Theology and Politics from a Conservative, Biblical Perspective
There are two trains of thought regarding women in Christian leadership positions; egalitarianism or complementarianism. The former asserts that because of our union with Christ, all gender differences are erased, therefore, women can be in authoritative positions that were normally reserved for men. The latter asserts that while men and women are completely equal in value as far as God is concerned, this same God has defined specific roles for each gender that are not to be overruled. Each student of the Bible will need to arrive to their own conclusions based on how they understand the Bible.
Like many areas of doctrine and theology though, it is not enough to simply arrive to a conclusion. We must be sure that what we believe is God’s intended meaning. What we are laying out here in this series is our firm belief in the Complementarian position. We believe that this is what the Bible teaches and what God has decreed. We will point out what we believe are the flaws of the Egalitarian position.
As we noted in our previous and first installment of this series, the difference often lies in how people interpret Paul’s words to Timothy. Many jump through numerous hoops in their efforts to change Paul’s actual meaning to provide tacit approval for women to gain leadership positions in the church. Unfortunately, their opinions do not really hold water, though of course, that will ultimately be for you to decide.
For instance, if you take a look at this article here – What the Bible Says About Women in Ministry – you’ll note that the author – Betty Miller – favors the Egalitarian position, where there are no role distinctions between genders. At one point however, she makes an unnecessary distinction between the average woman who simply goes to the church and women whom she believes were leaders within the church during Paul’s day. After highlighting verses in 1 Corinthians 14:34 and 1 Timothy 2:11-12, Miller states the following:
In these verses, Paul cannot be addressing women who were in the ministry, but rather those in the congregation who were out-of-order. How do we know this? We have many such proofs, many from Paul himself. Here is a partial list of women who were all in influential positions of leadership in the early church.
Actually, Paul was addressing women in general and applying his decrees to all women. Paul was not making exceptions, but making a blanket statement that applied to all women. Miller cannot see that because of her frame of reference. She then discusses the roles that Phoebe, Priscilla, Euodia, Syntyche, and Junio played in the church. The problem though is that none of these women were actual pastors of individual churches that we can prove from the Bible. Miller believes otherwise.
There is nothing in Scripture to my knowledge that prohibits women from spreading the gospel. In fact, the Great Commission of Matthew 28 puts this responsibility of sharing the good news of Jesus Christ onto all Christians regardless of their gender. However, for Paul to make the statements he does about the role of women in the church and assume his words only applied to women who were not in actual ministry is a misinterpretation, in my opinion. If that was the case, he wouldn’t have needed to state all that he stated and certainly, knowing Paul, he would have been much more specific if he had only been referring to women who were “out-of-order” as Miller states.
Evangelizing the unsaved is one thing. Adopting a leadership role within the church (or home), is quite another thing. The example of Euodia and Syntyche (Philippians 4:2-3) noted by Miller has to do with the fact that they shared the gospel just as Paul did. Even though he refers to them as “true yokefellow,” this by no means indicates that they had leadership positions within the church as did Paul. In fact, if we are going to do what Miller has done by implying that the use of the term “true yokefellow” means leadership positions within the church, then we could go further to suggest that maybe Paul even saw these women as fellow apostles? That’s ultimately what Miller does.
In essence, though the author also states that Priscilla and Aquila were co-pastors, Scripture does not state this. Miller has simply assumed this meaning through eisegesis (reading into the text).
In all the Scripture texts referenced by Miller regarding Priscilla and Aquila – Acts 18:2, 18; Romans 16:3, and 1 Corinthians 16:19 – not once does the Scripture indicate or imply that both were pastors. In fact, the opposite is true. Only once – in Acts 18:26 – does Scripture tell us what the husband and wife team did for Apollos. In effect, they were evangelizing Apollos and we don’t even know how much talking Priscilla did. They were a team, certainly, but not co-pastors anymore than my pastor and his wife are co-pastors. They are a team and my pastor’s wife fully supports her husband in his pastoral responsibilities, but she would no more get up to preach from the pulpit than any other women in the congregation would do so. If that ever happens, I will find another church.
Miller also states that Junio was a clear example of an apostle from Romans 16:7.
No church commentator earlier than the Middle Ages questioned that Junia was both a woman and an apostle.
