Contend Earnestly: The Role of Women: Part II

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Role of Women: Part II

Role of Women in the church

I don’t want to be a broken record so I am not going to continue to delve into what all God’s people are called to do, but I will reiterate it once again…all are to serve in the church in some way, including the women. They are to employ their gift to help the body of Christ.

Specifically we find the role of the woman in Titus 2.

Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.
Titus 2:3-5

Notice how verse 3 is set up. It is the prerequisites of the older women so that they can live out verses 4 and 5. We see this with the term that is used in verse 4, “so.”

It is like me saying, I took this aspirin so I my headache would go away. I read my bible, so I will know how God wants me to praise him and live my life.

So, older women are to be reverent in their behavior: Which is really a term that is used to show that their actions are on target with sound doctrine. They are showing by their actions, their understanding of Scripture.

Not malicious gossips: (not just used with women, Romans 1:29; 2 Cor 12:20) This is just as it sounds. They are not people that look to others and their faults and then go and tell others about them. But older women are to be Christ like, they are to build up the body not tear it down. This term is actually the term used to define Satan: it is to falsely accuse, to slander

Enslaved to much wine: Just like the elders of the church the women are not to be drunkards neither are the older women.

Teaching what is good: This is interesting that this is what is a prerequisite of an older woman. They are to teach what is good. This can be both doctrine, as it is flowing from the above mentioned qualification of being reverent in behavior and also practical things as well.
It is the antonym of the use of “false teachers” in other parts of Scripture. This term is used for one who teaches things that are both good and right.

Think of it this way. A woman comes to an older, or more mature woman and tells her, “My husband shows me no respect, what am I to do?”

The more mature woman would teach her the doctrines of understanding what it means to be a godly wife, the doctrines of who God is, the doctrine of who the woman is, namely a sinner. She could teacher her how she has been forgiven of these sins because of the cross. Then comes what is spoken of in Titus 2:4,5

so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.
Titus 2:4-5

She can show how the woman should love her husband because of this and then give her some practical ways to live this out. This all comes from the understanding though that the younger women will only come to this older woman if she lives out her doctrine in reverence, if she doesn’t gossip, not addicted to wine and is a woman who teaches what is good.

The other role that we find for the woman is in 1 Timothy 3:11

Women must likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things.
1 Timothy 3:11

This verse comes right in the middle of the description of the qualifications of a deacon. We find the word women in 1 Timothy 3:11 and some translations will have “their wives” as though this was referring to the deacon’s wives. This would seem odd. The reason being that this would mean that the deacon’s have more qualifications than the elders do. There is no mention of the elder’s wives at all in the previous passage or anywhere else that elders are mentioned.

The term here for “wives” or “women” are used interchangeably elsewhere, so we would be best guided by the passages context. In this context it would seem that this is speaking of another part of the church’s office, namely deaconesses. We also see that the term “likewise” is used here to show a continuation of thought of the roles of the deacons to extend likewise to the deaconess.

What is interesting is that most churches employ deaconesses in their churches, they just call them something different. They call the ladies “nursery coordinators”, “children’s ministry coordinators” etc. The ladies are doing exactly what a deacon is called to do: minister to others so that the elders and pastors can devote themselves to prayer and the ministry of the word (Acts 6:4)

Lastly the reason that we find it okay for deaconesses is because the only thing that differs from elders and deacons is the ability to teach. The elders are called to teach, preach sound doctrine and refute those who contradict. Women are called to not teach or preach over a man in the church. We find this in 1 Timothy 2:11-14.

You will notice that Paul takes this back to Adam and Eve to his present day. Paul is speaking specifically to Timothy and how the church is to be run throughout this epistle. So, when Paul states this, it is not because he was influenced by his culture. His culture said that women were worthless, yet Paul continually defends women and says something pretty profound in this very passage. He says, “a woman should learn…” This is far reaching to that culture. Paul was giving the women the right to learn, something that the culture frowned upon highly in his culture. Later we find that women had a prominent role in Paul’s ministry, so he would have had no issue in making them elders, if that was the plan of God. The fact is that Paul could not be more clear in the woman’s role in the church. This is why he takes it out of his own culture and points all the way back to the original parents: Adam and Eve.

