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WITH HEATED convictions, evangelicals dogmatically dismount at different levels from the
precipitous ladder ascending to sexual equality in the ministry. If our inconsistencies were not so
tragic they would at times be humorous.
We permit women to teach Sunday school but not mixed adult classes. We commission
women to administer mission compounds and ordain them to minister to the distant lost, but they
are barred from church boards and ministry at home. Their testimonies or "sermonettes" are
acceptable if the pastor pronounces the benediction. With determined religious fervor we withstand
the "women's libbers" and entrench ourselves firmly in our literal biblical bases (man was created
first: Paul tells women to be silent: etc.).
Or we throw all caution – and biblical conviction – to the wind and conclude the Bible to be
antiquated and uninspired or Paul to be chauvinistic and inconsistent. and we write our own rules
at the expense of scriptural authority.
As one firmly committed to the Bible as the inerrant Word of God and who turns to it as the
only infallible rule of faith and practice, I must ultimately settle all such issues on the basis of "What
saith the Lord?" in
Copyrighted by Christianity Today
February 20, 1981
Used by Permission
Cover Page SHEKINAH/October-December/1982 Vol. 3, No. 4
Holy Scripture. When our conclusions on this issue are drawn from Bible rather than church tradition
(which we respect, but do not treat as the final authority), we discover that women have full equality
with men in church functions.
Certainly nothing in either Creation narrative (Gen. 1 and 2) suggests anything less than male and
female equality. Both genders equally are created in the image of God (". . . in the image of God
created he him, male and female he created them" Gen. 1:27 [all Scripture quotations are NIV unless
otherwise specified]). Similarly, the mandate to "be fruitful and increase. . . fill the earth . . . subdue
... rule over . . ., (Gen. 1:28) was given jointly to both sexes. Eve was not told some of these
leadership functions were limited to Adam.
In the second Creation account, God promises to make a "helper suitable" for Adam (Gen. 2:18-20). Some have seen this Hebrew word, yezer, as reflecting subservience. In fact, the term had
no such connotation, for it is even used of God toward us. The psalmist speaks of him as being "an
ever present help in trouble" (Ps. 46:11). Nor does Adam view Eve as something less than himself;
His exclamation, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh" (Gen. 2:23) is an
exclamation of equality and completeness – "This is part of me; now I'm all here!"
Many hold that women deserve to be limited in the ministry because Eve was the first to
yield to sin and then caused Adam to sin. In the account of the fall (Gen. 3) the Tempter tempts Eve
who in turn tempts Adam to sin. Does that sequence of temptation make Eve guiltier than Adam?
The Bible does not emphasize Eve's causing the transgression of the whole female race: it placesthe blame squarely on Adam for the sin of both genders. 1 Corinthians 15:22 states, "For as
in Adam all die. So in Christ all will be made alive," and Romans 5 explains death as caused by
the trespass of "the one man" (vv. 16-19).
"Agreed," some respond. "but don't forget 1 Timothy 2:14; 'And Adam was not the one
deceived: it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.' " Even Calvin argues that since
woman had seduced man from God's commandment" it was only fitting that she be "deprived of all
her freedom and placed under the yoke."
But wait: that is not at all Paul's point. This passage is so crucial we shall later exegete it
more thoroughly: but his point here is not that Eve's sin was greater than Adam's. In fact, Adam's was
worse because he sinned with his eyes wide open, without being deceived! Eve's fault, on the
contrary, was less serious because she was deceived and only acted in ignorance.
Some argue that God directly decreed women's submission to male and church authority as
a result of the Fall. They cite Genesis 3:16: "To the woman he said. I
will greatly increase your pains
in childbearing: with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband,. and
he will rule over you." Larry Christenson has even written that woman was created subordinate; the
decree only increased her subordination. Yet Genesis presents this not as a decree of what ought to
be but a curse because of sin. It is a description of what would happen. Man, now in a sinful, fallen
state, has found it convenient to use his superior strength to dominate the physically weaker sex.
Many current books amply illustrate how our Lord consistently broke societal taboos relating
to women. But of greater controversy is Paul's teaching on women's position "in Christ." Although
this seems patently obvious in Galatians 3:28. Paul, on superficial reading, then seems to contradict
himself in other portions (1 Cor. 11; Eph. 5; 1 Tim. 2, etc.). A more careful analysis, however, shows
that all of Paul's teaching is consistent with the rest of Scripture.
