Biblical Leadership

I have been blessed to be married to the same lovely, godly lady for 17 years now. She has been an inspiration and a joy for me and certainly has provided comfort, encouragement, and godly admonition when needed. I truly love her tremendously and I am grateful to God for her. She is one of the two most significant ladies in my life (no, the virgin Mary is not the other) and I realize her significance in this world, as a wife and as a fellow Christian. My gratefulness is to the Lord for blessing our union.

I see my wife as God sees her. She was created by God in His image, and is a unique individual. She possesses her own mind and volition (as Eve demonstrated, Genesis 3:3-8). She is not inferior to me as a woman; rather she is of equal value to God as I am–-created in His image (Gen. 1:26-27). She is not my slave and I am not her master. She helps to meet what is lacking, evidencing that I am incomplete without her. When she is gone, I am not the same. My life is occupied with pleasing God and pleasing her and without her around I am only doing half my duty.

I have found no one on earth greater than my wife. In fact, Proverbs 18:22 says “he who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.” I have found this to be true in spite of the effects of the fall. Having a godly woman as a wife is a blessing from the Lord and my wife is a treasure.

What I state about my wife underscores the fact that my position on leadership in the church is not due to my disdain for women, nor am I stereotyping women as being homemakers. There have been many great women throughout history who have been successful outside of the home. There is a prophetess in the book of Judges, Deborah, who led the people of Israel during a dark time and by God’s great hand she was instrumental in ushering in a season of peace. But I must underscore that she was only involved because Barak was a coward and did not trust God as the one who would deliver. So he bailed out and pleaded for Deborah to join him (Judges 4).

There is another passage in Proverbs that instructs us on a remarkable woman, Proverbs 31:10-31. This woman not only cares for her home with excellence, but outside her home she is respected as a skillful merchant. This woman is more costly than the choicest rubies because she blesses her home and she blesses those who come in contact with her. The Bible values women because God holds them to a high esteem.

Unfortunately contemporary society does not value the importance of distinctive roles. Many believe that women have been oppressed over the years and are neglected by being told that their most effective use is to be homemakers. I will agree that women have been abused by society over the years but this abuse is a result of the sinfulness of man. God did not authorize the abuse of women because in Genesis Adam fully endorsed his wife as “bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh” (Genesis 2:23). The apostle Paul said that no one ever hates his own flesh but cares for it and nourishes it (Ephesians 5:29). It is antithetical to God’s order for someone to literally hate himself. That principle goes for a woman in a man’s eyes. If he hates her, he has rejected God’s natural process.

At the same time I understand the times in which we live. Abuse of women must be dealt with. Man is evil from his youth and will not honor what God commands for him to honor unless there is some benefit to him. This type of conduct has nothing to do with women being oppressed; this is the work of the prince of the power of the air along with the natural tendency for sinners to abuse God’s intended order.

So my position on leadership in the church being men is a scriptural conviction and society’s ills and decisions has no bearing on what I believe is to be a clear teaching from God’s word. Now when I say leadership in the church, I am aiming at the positions that exercise biblical, ecclesiastical authority. There are other positions a woman can hold in the church and in that position she may have men under her. A mother has the authority to exercise some form of leadership in the father’s place when he is not home. Scripture does not prohibit women having some form of leadership function. The prohibition is mainly in the role of teaching or shepherding men. Let us look at some key passages in Scripture that will provide some clarity.

It is apropos to begin with the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ as an example. When Jesus began His ministry, He drew people from all walks of life. Even the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Herodians came to see Him, even if they had the wrong motive. Luke also took time to mention that there were prominent women who followed Jesus, even providing financial support (Luke 8:1-3). In Luke 10:38-42 Jesus was at the house of Martha and Mary for fellowship. Jesus had compassion on a woman whose only son died (Luke 7:11-17). A woman who was regarded as a sinner in the community was not prohibited by Jesus to anoint His feet (Luke 7:36-50), and Jesus forgave her of her sins.