Women have a great role in the church, it just happens that God has stated that one of their roles is not to be a pastor or elder in the church. The same is found in the Old Testament that the highest role in the church was the priest, and no woman was allowed to be a priest either. Paul gives us the reasoning in showing an example in Adam and Eve. Women should not take this as a degradation, but should understand that this is just how God has determined it to be. There are also many men who will never be a pastor or elder either because they have different roles as well. We see this through everyday life too. Men and women are just different in many ways. This isn't bad, it is sometimes just physics. I don't yell at God because I can't have a baby. Mostly, I thank him because of it :).

The desire of the women to have authority in the church is seen thoroughly in the today's church and is derived from the same reasoning that we see when we spoke of the woman "desiring" her husband. Part of the curse employed the woman to desire to usurp the God given authority that has been laid above her. Sadly, many women find this to be a slap in the face to be told that they cannot be an elder or pastor in the church and find some very strange exegesis of Scripture to try and give reasoning on why Paul was teaching something either different or plain wrong.

In our next post, we will look at how Christ is the perfect example to the woman in their role that God has given them.


jen said...

Really good post, Seth.

Erin said...

excellent, Seth!

Seth McBee said...

I love writing about women and having the women say that the post is is humbling...thank you ladies.

Anonymous said...

Here is a great piece from a friend of mine up here in alaska. Enjoy!!