In Galatians 3:26-28 Paul reminds us that we have all been baptized into Christ and there is
no longer "Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female"; for we are "all one in Christ Jesus." Paul
is speaking of three different dominant-submissive categories, all of which have been nullified by
our being baptized into and clothed with Christ. The baptized Greek, clothed with the all-sufficiency
of Christ, is as much a son of God as is the previously preferred Jew. Similarly, the emancipated
slave of early America, once clothed with Christ. met all qualifications for any church office –
contrary to the convictions of many church teachers of that era. Any dissection of this passage that
offers less to women than other categories would suggest a prejudiced exegesis. The passage goes
on to affirm the purpose of Christ's coming: "to redeem those under the law [Greek, slave, female
that we [all] might receive the full rights of sons" (v. 5).
The emphasis on women "in Christ" is also crucial to an understanding of l Corinthians 11:3-12. For brevity, I must avoid the temptation to explore the "head covering" principle in this passage.
It will suffice to observe that women are permitted to pray or prophesy as long as they meet the
cultural expectation of covering, showing they have the authority to do so. The reason for the
covering seems to be spelled out in verses 8-10: woman came from man and was created for man.
Yet Paul makes very clear that he does not mean that women are in any sense inferior. Immediately
he adds: "In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of
woman. For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman."' In other words, Paul is
saying, "The first fact, that woman found her source in man, parallels the second fact that every man
since (or, possibly, the man – Christ) has found his source in woman." (See also 1 Tim. 2:15, to be
Once again in Ephesians 5:22-24, woman's position in Christ is emphasized. This is one of
Paul's five, "hupotasso" passages, so named because of the Greek word used in each instance,
translated, "submit" or
4 SHEKINAH/October-December/1982 Vol. 3, No. 4
"submission." It is also used in 1 Corinthians 14:34, Colossians 3:18, 1
Timothy 2:11, and Titus 2:5. Although a full study of male/female roles would require a careful
exegesis of all these passages, the present point of importance centers on the phrase "as to the Lord.
" It is clear that Paul was not the first to tell women to submit to men: Jewish women had been
taught submission for centuries. Paul, ever careful not to upset the delicate cultural fabric of his day,
encouraged women to continue to submit. What is new is how they are to submit: as to the Lord.
In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters
will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my
servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy" (Acts
There is no record of women speaking in tongues on the day of Pentecost – in fact, there is
no record of women being present. Yet it is plain that as Peter quotes the prophet Joel on this
occasion (Joel 2:28-29) he is admitting the possibility of spiritual messages by women. The term
"last days" is never limited to Pentecost, but refers to all this present age. A "prophet" need not be
a foreteller of future events, but is "a person gifted for the exposition of divine truth" (Harper's Greek
Lexicon). Ever since the Holy Spirit first came, he has been at liberty to impart his gifts to each
person "just as he determines" (1 Cor. 12:11). Pentecost represents a divine sanction for prophetic
ministry by women every bit as much as by men.
"Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to
the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him . . . Slaves, submit
yourselves to your masters with all respect . . .,Wives, in the same way be submissive to your
husbands . . . Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives' ' (1 Peter 2:13-14, 18; 3:1, 7).
Peter makes an interesting point about the position of women. He argues that we as
Christians should submit ourselves to every man-made institution, and goes onto list several of those
authorities "instituted among men" – kings, governors, masters. Then in 1 Peter 3:1 he states that in
the same way wives should submit to their husbands, because – it is implied – female submission
is "instituted among men."
In other words, Christians are expected to operate within the parameters placed around them
by society. If slavery is an unchangeable part of the society, then servants are expected to obey their
masters – until slavery is no longer "instituted among men." As we earnestly seek a true biblical role
for woman, God forbid that we withhold any gift He desires her to exercise for even one day longer
than society requires!
Even those who believe certain ministries must be restricted to men cannot help but notice
that Paul is any-
thing but chauvinistic toward women. Paul refers to Junia as "outstanding among the
apostles" (Rom. 16:7). Of the 29 people Paul greets in Romans 16, many are women he addresses
by name, contrary to Jewish custom: Phoebe, Tryphaena, Tryphosa, Julia, Mary. He entrusted his
letter to Rome to Phoebe, a task many of our churches would delegate only to men.