That’s a huge jump and she offers no proof or documentation. From Dr. Thomas Constable:
Most of the people mentioned in these verses require no explanatory comment. “Asia” (v. 5) was the Roman province of Asia, of which Ephesus was the capital. “Junias” (or “Junia,” or “Junianus,” v. 7) was probably the wife of “Andronicus” (cf. vv. 3, 15). The term “kinsmen,” or “relatives” (v. 7; cf. vv. 11, 21), seems to refer to “relatives” of Paul only in the sense of being fellow Jews (cf. 9:13; Phil. 1:7; 4:14). “Fellowprisoners” may mean “voluntary servants committed to the Lord,” since Paul was not in prison. However, he had been in prison (2 Cor. 6:5; 11:23), so the imprisonment in view may have been literal. “Apostles” (v. 7) here must have the general meaning of representatives (traveling missionaries), rather than being a technical reference to one of the 13 official apostles (cf. Acts 14:4, 14; 2 Cor. 8:23; 1 Thess. 2:6; Phil. 2:25).
Let’s be clear that on certain occasions, the term “apostle” is used of other individuals besides the original 12 (and then Paul). In such a case though, it should also be clear that the wider, more generalized sense of the word (meaning “sent one”) is being used. From William G. T. Shedd from his commentary on Romans.
When the term ‘apostle’ is applied to others than the Twelve, as in 2 Corinthians 7:23; 11:13, it is anarthrous. The fact that Andronicus and Junia had been believers of such long-standing made them ‘distinguished.’
Some commentators believe that the name Junia was short for ‘Junianus,’ a man’s name, not a woman’s name; like Fred is short for Frederick. There is no concrete proof that Junia is referring to a woman or is the wife of Andronicus as Miller believes and states in her article.
Certainly, in a very general way, all Christians are “sent ones” and therefore apostles but only in the most general sense due to the Great Commission. We were not hand-picked by Jesus to be part of His inner circle during His earthly sojourn, nor did He appear to us in resurrected form and anoint us as apostles as He did with Saul, who became Paul (Acts 9). Christians do not have the actual authority that the apostles had and still have. Notice there are only 12 foundational gates in the New Jerusalem and each one has the name of an apostle associated with it.
And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. – Revelation 21:14
Once again, as is usually the case, Miller delves into the subject of culture in an attempt to show that the limitations placed on women by Paul were due to the limitations of that particular culture and no longer apply.
The women of Christ’s day were generally uneducated and usually only the men were privileged with an education. Due to this situation, when the church met the women were tempted to shout across the room and ask their husbands the meaning of whatever was being taught. This disturbed the service. Paul was simply saying during the service, “Women, keep your children quiet and you be quiet, and if you have anything to ask your husbands, wait until you get home.” Because of the new equality that Christianity brought to women, it could be that some of them were taking their freedom too far, to the point of being obnoxious.
Miller continues with her claims that culture was the problem resulting in a lack of education for women during those specific times.
When Paul wrote to Timothy, he gave him a similar directive. Again, it is important to understand the context in which the letter was written. In 1 Timothy, a careful reader becomes aware that many severe heresies and false teachings that were being dealt with. We can draw a conclusion here that many of the proponents and victims of the false teachings were women. Timothy pastored in Ephesus, and it has been suggested that goddess worship might have played a large part in Paul dealing so severely with the women. Ephesus was a primary center of the worship of Diana or Artemis. The heresies being taught might have suggested that women were authoritative over men and had higher access to spiritual knowledge than men did.
It is interesting that Miller states that certain heresies of Paul’s day suggested women had authority over men. In doing so, she actually admits that certain leadership roles include an authority over others. I would argue that a duly appointed pastor has authority over his congregation and Christians are to submit to that authority as long as that pastor remains solidly biblically oriented. If he moves away from that, then he no longer needs to be obeyed. Leadership positions in the home and in the church have a certain degree of authority attached to them. Women who preach and teach men are exercising authority over men and Paul was clearly against this, though not for cultural reasons.
1 Timothy 2 tells us Paul’s reasons for not allowing women to be leaders over men., which had nothing to do with culture.
11 A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. 15 But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety. – 1 Timothy 2:11-15 (emphasis added)
So, what are Paul’s reasons for stating that women were not allowed to teach or assume authority over a man?
What do the above reasons have to do with anything related to culture? Not a thing. Paul states in verse 13 why he had adopted that position. There is nothing cultural about Paul’s teaching here.
But Miller then attempts to use the Galatians 3:28-29 passage, which states, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”
Unfortunately for Miller, the entirety of Galatians 3 deals with our salvation in Christ and our justification and sanctification because of that salvation. Anyone of either gender or from any station in life may receive salvation equally from God. He does not withhold part of that salvation because the recipient might be a woman as opposed to a man. Salvation is freely available to all people, period. God is no respecter persons in that sense.