The first thing I felt led to do was to re-examine the scriptures I was taught
prevented women from holding positions of leadership within the church. The first
scripture I looked at was 1 Cor. 11:3-16 where Paul taught women were to be in
subjection to their husbands, demonstrating it by wearing a literal head covering. This
passage was taught to me in a way that said women couldn’t be in positions of leadership
because they were supposed to be in submission to their husbands. The question I asked
myself is, “Aren’t all leaders supposed to be in submission one to another?” (Eph. 5:21).
Why can’t a woman operate in her gifting if it happens to be in a five-fold position and
still be in submission to her husband? I believe they can. I believe we misinterpreted this
passage as well when we said that women needed a “covering”, or in other words a man,
watching over her. Show me a man in leadership who doesn’t have a “covering”, a group
of brothers and sisters he is accountable to, and I’ll show you a maverick that is headed
for trouble. This passage is clearly directed at marriage in which case I agree that the
husband is the head. Also, if we’re going to take this passage literally, then women
should have never stopped wearing head coverings when attending churches. This
passage relates to leadership in a marriage not leadership of the church.
The second set of scriptures is found in 1 Cor. 14:34-35 and 1 Tim. 2:11-12. In
these passages Paul taught that women were to be silent in the church and were not
permitted to teach but had to learn at home. In Paul’s day, the Jews had a gallery where
the women sat in silence. It was a room that was screened off from where the men
gathered and discussed spiritual matters. The question I asked myself is, “if women are
not permitted to teach, then why does every denomination, even the ones that exclude
women from leadership, give the most impressionable generation, our children, to women
Sunday school teachers?” My very own biblical foundation was laid down largely by
women teachers, and, I will add, they did an excellent job. It was a woman that taught
me the plan of salvation wherein I accepted the Lord as my Savior. Were these women in
rebellion with what Paul was teaching? I say no, even though the majority of the
teaching happened in church. In Paul’s day, women were treated terribly and the Jewish
culture was in need of transformation. I believe Paul had more pressing concerns on his
mind such as the message of the good news going out to the Gentiles. I believe he chose
to focus on that rather than getting sucked into a debate of church culture as it already
existed. I do not believe the heart of God was to keep women in a place of silence. If it
was, then every church I know of is in rebellion because women certainly aren’t being
silent in the church. It is my belief that the culture of the church would, over time and
with the will of God, begin to allow women to operate in their giftings. It is amazing to
me how some denominations that don’t believe in women leaders would allow these
same women to go overseas and do missionary work, where they were literally doing
apostolic work, but when they come home on furlough were not allowed to preach but
“testify”. What hypocrisy! As long as these gifted women were using their gifts out of
sight of the local church, it was okay. Another way the church has allowed double
standards in this matter was to allow women to teach in the church so long as they were
only teaching other women. That is not what Paul taught. In church women were to be
silent. All these passages were used in my spiritual upbringing to validate the prohibition
of women leaders. After all how could a woman lead and stay silent?
The third set of scriptures I was taught prohibited women from being in positions
of leadership were Paul’s list of qualifications for an elder or deacon in
1 Tim. 3:11-12 and Titus 1:6-9. These passages focused on character traits, spiritual
maturity and marital status. The first two everyone can agree on; any leader in the church
should be spiritually mature and of excellent character. I was taught it was the marital
status, “husband of one wife,” that excluded women from positions of leadership. After
all how could a woman be the husband of one wife? Good question. As I began to look
more closely at this passage the focus isn’t marital status or gender; it is polygamy verses
monogamy. In Paul’s day, polygamy was common practice. Also, if you had to be
married, “the husband of one wife,” how could Paul be a leader and be single? I believe
Paul was simply addressing the issue that, if an elder was a man and married, he could
only have one wife. Paul did not exclude single people from leadership. In fact, he
encouraged it only if God had given the individual the grace to be celibate. The
qualification of being the husband of one wife in order to be in a leadership position is
clearly an instance of the scripture being taken out of context. I believe the Spirit spoke
to me and said the focus was supposed to be on monogamous relationships when
Another passage which I believed prohibited women from being in leadership was
Eph. 5:22-33. This is where Paul related that as Jesus is the head of the church, the
husband is the head of the wife. Once again the Spirit spoke to me and said, “Why have
you applied this passage to leadership when the application is to a marriage?” I used to
believe that men were to be the head of the church, but the passage clearly states that
Jesus is the head of the church, not a man.
The last passage that I used to believe validated the prohibition of women in
authority positions in the church is 1 Tim. 2:12-15. In this passage of scripture Paul
shares that because Eve was the one who was deceived, only men should be in authority.
This was the most difficult passage for me to deal with. It seemed to me Paul was saying
that women are inherently more prone to deception and men are not. The problem is that,
historically speaking, men have largely been in control of the church. This has never
prevented deception. Remember the Dark Ages? Remember the false prophets in the
Bible and the all corrupt kings? Who crucified Jesus and later persecuted the church? It
was men in leadership who were deceived. If Paul’s statement is true and women are
more susceptible to deception, it must come into context with the rest of the Word of
God, namely that the Lord is able to renew their minds (Rom. 12:2). It has been my
experience, and I see in the church’s history, that everyone is equally targeted by the
enemy to be deceived. I do, however, believe that women are gifted by God to be
especially sensitive to the Spirit realm, more so than men. Maybe Paul knew that and
was trying to protect the church and the women. I believe that understanding this doesn’t
need to be a prohibition to women leading in the church alongside the men. Together we
“can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.” (Phil 4:13). I believe in the
continuing work of the Holy Spirit in bringing each of us into the image of Christ to be
sufficient in overcoming our weaknesses.
This leads me to the other scriptures that bring balance to the passages I’ve just
covered. The first thing I said to myself is, “If God never intended women to be in a
leadership position, I would not find any exceptions to the rule.” But I did. In Judges 4
we find Deborah, one of Israel’s judges and prophets who had great authority. In the
book of Esther the Lord raises her up as queen where she uses her position of authority to
help save Israel from annihilation. You have Moses’ sister, Miriam, holding one of the
five-fold offices, a prophet (Ex. 15:20). There is Huldah, the prophetess, being sought
out for counsel by Hilkiah, the priest (2 Kings 22:14-20). Anna, a prophetess, spoke over
Jesus as a baby (Luke 2:36). Phoebe was a woman deacon who Paul tells the church to
honor (Rom. 16:1-2 NLT). These are great examples of teamwork within the Body of
If God never intended for women to be in leadership, then why are there
exceptions to the rule? This is because God never intended it to be the rule. I have seen
many women, both now and in the Bible, ordained, anointed, successful and prosperous
in their ministries. If they were not in the will of God their ministries would not be
successful and blessed, yet they are blessed. So it logically follows that these women,
leading the church, are not outside of the will of God.
Another scripture that helped bring balance for me was recorded in Joel 2:28-29.
Here the prophetic pronouncement, which came to fruition at Pentecost, declares that the
gifts of the Holy Spirit would fall upon everyone. Ethnicity, age or gender would not
matter. In 1 Peter 2:4-5 and Rev. 1:5-6, the apostles Peter and John refer to all of us as a
“holy priesthood,” or “kingdom of priests”. The implication here is that every believer is
called to perform priestly functions. Under the old covenant, only the Levite men were
allowed to be priests and to minister to God. Don’t misunderstand me; I am not saying
that everyone is called to have authority in the realm of church government. I am saying
that Peter and John were reaffirming what happened at Pentecost. God was breaking out
of the constraints He had put in place. Pastors, elders, deacons, apostles, evangelists,
teachers and prophets were no longer to be limited to a male Jew of the tribe of Levi, but
rather they were to be chosen from a much larger pool of candidates— the body of
This leads me into another scripture that helped shape my decision. It is
Gal. 3:26-28. First, Paul refers to the church as “sons” of God; this includes women.
Then, he goes on to break down the barriers between Jew and Gentile, slave and free,
male and female. I believe this applies to more than just salvation. I believe in God’s
eyes, under the dispensation of the Holy Spirit, that every believer has the potential to
rise to the level of gifting, anointing and authority that the Holy Spirit determines. Paul
proves this by recognizing the gifting of a pastor in a young, uncircumcised, Greek man
named Timothy. Timothy was neither Jewish, nor a Levite, nor circumcised. Three
strikes and you’re out, and yet, this young, Greek man goes on to pastor one of the largest
churches in Paul’s day in the City of Ephesus. The point is that God had changed the
requirements to minister and to serve the people. Gal. 3:26-28 has more revelation to it
than what I initially believed. For me, God seems to be saying, I see you all the same.
The last scripture that clinched it for me is found in Matt. 6:10, specifically the
beginning of the Lord’s Prayer. It instructs us to pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be
done on earth as it is in heaven.” I felt the Holy Spirit asking me, “What is heaven like?”
I could almost hear Him answer me with another question, “Is heaven a place where only
the men are promised a position of ruling and reigning with Christ?” Read 1 Cor. 6:2-3,
2 Tim. 2:12 and Rev. 20:6. Heaven is going to include ruling, judging, and reigning with
Christ. Those activities cannot be done without having authority and that authority will
be shared by the body of Christ. If heaven is not gender restricted and we are supposed
to be praying that heaven comes to earth, then this present earth should, as much as
possible, look like heaven. I believe that just like Adam and Eve, prior to their fall, had
shared authority and power to tend God’s garden, the Holy Spirit is in the process of
restoring what was once lost. In short that means bringing heaven to earth. I believe
women and men should function in positions of leadership in this earth as the Holy Spirit
determines, just as it is and will be in heaven.

