role in following the leadership of her husband and made the decision on her own what to do, listening to Satan, and Adam followed his wife. The point is, when you mess with God's assigned roles, you create a mess, just like Adam and Eve did.

Now, verse 15 is a notoriously difficult verse to interpret. And again, if we were exegeting our way through this, studying through the Book of 1Timothy, I'd take more time here. But let me give you a flyover. The interpretation of verse 15 hinges on how to understand two things: how to understand the word "preserved," which is the normal Greek word for saved, and the expression "…through the bearing of children…." If you read the commentaries there are a whole lot of interpretations of what this means. Let me give you the two I think are the most likely. Number one: it may mean that all Christian women as a group will have their reputation saved from the stigma of Eve's leading us all into sin by living godly lives (the end of verse 15), and for some of them by having children and raising up godly offspring; sort of undo the stigma attached to Eve's fall by doing that. That's option number one. Option number two is that verse 15 is saying that Eve and all Christian women will be spiritually saved through the bearing of the Messiah, who came ultimately from Eve. Because literally, verse 15 reads this, let me read it to you as it reads in the Greek text: "But she (singular,) will be saved through the bearing of a child…." That's possibly a reference to the promise to Eve in Genesis 3:15 that her seed would crush the head of the serpent. So it may be a reference to the gospel, it may be a reference to the Messiah. And then it switches to plural in the second half of verse 15: "…if they (that is, all Christian women) continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint…." Those are two possible options. Regardless, don't miss the large point Paul is making in this passage. It's that God has designed what happens in the corporate worship of the church, and women are not to lead men in the context of the church, and they are not to teach men in the context of the church.

Now, if you want to read more about this issue, let me recommend a couple of resources for you. First of all, there's a website: the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. And there're two especially helpful resources on that site. One is called the Danvers Statement, made in New England in 1987. It's just a clarifying statement on biblical manhood and womanhood. It was a statement a number of evangelical leaders and academics (including, by the way, our own Ken Sarles) were involved in creating. And evangelical readers like R.C. Sproul and John MacArthur affirmed it. The other thing on that website is a brief booklet. I know a lot of you aren't interested in reading a tome about this; you're already convinced. But there's a brief booklet on that website called 50 Fifty Crucial Questions About Manhood and Womanhood. If you're interested in a more thorough biblical and academic defense of this issue, let me recommend a book to you. Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, edited by John Piper and Wayne Grudem. The only warning I would have about both the booklet I recommended and this book is both Piper and Grudem are tacit charismatics, and so there are a few issues where it touches on that issue where I couldn't agree with them, but largely you will find these things to be very helpful.

Now I've used my time, but let me just give you a couple of practical implications. Ladies, let me talk to you first. Both in the home and in the church, God has called you to submit to male leadership. That doesn't make you a second class or intrinsically less valuable person than the men who lead, any more than it makes Jesus somehow less equal to the Father because He submits to the Father. But this is God's role. Because our God is a God of order, this is how He has spelled it out. Also ladies, understand that you can serve in the church and in the kingdom in any capacity except that in which you would be teaching or leading men.

Men, let me talk to you. We cannot, we must not, abdicate our God assigned role of spiritual leadership in our homes or in the church. Sadly, women often become the de facto leaders, because men abdicate their role: because they're too selfish, too self-absorbed, pursing their careers, pursuing their lives, that they forget to lead. Or sometimes they're just too weak and emasculated as men. We cannot abdicate our role. This is what God has given us to do. Let me also say, men, here's the other extreme. We must never mistake our role as leaders in the home or church as an excuse for domineering leadership, for a lack of honor and respect for women, or for thinking of them in any way but our complete, spiritual equals. In fact, listen to Peter in 1 Peter 3:7. He says you better treat your wives as joint heirs, as co-heirs, fellow heirs, of the grace of life, so that your prayers won't be hindered. If you're not treating your wife as your equal, you're not honoring her, you're not respecting her as a person made in the image of God and your complete spiritual equal, then God says, "I'm not listening." As I often put it to men, if you're not listening to your wife, God's not listening to you. She is equal to us. Galatians 3:28: "…there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus." We are spiritual equals before God. May God help us to follow what He has said, regardless of how the culture goes, or how even the evangelical culture goes.

Let's pray together. Father, thank You for the clarity of Your Word even on this issue. Thank You that You don't leave us without direction. Help us to trust You. Help us to follow You regardless of what the culture says or even what evangelicalism is doing. Help us to depend solely on Your clear Word as our direction in life. Father, help us both individually and corporately as a church to follow Christ regardless of what that means. We pray in Jesus name, Amen.