The text comes from 1 Timothy 2:11-14, “Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.”
As modern thinkers, people’s immediate response to this passage, especially women, is that it was written by a sexist man and that this was only specific to their culture and therefore doesn’t apply to ours. They deny the fact that, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). This means that all Scripture was inspired by God through the Holy Spirit, making it able to be taught as well as for reproof, correction, and training in righteousness. In fact, reproof and correction is exactly what I’m doing in this blog entry. This specific teaching may go against our individualistic American culture, but there are other cultures that would have no problem with this passage, so is it really a culture issue? No, it’s not. To say that it was only specific to their culture at the time and not ours is purely ethnocentric, ignoring the hundreds of other cultures that would accept this teaching. Besides, there are plenty of things in Scripture that go against American culture as it is yet we don’t disregard those principles (mostly).
This passage is not a scheme against women. The best assurance we have that Scripture is not sexist is when we consider who the first people were to see Jesus’ empty tomb. They were women. During these times, the testimony of women were considered to be less reliable than that of a criminal. So, 1) if Jesus’ resurrection were a farce and one big planned hoax, the apostles would not have chosen women as the first witnesses of His empty tomb; and 2) because of this fact, we can reasonably conclude that Scripture is not sexist. In this passage, it is not saying that women can’t be pastors because they’re too emotional, or can be easily manipulated, or whatever other sexist description of women, but simply because it is not their role as women.
This passage says five things about women regarding pastorship:
- They are to learn in silence.
- They must submit to man.
- They are not to teach over a man.
- They cannot have authority over a man.
- Adam was formed first, then Eve.
Learn in Silence
Twice this passage says that women must learn in silence. When repetition like this occurs in Scripture, it is done for a specific reason — for emphasis. So, what does this mean? Addressing wives in his first epistle, Peter says, “…but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening” (1 Peter 3:4-6). God consider a woman who is meek and quiet to be very precious. This doesn’t mean that women can’t ever speak; it means that they must guard themselves against the fallen nature caused by the sin of Eve (Proverbs 9:13; 7:11).
Submit to Man & No Authority Over Him
Ask yourself the question: How do we know God’s will? Can we know God’s will apart from His Word? Of course we can’t. God’s Word shows us what His will is, therefore God’s will is His Word. Women are to be meek and silent because it is God’s will, for it is in His Word. Remember why women were created in the first place (Genesis 2:18-24). Woman was created to help man fulfill his God-given role, not to exercise authority over him. After the fall, God said that man would rule over the woman (Genesis 3:16) as a consequence of their sin, which was Adam obeying his wife rather than the will of God, thus perverting their roles. So, in His Word, God restated how the order of the role of man and woman needs to be: the man is the leader and the woman is quiet in submission as she helps him, just as it was since the beginning. So, how can a woman co-pastor alongside a man or be a pastor of a congregation? She cannot.
The Greek word for “submit” is ὑποτάσσω (hu-puh-TAH-so). The literal definition is, “to place or rank under, to obey.” So, not only are women to listen quietly, but also in “all obedience.” When you obey someone it’s because you’re under leadership, not oppression (although oppression forces strict obedience, leadership has an obligated obedience, but it’s not forced and the viewpoints of the subordinates are always valued in good leadership). At the beginning of the third chapter of Peter’s first epistle, he addresses women to subject (same word for submit in the Greek) to their husbands, “so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct” (3:1-2). In their role as a wife and a woman, they remain silent so that in the case the man does not obey the Word of God, his behaviour will be reformed simply by his wife’s conduct. We often say, “Actions speak louder than words.” How true that is of a wife, and all women. She does this out of submission to her husband’s leadership. Ever since the beginning of time, we have seen women trying to take leadership from man, first with Eve trying to take it from Adam when she told him what to do, which Adam gladly obeyed, and this led to the fall and thus the world as we know it. “Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor,” Paul writes to Timothy. Because of Eve’s sin, this is the perpetual relationship between man and woman — women trying to take control of leadership by nagging, deceit, and manipulation, just as Eve did. Indeed, this is evidenced by feminist extremists.
Of course, not all women are satisfied with man being the leader. Some want control and authority for themselves because society has forced them to believe that submitting to a man is a sign of weakness and lesser value. But because of God’s order of creation, it can never work that way. Let me make it irrevocably clear: Submission does not mean that the woman is of lesser value. Jesus submitted to the will of His Father (Matthew 26:39), and it would be heresy to say that because of this submission, Jesus is lesser than God. Instead, they are one. Submission exists because of a unified structural relationship. A wife submits to her husband not only because God ordered it to be this way, but also because it makes a unified structural marriage possible. So it is the same with women underneath a pastor; it allows relational unity.
Not to Teach
Because of women’s natural attempt to usurp the leadership of man, she is not to teach. Teaching men requires authority and leadership, which, according to the order of God’s creation, is not the woman’s role. Instead, she should be learning. Women may not be permitted to teach over man, but she can, however, teach children and other women. So helping in the nursery and leading women’s ministry or bible study groups is permitted. Everybody has their role in the church. Women tend to be better with children than men (and more willing to work with children), so working in the church nursery or leading children’s ministry is a great fit for women. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, and it is not a lesser ministry than the ministry of the pastoral office. It is just as important! It’s the same thing with women’s ministry and bible study groups. The pastor cannot be expected to lead women’s ministry and various kinds of bible study groups, especially because the pastor cannot relate to women on certain issues, which is where a female leader is necessary to lead a woman’s ministry. He has too many duties as it is and it is not his duty (or role) to lead multiple individual ministries and bible study groups. Rather, in his role as pastor (and therefore leader of the congregation), he appoints women for different ministries and bible study groups and he does the same with men. Just because women are not and cannot be in the authoritative position as pastor of a church does not mean that the ministry she can do is of lesser value, and it especially does not mean that Scripture is sexist. Children’s ministry, women’s ministry, and multiple bible study groups are equally as important.