It has been argued that Paul's injunction to women to keep silent in churches (1 Cor. 14:34-36) would prevent them from exercising the preaching gifts. However, he has already agreed that
they can pray and prophesy publicly (1 Cor. 11:5). It is unreasonable to think he would contradict
himself just a few sentences later. Rather, as in the other instructions in this same epistle, he directs
his remark ad hoc to the specific situation in Corinth. In chapter 14 he admonishes the women to be
quiet, not because it is wrong for women to speak out loud in a public service. (He has just told them
that they may pray aloud and speak in a public worship service so long as they act modestly). His
purpose here is to remind them that "God is not a God of disorder but of peace" (14:33), and that in
the services "everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way" (14:40).
If anything, the passage reaffirms that Corinthian women knew they were now equal to their
husbands before Christ and had every right to speak out in church (11:50). But they were misusing
their newfound freedom by disrupting the services to get answers to their questions, and it was
because of the disorder they were creating that Paul gives his counsel. Therefore, in the light of the
situation at Corinth, he requires two things of them: first, they are to remain silent while in church
and save their many questions to ask their better informed husbands at home; Paul's command not
to speak in no way limits their previous license to pray or prophesy under normal circumstances.
Second, Paul tells them to be in submission – not to their husbands, for the context does not suggest
it here – but to the church body. Paul requests the same submission of the entire gathered church
body at Ephesus: "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ" (Eph. 5:2 1).
1 Timothy 2:11-12 presents a similar situation, and the apostle prescribes a similar remedy.
"A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have
authority over a man; she must be silent." Corinthian women were speaking so as to create disorder
in the worship service. In Ephesus, women who were uninstructed in the faith were leading the
church into false doctrine.
In verse 11 most people wrongly assume that Paul's emphasis is on silence and submission.
Actually, Paul is emphatically commanding that women be taught (manthaneto is imperative). The
quietness and "full submission" (again, to the church body or teacher) is what any teacher would ask
of his pupils. Verse 12 is not stated imperatively; rather Paul returns to the indicative mood in the
present tense. A legitimate rendering of 1 Timothy 11-12 thus would be: "I command that women
learn [be taught] in quietness and full submission [to the teaching authority]" (v. 11). "I am
[presently] not permitting a woman to teach and she is not to exert evil influence over a man" (v. 12).
5 SHEKINAH/October-December/1982 Vol. 3, No. 4
One could wish that the office of deacon (diakonos) had been carefully spelled out in the
New Testament. The closest semblance to a job description appears in 1 Timothy 3:1-13, which
initially seems to limit the office to men with marginal reference to their wives. Most commentators
however, exegete 1 Timothy 3:11 to refer to female deacons (technically not "deaconesses," for it
is a neutral term, like "teachers"). The absence of the article and the use of gunaikas may favor
"women" over "wives"; F. F. Bruce suggests that " 'their wives' (KJV, NEB) is probably to be
rendered 'women' (RSV), that is, 'women-deacons.' "
Only one N.T. woman is spoken of as a deacon, but the passage is significant. In Romans
16:1, Paul says, "I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church in Cenchrea." Paul
uses the word diakonos, a masculine term with no article. Every other time it is used in the N.T., the
KJV translates it either "deacon" (3 times) or "minister" (18 times). Only here is "servant" used.
Whether it is necessary to confer the title "deacon" on Phoebe, one must concede that the burden of
proof is on those who would translate the word "servant" in this passage while rendering it deacon
or minister in every other passage.
One is hard pressed to discover N.T. passages portraying women in ruling rules. Yet even
at the risk of reading too much into the passage, we must once again observe Phoebe. Most
significant in Romans 16:1-2 is not that Paul refers to her as a diakonos, but as a prostatis pollon –
which, if it were addressed to a man, would probably be translated "ruler of many."
The verb, proistemi. occurs eight times in the N.T. and usually connotes governing or ruling.
In Romans 12:8, Paul states that if one's gift is "leadership, let him govern diligently." In I
Thessalonians 5:12, Paul mentions those "who are over you in the Lord." Twice Paul tells Timothy
that an elder should manage (KJV "rule,") his family well (1 Tim. 3:4-5) and sets the same
requirements for deacons in verse 12. Finally, he recommends double honor for those elders "who
direct the affairs of the church well" (1 Tim. 5:17). In the Theological Dictionary of the New
Testament, Reike concludes his article on Proistemi: "In I Timothy again, where the verb and
especially the participle occur repeatedly, the idea of guiding and caring are both present. . . . In all
these instances, however. the verb has in the N.T. the primary sense of both 'to lead' and 'to care for'
. . ."