Seth McBee said...


Before I comment, I want all to know that I know Rod personally and he has been a family friend for a very long time. I love this guy and believe that he is very godly and loves Jesus probably more than I do. With that said, I totally disagree with him here. :)


You just posted someone's work that deals very poorly with the text that I personally put forward.

I never said that women could not be in leadership in the church. They just can't be an elder/pastor in the church. This is different than leadership.

As far as the prophetesses in the OT, that is still not a good argument. The prophetesses were never in the highest position of the Tabernacle, that was the priests...which men were only allowed to occupy and were seen to be the earthly mediator between man and God.

Again, even in the New Testament, the office of prophet and pastor/elder have some distinction.

Meaning, when the qualification of the offices are ran down for the church, only elder/pastor and deacon/deaconness are mentioned, not prophet. Yet we see that there is mention of prophet as a gift in the New Testament. But, it is not the same as the pastor/elder. So, by comparison, this comes up short.

The only argument that I find in this article on why 1 Timothy 2 can't say what it says is based on historical events and culture...very bad way to try and exegete Scripture.

Rod...if you want me to deal with some particulars, I would be happy to. Whoever this is that wrote this used a lot of emotions and proof from what the "Spirit" told him/her and such.

There are other parts in here that I would very much disagree with, but still, the fact of 1 Timothy 2 still stands and nothing at all was refuted from Scripture on why a woman could be a pastor/elder in the church.

Let me know if you have some things in particular you would like me to deal with.

Hope all is going well up there in Alaska...looks like you already have to have the snow shoes on...that my brutal.

Erin said...

thank you Seth!

Katie said...

I loved this piece. Couldn't agree more!

Puritan Lad said...


I ove the picture, and decided to ste... er.. "borrow"... it for my recent post. Let me know if you object and I will remove it...



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