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In Evangelical circles this seems to be a hot topic these. The other day I was asked my opinion on this again, and as such I penned the following argument from Scripture. I do not do this to cause strife, or contention. I do not do this to push my own agenda in any way shape or form. Rather I do this to call our attention back to the Scriptures. Back to the source as the reformers might say.

In this day and age, there certainly is a social climate which would suggest complete equity in all things for women and men. The trouble I am faced with in light of these modern social conventions is that the Bible makes it quite clear that women are not to be pastors or elders. While I admit that this viewpoint is not popular, I have to ask, “Since when is God’s Word a popularity vote?” Many churches are moving toward the inoffensive view of allowing women in these leadership roles within the church. I find it curious however, that the offence they are seeking to avoid, can only be taken as on offence by someone who does not completely understand God’s pre-designed role for women. Regardless, churches and denominations are taking a passive stance on this matter and are accepting the social climate as the relative norm. This to me is unacceptable. The answer, “just because my neighbor is doing it”, is not an answer to the question, ‘Is the concept Biblical?’ And that is the only question that matters.

We all know that in the garden of Eden Adam was created first, and that he was given authority to tend and keep the garden (cf. Gen 2:15). God’s creation was repeatedly called good in Genesis 1 and it is interesting (and relevant) that the first time God said there was something NOT good in the world was that Adam was alone. All animals were brought forth in front of Adam to name and out of all the animals and critters, none were found to be a suitable ‘helper comparable to him’ (cf. 2:20). Eve was therefore created from Adam’s side, from a rib. I have always enjoyed the imagery of the fact the wife was taken from the man’s side, to stand beside him (not behind or in front), and under the arm, to be protected by him. Woman was the suitable helper for man, and although Scripture tells us the role is subordinate to that of the man, it is by no means lesser in value than his. To suggest otherwise would be to suggest that Jesus, who was clearly subordinate to God the father (cf. Matt 28:18, John 6:38, John 14:28), was less than the Father. A statement that would be clearly false.

Likewise in the church, a subordinate role does not make one less important than the other. All are equal before God, whether, Jew, Greek, slave, free man, male or female.

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” – Gal 3:28

I believe that women are a very important part of the church. And perhaps even underutilized to some degree. There are many young ladies in our church that need the role models of Godly older women to come along side them and give them advice and Godly teaching. I would certainly say that with certain topics ladies are much better teachers of ladies. And in some cases this might also be more appropriate depending on the subject. Now on the subject of gender, there may in fact be many women in the church who are better at teaching and preaching then many of the men, but giftedness is not a basis for over-ruling God’s purposes and calling for church leadership.

We must go ‘to the source’ as I mentioned earlier. We must read and obey God’s commands on this issue. To do otherwise is to invite trouble down the way. History attests, that whenever societal norms counter the design of the Creator God, things go very poorly. (e.g., premarital sex and promiscuity, alcoholism, drug abuse, kids raised without both parents, etc).

“And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.” – 1 Tim. 2:12-14

There are all kinds of theological tidbits in this verse, but we’re concentrating here on the authority structure set up by God. It is very clear here that, in the context of the church, a woman is not to be in a position of authority over a man. However, this would not extend to the secular world. The context of these passages is clearly within the church.

Now what about Phoebe and the other women of Romans 16? Well there can be no doubt that there were many women who were great helpers in the early church, but none would have been in a place of authority. We can know this by the other verses that suggest what is required for church leadership. Paul tells us: “A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach;” - 1Tim 3:2

One wife. Scripture does not say one spouse. Note also the reference here:

“one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence” – 1 Tim 3:4

Who is to be the head of the household in a Christian family? The man… not the wife. (cf. Eph. 5:22-23) The reference here is clearly addressing men. Incidentally these same criteria are extended to Deacons.

“Likewise deacons must be reverent, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy for money, holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience. But let these also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons, being found blameless. Likewise, their wives must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things. Let deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.” – 1 Tim. 3:8-12

If we defined ‘deacon’ as the early new Testament church did, then they too must be men. Now some translations render Romans 16:1 as “I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a deacon of the church which is at Cenchrea.”, but I think the Greek word is key here. The word that is sometimes rendered “deacon”, is the word ‘diakonos’. It is a word used 31 other times in the New Testament to mean essentially ‘servant’ or acts of ‘service’.

  • Paul calls himself a minister (diakonos) of the gospel in Col. 1:23, 25.
  • Paul went to Jerusalem to serve (diakonos) the saints, (Rom. 15:25).
  • Mary spoke to the servants (diakonos) at the wedding in Cana (John 2:5).
  • It is used of serving tables in Luke 17:8 and Acts 6:2. Jesus came not to be served, but to serve (diakonos), (Mark 10:45).
  • The government is called a minister (diakonos) of God in Romans 13:4.
  • And the Bible tells us that Tychicus is a minister (diakonos) of the Lord (Col. 4:7) as is Timotheus (1 Thess. 3:2).

It should be noted that only the newer more ‘liberal’ Bible translations render the word diakonos in Romans 16 as deacon or deaconess such as the NLT, NRSV and RSV. The word is rendered as servant in the ASV, ESV, HCSB, ISV, KJV, NASB, NKJV and even the old NIV (1984), although the new NIV and the TNIV renders it as ‘deacon’ (which should tell us all about the soundness and direction that the NIV has gone since 1984 – believe me there are other questionable changes and we should be warned that the modern NIV is not the NIV of old).

We can also go back to the Old Testament to see the precedence of gender roles in ordination. The Old Testament mentions over 700 priests by name, and every single one of them was a man. This significance here is that the priests were ordained by God to hold the very important office of ministering the sacrifices. Now Deborah was mentioned as a Judge over Israel, but that was a secular office, and not something that translated to the context of a ‘minister’ or a religious title. The context of 1 Timothy 2 remains the same. In the God designed Church the normal and proper person to hold the office of Elder, Pastor and Deacon is to be a man.

I don’t think I can hold any other view. God said it and I believe it.

- J.R. Hall

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