Yet in spite of this massive following of women, Jesus chose 12 men as His disciples. Jesus appointed these men to be with Him, so that “He could send them out to preach, and to have authority to cast out demons” (Mark 3:14-15). This was consistent throughout His ministry and the apostles in the book of Acts appointed a man to replace Judas Iscariot (Acts 1:15-26). Paul when teaching the necessity of qualifying elders began by saying this: “An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife” (1 Timothy 3:2). The Greek word for overseer is used in this verse to speak of one who exercises authority in the church and that authority was clearly given to men.

Dealing with women and their role in the church is not a personal preference, but rather a clear understanding of what the Bible has to say about women, with no regard whatsoever to what the modern world may say. We, the church, are dealing with people who have very little understanding of what the Bible has to say about women in the church. In fact, many of them may not even care what the Bible has to say. Sadly, they would wrongly call those who share a different view from their modern and feminist view as being chauvinistic, when they are the ones guilty of such, because they prevent women from serving God in the way that they should, and that is following the leadership of the men who are submitted to Christ.

Now, some extremist would wrongly use the Bible’s clear explanation for the role of women in the church to suppress women. Husbands who act in this way are clearly guilty of Paul’s command in Ephesians 5:25-29, and Peter’s command in 1 Peter 3:7. The Bible in no way condones any abuse of women; including manipulating or controlling them because they are to “be silent.”

So how do we handle this issue in a godly way? We turn to the Bible and address the source of this problem. In the end, we will find that Satan is behind this attack against the family and the church. But the good news is that Scripture provides for us truths that we must reaffirm. One such passage that does so is 1 Timothy 2:9-15.

In that portion of Paul’s epistle, two very important issues were facing Timothy in Ephesus, and it involved the role of women in the church, and the manner in which the women were worshiping in the church. So Paul, under his apostolic authority, instructs Timothy on how women should prepare themselves for worship with other believers.

Now we must also consider the overall purpose of Paul’s epistle to Timothy, to teach proper conduct in the church (1 Tim. 3:15). This section dealing with the role of women in the church is a part of the whole, not bound by time but bound to the text that it is confined within. We cannot escape this truth when the book of Timothy is expounded on. Paul states this from the beginning of his epistle (I Tim. 1:3) and in the middle (I Tim. 3:15): it was to instruct the church concerning doctrine, not cultural tradition, and this section pertaining to the women falls within his overall instructions for the church.

So how should women be taught in the church? Verse 11 of I Timothy 2 commands that women receive the same teaching as the men, they are not to be treated differently because they are in fact equal to men spiritually. This was in opposition to the views of many people in Paul’s time, where women were not regarded as learners. But as believers in Christ, they have the same opportunity as men do. So Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, fully supported the necessity and importance of teaching women in the church.

But women must learn in silence and in subjection. Their silence does not restrict them from speaking when among their brethren but rather Paul is stressing the importance of a woman not exercising any form of authority over a man in the church, and that includes teaching. Many who read this passage refuse to look at what Paul is saying within its context. Modern day extremist will see this as an absolute prohibition against women speaking at a church service under any circumstance, while others would see this as Paul delineating the personality of a woman who is allowed to speak, that she should be of a “meek and quiet” disposition. Not so in this passage, Paul is telling us that women must be submitted to authority and learn in silence. What we are dealing with here is not a man-made initiative but rather this mandate for order when we gather for worship comes from God.

It was God who established roles for male and female in Genesis. According to Genesis 2:18, the woman was made to be the helper but the reason for the quarreling over women leading today is a consequence of sin. So because of the Fall, the course for the life of the church, according to God’s perfect plan, will always face opposition from without and from within while we are in this fallen world. The role of women in the church is no exception to this conflict.