If Galatians 3:28-29 obliterated specific responsibilities and roles attached to genders, then there should be no problem with either homosexuality or transgenderism today, especially considering the Supreme Court has ruled that all such unions are legal. In effect, if someone states they are a Christian and if Galatians 3:28-29 eradicates the differences between genders (in Christ), how can Christians stand against either homosexuality or transgenderism if those individuals are willing to marry? In Christ we are all equal and salvation is freely offered to all people without reservation and with equality.
Beyond this, if all roles are negated in Christ, why didn’t Paul ever come out fully against slavery? Instead, he taught that slaves should obey their masters (Ephesians 6:5). Christians in general must submit, first to God, then to one another out of love. But there is also the additional subject of roles for men and women that must be adopted by the Christian if we are to be in full obedience to Jesus.
Even though Betty Miller ascribes to the idea that context matters, she apparently refuses to acknowledge that context when it comes to interpreting Paul’s words to the Galatians. Miller says Paul’s words mean something they do not mean in order to bolster her argument.
Once we are born into the kingdom of God, we become new creatures in Christ. In the Spirit, we find there is “neither male nor female,” just as there are no race distinctions nor class separations. The Lord looks on the hearts of His new creatures and therefore does not discriminate when He offers His love and privileges. Women are not excluded from any of God’s promises nor callings merely because of their sex.
While her remarks about being “in the Spirit” are accurate, the rest of her statements are not. If her understanding of Galatians 3:28-29 is correct, it completely contradicts what Paul said later to Timothy (Galatians was written before his letters to Timothy). Yes, all are completely equal before God in Christ. Amen to that! It doesn’t matter the gender or ethnicity. But that does not mean God-given roles have been eradicated as Miller states. I believe she is wrong.
Miller also quotes Genesis 5:2, which states, “Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created (KJV). Miller then states, “It is interesting to note that God called both male and female, ‘Adam’ in the day they were created. Adam means ‘man.’ Adam and Eve were created with God-ordained differences from each other, but together they made a full ‘man,’ or a complete picture of God Himself. There was perfection in their union. Their differences were not a source of discord or inequality, but a beautiful compliment to each other. Together, God gave them the task of overseeing and ruling His creation.”
The problem with Miller’s interpretation is manifold. The word “Adam” simply means man and both Adam and Eve are of mankind, which distinguishes them from the animal and plant kingdoms as a unique species. But it is also clear that Eve was a woman as noted by Adam. What is stated in Genesis 5 above by Moses is merely a recap of the Creation events described in Genesis 1-2.
In Genesis 2:4, we read the account of God forming man (literally “Adam”) from the dust of the earth. In verse 23 of this same chapter, God creates Eve and does so not by starting from scratch as He did with Adam (literally “man”), but by removing one of Adam’s ribs and creating Eve from that. Notice Adam’s reaction to this new creature.
And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. (Emphasis added)
Without the first man (Adam), Eve would not have existed and she was under his authority. Eve was dependent on Adam, since she was taken from his body. Miller goes onto argue that God imbued “man” (she means both Adam and Eve) with God’s male and female attributes ultimately making the two “one” and complete, implying that Adam was not complete before Eve. He certainly was a complete human being though alone. Adam needed human interaction, which is why God created Eve.
Miller also argues that God gave both Adam and Eve equal authority. Yet, the purpose of creating Eve was to be a help-meet to Adam. While she shared equality with him in her person, the reality is that she had a different role to fulfill than did Adam.
Regardless of how or what God said to them prior to the fall, it was after the fall that the Lord pronounced judgment. That judgment included the fact that Eve would constantly strive to rule over her husband (Genesis 3:16). Being “in Christ” does not eliminate this problem. The roles that exist for men and women will not be eliminated until either eternity future or our death from this life.
Both men and women even in Christ continue to have a sin nature. God has established that the man is the spiritual head of the home and with it, serious responsibilities (Ephesians 5). Many men ignore their God-given role. They also often fail to be the leader allowing the woman to step up and take the reins. This is not what God has decreed, yet there are many who sadly, misinterpret Scripture to their own tragic ends.
We could go on and on with this series, but the point has been made. We’ll draw things to a close with our next installment that will deal with the role of a godly man in Scripture. What is the pattern for the husband to follow? How should he comport himself with respect to his wife and family? What are the responsibilities for men in leadership roles within the home and the church?
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