Thursday, February 22, 2018

The Role of Women in Our Churches

The essay below was written in 1986, and published in The Baptist Waymark periodical in August of that year. If I were to write it today, it would sound different, but my instructions would still be the same. I am publishing it here substantially as written nearly 30 years ago, with some minor corrections for (hopefully) easier reading, and the inclusion of some related links.

After the women’s liberation movement gained popularity, pulpits became increasingly silent about the role of women in our churches. This lack of teaching has allowed confusion to reign. God is not the author of confusion (1 Cor. 14:33). His Word will settle the matter. Both men and women are seeking scriptural answers about the woman’s place in our churches. Should they preach? Should they teach? Should they vote? Should they lead singing? Should they lead in prayer? Let us go to the Holy Bible to find the answers to these questions.

No. The Bible has no command for or inspired example of women preachers. The Lord chose twelve apostles — all men. The seventy sent out by the Lord to preach were all men. All the preachers in the book of Acts were men. There is no Bible example of God calling a woman to preach. Therefore, a woman has no scriptural basis for claiming to be called of God to preach.

The biblical qualifications for bishops (elders) leave no room for women. “If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work,” 1 Tim. 3:1. The preacher must be the husband of one wife — no woman can claim to be a husband (modern same-sex marriage advocates notwithstanding). Verses 4-7 mention “his” three times, “a man” once, and “he” four times — all terms referring to men, not women. The qualifications are given again in Titus 1:6-9 and those verses also show that the only biblically qualified preacher is a man. The very terminology used — bishop and elder — are masculine words.

Women should not be preachers or deacons. In Acts 6:1-7, the deacons were men. In 1 Tim. 3:8-13, the qualifications could only be fulfilled by a man. If there is any such thing as a deaconess, she is a deacon’s wife, not a woman who is a deacon, 1 Tim. 3:11.

Yes, under the proper circumstances, women should teach. They are to be “teachers of good things,” Titus 2:3. The aged women are to teach the younger women (Titus 2:3-5). Therefore, the Bible shows that women are to teach women. They are also to teach children (2 Tim. 1:5; 3:15). But the Bible says women are not to teach over or exercise authority over the men (1 Tim. 2:12). They should be silent as far as teaching the whole church, men, or mixed groups of men and women.

Yes. It is not hastily that I make this statement. I have given much study and thought to this issue. The biblical examples of congregational decisions illustrate that the women took part. Acts 1:12-26 records the selection of one to fill Judas’ office. The assembly was made up of about 120 people (v.15), which included women (v.14). They, the 120, appointed two men, and they, the 120, gave forth their lots and chose Matthias. Therefore, this selection process included the women.

Acts 6:1-7 tells of the selection of the first seven deacons. The seven were chosen by “they” — which refers to the multitude of the disciples (vs.1,2,5), and this included widows (who are always women).
In the council meeting of Acts chapter 15, the final decision was made by the whole church (v.22), which included women as well as men. We concur from these three examples that the women should vote.

Notice in all three instances that, although the women did vote, it was the men who discussed the business, made the suggestions, and provided the leadership. The women were silent. Although the women should vote on church matters, they should not lead in the business; rather, let the men do the leading.

Some see a problem that voting could allow the women to exercise authority over the men in the church (when allowed to vote). For example:
Last Baptist Church of Anytown, Texas, has 55 members. 30 are women and 25 are men. If the women vote they will run the business because they are in the majority. 
But this contains no added problem. If the church is in scriptural order, the women will follow the leadership of the men and not wrest authority to themselves — even though they are in the majority. If the church is not in scriptural order, there will be problems regardless of their policy concerning women voting. If not allowed to vote, the domineering wife can simply tell her husband how to vote!

No. This would be usurping authority over the men. A woman should not be a director or leader. The leader, whether in the business or the music, should be the men (1 Tim. 2:12). All the members of the churches at Ephesus and Colosse are commanded to sing psalms (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16). This means that the women should take part in the singing but it does not allow them to move into a leadership capacity.

No. This too would involve moving into a leadership role (1 Tim. 2:12). Women have as much right and as much duty to pray as men, but should not lead prayer in church when men are present to lead the congregation to the throne of grace. If for some reason only women are present we believe it would be permissible to lead in prayer, since it would not involve taking a man’s place.

This does not mean absolute silence under all circumstances. If you say it does, then why do you allow women to sing in church? This silence has to do with tongues (v. 23), confusion (v. 33), speaking (vs. 34-35), and asking (v. 35). This excludes women from speaking in any public way in a mixed assembly.

1 TIMOTHY 2:12
This verse excludes women from any activity that would put them in authority over rather than in submission to men. If men and women would search the Bible to find the sphere and work that the Lord has for each of them, the Lord’s churches would prosper and be in better health. 

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9

The Baptist Waymark, August 1986

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