Secondly, women can proclaim the word of God at any other time and place, especially to younger women (Titus 2:3-5). The only exception is when believers gather together for worship. Women should also be free to share what they have learned in Bible studies under certain circumstances; and women should have the opportunity to pray with other women, but not when the church gathers.

But when it comes to the proclamation of the word by way of preaching and teaching when believers gather, God has called the men to do so. This is a command from God.

Historically speaking, the Bible used men on a consistent basis, with very few exceptions of using women for brief periods (Deborah in Judges 4; Huldah in 2 Kings 22:14-22; 2 Chron. 34:22-28). God himself left the ongoing work of leading His people to men. The qualifications that Paul sets forth for ministry are for men. We have no biblical qualifications for women in leadership roles, just men (I Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9).

Now, careful and prayerful thought must be given, when one restricts women from teaching other women. Restricting women from teaching other women is somewhat contrary to Paul’s letter to Titus (2:3-5). If they are teaching younger women to love their husbands and children, then they are indeed teaching. In fact, they may be able to provide sound biblical advice if they are well instructed in the word, and be able to teach and instruct younger women biblically.

Let me illustrate this point: a woman may have a complicated issue that may involve the need for another woman to assist her. In fact, there may be instances when a man should not counsel a woman, so having a godly woman to help would be beneficial. In that role of counseling biblically, they are teaching and instructing. There is room for women to teach and instruct; the restriction on their teaching has nothing to do with their inability to teach as much as it has to do with God’s clear directives. They can and should be encouraged to teach from the Bible (teach younger women and teach their children), but not in a formal service when believers gather together. That is the emphasis Paul is making in his epistle to Timothy and Titus. Whenever men are subordinate to women in the house of God this is contrary to Scripture.

Some may import Galatians 3:18 as support for gender sameness but if you read it in context, the passage deals with all believers in their union with Christ. There is indeed no difference––no one is treated differently because of gender or ethnicity. That is Paul’s emphasis in Galatians. What every reader must keep in mind is that Paul was dealing with Judaism, not leadership. So he makes a broad statement to show that whether you are a Gentile or of some other ethnic society, or whether you are a female, those distinctions are insignificant as fellow heirs of grace.

Another misunderstood passage is from Colossians 3:10-11. Paul uses similar language from Galatians 3:18 to show no distinction that those who are in Christ have equal privilege. Yet Paul’s intention in that passage was not to teach role distinction; he was focused on dealing with some form of Gnosticism. He was rejecting the notion that only a few honorable people have access to some form of higher knowledge and those who do not possess that gift must follow them. What Paul is truly saying here is that every believer has access and opportunity to know Christ and draw closer to God without the futile philosophy and religious observances that man-made systems bind their followers with. Sanctification is the way and every believer is called to grow in sanctification. He is reminding the believers that there is a way for all who are in Christ to live holy and not to let anyone try to persuade them otherwise (Colossians 2:18-19).

Those passages must be rejected as support for gender equality in ministry. That is not the focus of the passage and to remove them from the greater context will lend itself to aberrant conclusions.

In conclusion I would like to reiterate the reason I believe that men are called to lead.

  1. God called Adam to subdue and have dominion
  2. God called Adam when he and Eve sinned
  3. God has consistently used men throughout history (Moses, Joshua, book of Judges were mostly men, Samuel, David, Solomon, Peter, Paul, etc.)
  4. Jesus chose 12 disciples who were all men, even though women were with Him
  5. During the early life of the church in Acts, men were the leaders of the church (especially Peter and James, followed by Paul)
  6. The qualifications for a pastor/elder in the epistles are for males

We cannot escape the plain teaching of Scripture; Old and New Testament Scripture confirm that God uses men to lead. Paul summarized that truth in 1 Timothy 2:13, “For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve.” There is something to be said about order, even from the beginning. While men and women are equal in Christ, God’s mandate from the beginning placed the man as head over her in function.

Times may change, but God’s word endures forever (Isa. 40:8). It is the bedrock for the church. May God’s word always guide his people!

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