Yet when this same word in feminine form is used of Phoebe it is translated "a great help"
(Rom. 16:2). Indeed, the variety of English renderings may indicate the biased reluctance of
translators to admit what Paul wished to say – " succourer" (KJV), "helper" (NASB). "assistant"
(Berkeley), "good friend" (Good News, NEB), "given protection" (Williams). But Paul presented her
as "leader," "governor," or "manager."
Look again at 1 Timothy 2:1 1-15. This greatly misunderstood passage is imbedded in a
context of five sec-
tions dealing with false teaching. Consequently these words to women fall in a
context (historically as well as literally) of rampantly deceptive and maliciously clever false teaching.
The immediate context also is usually misinterpreted. As noted earlier, "be taught" is the imperative,
and the focus of the passage is on the danger of misconstrued and ill-informed Christians taking the
lead in teaching and guiding the church. Verses 11 and 12, therefore, deal with the importance of
adequate preparation, and the need to guard against an excessive dependence upon emotional wiles
of uninstructed women in influencing the church for false doctrine.
Verse 13 directs us to an illustration from the story of the first man and his new bride. The
Greek gar, for, is not causative but explanatory and illustrative – so, as we can see in the creation
story, new and ignorant believers are easily led astray and, if allowed to teach others, will also lead
them astray. Eve's fault, quite to the point of Paul's instruction to the women of Ephesus, was that
she should not have taught Adam because she was in ignorance, being deceived herself. Hence,
careful and extended instruction in quietness and submission to the teaching authority is essential
for anyone (and any woman) who would teach.
The word often translated "have authority over" (v. 13) reinforces what we have just noted.
The word is translated by such terms as murder, perpetrate, author, master, domineer, or hold
absolute sway over. The word was considered vulgar and almost invariably was used in a bad sense.
Thus Berkeley Mickelsen writes, "It is found in contexts and used of those who are authors or
originators of evil action. It is found in unsavory sexual contexts. So the translation have authority
over is really far too polite. Here a woman is not to be teaching or using the wrong kind of emotional
or sexual pressure over a man to dominate him."
The force of this entire passage cannot rightly be applied to women as women but to women
as ignorant and uninstructed people employing unworthy means to influence the church. By contrast
it ought to be applied to the frequent practice, directly proscribed in Scripture, of exalting novices
to dominant roles in the church, with disastrous results for the entire body.
Finally, observe one more facet of 1 Timothy 2:12. Some interpreters, basing their view
wholly on the King James Version, take the verse to mean that teaching a man and having authority
over a man are linked together, and are both wrong for women. But the structure of the verse does
not imply that the teaching is limited to men. The literal Greek sentence structure would be
something like this: "But to teach, a woman I do not permit; nor to exercise authority of [over] a man
but to be in silence. "
In the context to which the apostle addresses himself, teaching of any kind is no more
acceptable for a woman than having authority over a man. If one is wrong, they both are wrong! It
is more rationalization than exegesis to excuse present practice by limiting the prohibition to
teaching at public assemblies of the church or where men are present.
If expediency permits us to let a woman exercise the
6 SHEKINAH/October-December/1982 Vol. 3, No. 4
gift of teaching, we can do no less than
let her exercise the gift of ruling. In both cases she is merely exercising the authority of her gifts, not
her sex. However, if on the grounds of this verse she cannot exercise authority over men, then let us
at once remove every female teacher from our departments, recall every female mis-
denounce books written by women. But such is not the meaning of this verse when it is interpreted
Therefore, in faithfulness to the teaching of the whole Scripture, let us permit women to
exercise both teaching and authority to the fullest extent of their gifts without unbiblical restrictions
based on sex.
9 SHEKINAH/October-December/1982 Vol. 3, No. 4
Articles and letters printed in SHEKINAH do not necessarily reflect the views or beliefs of the Staff. The SHEKINAH is simply a sounding-board and explores all sides and all angles, leaving the reader to choose, with the aid of the Spirit, that which is truth.