Adam Was Formed First, Then Eve
When Paul wrote this, he was reminding his readers of God’s created order. When God created humanity, it was man’s role to lead all of creation and woman’s role to help him, hence “a helper fit for [Adam]” (Genesis 2:18). It doesn’t matter if a church anointed her, or claims to have a calling or revelation to be a pastor, it isn’t her role. Someone once asked me, “But I know some women who are pastors and have felt the call from God to be pastors, so what does that mean?” Since God’s Word directly opposes women being pastors, it was not from God. “And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness” (2 Corinthians 11:14-15a). Since it goes directly against God’s Word, the “calling” was not from God, but certainly from the Devil or one of his servants (demons). How do we know whether something is from God or the Devil? “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2). The ways of the world lead us to abandoning parts of God’s Word in order to believe what it wants to believe. In our western civilisation, equal rights is a heavy topic and has spread to be applied to everything, including pastorship in spite of what Scripture says against it. This worldly thinking leads one to believe that women being pastors is permissible, just as worldly thinking leads young adults and teenagers to believe premarital sex is permissible, despite what Scripture says against it. So to know whether something is from God or the Devil, don’t be conformed to the ways of this world — that is, don’t put the philosophies of this world and human rationality above the Word of God; that’s heresy. Because of the times we’re in, we are constantly bombarded by beliefs that contradict God’s Word, which is when we test it against His Word — that is, to compare it. As Paul puts it in 2 Corinthians 10:5, “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” When thoughts like women being pastors come, we need to go to the Scriptures and see what they say in order to make that thought obedient to Christ. As Scripture clearly says, women are not to teach over man and thus not be pastors because it is not their role and never was since the beginning of creation. So as responsible Christians we take this captive thought and make it obedient to Christ by not practising the false doctrine of women being pastors. This is just one of many examples by which we combat against false doctrines.
The woman needs to be focused on supporting her husband and her pastor, not trying to seek his authority because, again, it is not her role. The order of God’s creation for humanity is this: the husband leads, the wife supports. The pastor leads, the women support. There is nothing wrong with support. Support is just as important as leadership, if not more important. Every leader needs support. Because when the husband or pastor does or says something wrong, the respect and conduct of a woman helps him to remember what is right. I go to a small church, and every now and then my pastor will be absent minded about something and his wife will remind him. For example, the Sunday before Veteran’s Day in 2015, our pastor forgot to pray for our veterans. His wife quietly got his attention, he walked over to her, and she reminded him, and he apologised for forgetting to pray for our veterans and proceeded to do so. She didn’t try to exercise authority over him, but instead quietly and respectfully got his attention and reminded him what he forgot to do.
I cannot stress more the importance of support. When I was in the Army, I was a professional musician in the Army Bands. Our specific role was support. While hundreds of thousands of soldiers lead and fight our nation, we support them by playing music for them, and their morale is boosted and they remember what they’re fighting for — they remember their role. Just because we’re non-combatants does not mean our role as support is any less important or valuable. Likewise, when a woman is silent and supports her husband and/or pastor, she reminds him of what his role is as a leader.
Perhaps the biggest indicators that women are not to be pastors are the three verses listed in the meme at the beginning of this blog, specifically the first two (1 Timothy 3:2 and Titus 1:6). They say that overseers and elders must be the husband of one wife. It doesn’t say, “the husband of one wife, or the wife of one husband.” It specifically says the husband of one wife. When Scripture makes a likewise comparison, the writers address it, usually by using “in the same way” (e.g. Ephesians 4:22-33). So, if the writers of God’s Word wanted to make a likewise comparison, they would have, but they didn’t. Also, the word “overseer” is the Greek word ἐπίσκοπος (eh-PIS-ko-pos), which the literal definition is, “a man called by God to literally ‘keep an eye on’ his flock.” Not a woman, but a man. This is where we get the word “pastor” from, as well as the Latin word meaning “shepherd.”
What Are the Consequences?
The obvious answer is that it is sin. And what is sin? Whenever you know what is right but do the opposite, that is sin. Or, if God commands you to do one thing, but you do the other, that is sin. Satan is the antithesis of God; that’s why he’s called the antichrist. If we obey Satan rather than God, Satan becomes our master instead of God. When God says, “Man must be with woman,” Satan says, “Man can be with man, and woman can be with woman.” When God says, “Be humble,” Satan says, “Pride is power and humility is weakness.” When God says, “The man must lead and the woman must follow,” Satan says, “The woman should lead and the man should follow.” What God says is evil, Satan says is good.
Satan uses our emotions to his advantage and says, “Women have been suppressed by men for too long. Let feminism rise up and usurp the authority of man. Women should be in control.” Scripture is extremely clear about the order of leadership, “But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God” (1 Corinthians 11:3). Scripture says that the order of headship, from top to bottom, is: God, Christ, husband/man, wife/woman. (Husband/man is the same word in the Greek and Hebrew, and it’s the same for wife/woman, and they are translated based on context.) When man and woman switch their roles in the order of headship, it becomes: Satan, wife/woman, husband/man.
So, why can’t women be pastors? It is not their role. Their role is to be man’s helper, not have power over him or to share his power. They also have other roles in the church that need to be filled and are just as valuable as the role of pastor for men. The danger is that it allows Satan entry into the church because by going against God’s Word, God is no longer Master, but Satan.