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Should this be in Question?

Many of our readers may not realize that the subject of ordination of women remains one of the hot topics in evangelicalism today. A recent tendency in some denominations has been to question the definition of ordination and the role of women in church leadership. The question I have to keep asking myself is how did this even become something of discussion in a denomination? I have read papers watched videos and have had several discussions on these issues and in all cases I keep coming back to the same decision. While I agree with the Westminster Confession of Faith that "All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all", the ordination of women to the offices of elder or pastor is certainly not one of them. Rather, it is one of those teachings that can be clearly and easily understood and would follow under the realm of "yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them" as the remainder of the declaration continues1. God was very clear in Scripture regarding this matter when He stated through the Apostle Paul:

"Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church" -1 Corinthians 14:34-35

It's a strong passage. Luckily I wasn't the author, but it's very important for us to remember who was.

Regardless of all the arguments about historical Godly women, or capabilities of women, or cultural inappropriateness in the modern age, the Bible declares quite plainly and literally that women cannot meet the most basic of qualifications for the office being questioned - being a man. God has set forth in His infallible Word according to the Apostle Paul, "This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife...." (1 Timothy 3:1-2) This teaching is further reinforced in Titus 1:5-6: "...Ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee: If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly." We see, in both passages in which the qualifications of a bishop or presbyter are listed, that the candidate must be "the husband of one wife." These offices are clearly open to men only since a woman obviously cannot fulfill this most basic qualification.

Many claim that these verses are cultural and are therefore not applicable to our society. Although there are indeed passages of Scripture that are bound to the culture of the ancient biblical people, and thus have ceased to be directly applicable to our own day, this is not to say that the underlying principles have also passed away. For example, at one time the ceremonial Law of Moses required that the Jews not wear clothing of mixed threads [cf Deut. 22:11]. While it is true that this commandment no longer applies to Christians under the New Covenant, its underlying principle of separation of unlike principles clearly does. One example of this enduring principle is found in 2 Corinthians 6:14 where Christians are commanded not to be "unequally yoked with unbelievers."

However, the words of the Apostle Paul regarding the qualifications for Church office cannot be approached in this same manner. First of all, he was not writing under the Old Covenant, but was writing to Christians under the New Covenant. Therefore, the commandments he gave cannot be dismissed as mere Old Testament shadows, but must be understood and obeyed as the very commandments of Christ Himself, speaking by His Spirit through one of His inspired Apostles.

Also, unlike the ceremonial laws, the external commandment cannot, in this case, be separated from its underlying principle. Paul's declaration that he would not "permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man" is directly tied to both the creation order and the historic Fall of our first parents in the Garden of Eden [cf. 1 Tim. 2:12-14]. The subordinate role of women to male authority is well established throughout Scripture (Genesis 3:16; Ephesians5:22-24) and the serpent's beguiling of Eve , although we might not want to believe it, obviously still affects us to this day because this man to woman relationship has never been denied in either covenant. We must therefore conclude that the prohibition against women elders/bishops likewise remains applicable today.

Before we can apply the 'cultural relevance' argument to any biblical teaching, we need to be very careful to honestly and completely analyze and evaluate the entire teaching of scripture on the given subject. Systematic theology is exactly that. We need to take all verses/passages and systematically put them all together into a cohesive and defined statement or thought. We cannot ignore verses for the sake of them not fitting our own doctrine, but rather they need to be made relevant to the theology the bible professes to us naturally if we simply study it and believe in its truth. Many times I fear when we start abusing the 'cultural relevance' argument the heart of the matter lies within our own rebellious heart and our unwillingness to obey. That is, we have our pet sins and we are sinfully looking for a way to ignore the commands of God that make them sinful. Paul tells us that the by the law comes the knowledge of sin (cf. Rom. 7:7) so if we can negate or twist the law, we're 'good to go' - as they say.

I personally am tired of the argument of 'cultural relevance' for the discussion of the ordination of women. To explain away passages of scripture as culturally irrelevant puts us on to very dangerous ground. This argument boldly declares (and with raised fist to heaven) that God could not have known what the 21st century was going to be like and so we ourselves have to redefined God's Word on these issues. What?!? Who are we to question God's omniscience? How dare we declare ourselves as editors of God's Word. God knew full well what the year 2012 was going to be like, and He provided His Holy Word to remain as the only book by which we obtain our truths and knowledge of Him. How dare we rewrite God's word to suit our agenda under the ruse of God couldn't have known and is ignorant to the modern man. We have dangerously opened the flood gates of heresy when we make such a declaration. How long before the ordination of homosexuals is given the same argument? The current predicament before us is that the church has failed to retain a culturally appropriate way to distinguish gender roles. Up until recently these roles have been upheld biblically through the rules surrounding qualifications for eldership and ordination. However, it is now desperately clear that we are in danger of losing those anchor points.

In my previous article on this subject2 you will remember that we talked about Phoebe and the other women from Romans 16. I bring this up again because, although I explained the confusion is caused by a poor translation of the Greek in liberal Bible versions, many people have still maintained to me the fact that Phoebe was a deacon. My previous arguments aside, this declaration of one instance of things seemingly against Paul's teaching, still does not negate the teaching. To come to this conclusion would be as erroneous as declaring that because Jacob and Solomon had polygamous marriages, it is therefore acceptable. The mentioning of something in the Bible does not condone it, nor does it give validity to it. I reiterate again that the whole of Scripture must be examined on the issue in question.

This very apostle who wrote the words of 1 Tim. 3:1-2 and Titus 1:5-6 is the same man who wrote by God's spirit the words, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works" (2 Timothy 3:16). All Scripture is profitable including what might fly in the face of our personal beliefs. It is therefore not acceptable for us to isolate specific texts for the support of our personal belief system. The study of scripture and the resulting systematic theology is an 'all or nothing' affair. You cannot approach God's word with a 'snatch and patch' mentality. Such methodologies have given birth to all kinds of heresy and cult doctrines throughout the ages. All scripture is given by inspiration of God [cf. 2 Tim 3:16]. Not some. Not parts, but all. The Greek word for 'all' in 2 Timothy 3:16 is pas which is correctly translated as: all, any, every, the whole.

When I repeatedly hear the arguments as to why women should be ordained and allowed to be elders and pastors/priests or clergy, I just keep coming back to the fact that there is nothing in Scripture (our baseline and source for all theology) that denounces Paul's declaration of 'husband' for the office of episkope , presbuteros or diakonos as declared in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. God's Word says it and I believe it - period. For those who disagree with my declaration of the inerrancy of Scripture and the cultural relevance of the Bible in any age, I would remind them of the scriptural warnings:

"They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate" - Titus 1:16.

"Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons," - 1 Tim. 4:1

I plead with all believers in Christ to please consider their decisions carefully. Believe in God's Word. Believe in his foreordained plan for man and woman, the church, and eternity. God is faithful. God is good.

"Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments, that it might be well with them and with their children forever!" - Deut. 5:29

Serving the King,
J.R. Hall

The Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter I, Article VII
2. On the Question of Women Pastors and Elders