Role Of Women In Church & Family


The Biblical Role of Women in Church & Family


A question that I find more and more an issue among Christians is the role of woman in the leadership of the church. This was not even an issue in most Christian circles until the woman’s rights movement declared that women have the right to do anything a man can. If we would take this position as being true, and many Christians do, then we would conclude that women should be able to serve as elders, deacons and even pastors. However, this “politically correct” position does not take into consideration what God says on this matter in His Word. It is what God says that should be the determining factor.

Those who believe that women are free to serve in leadership positions in the church usually cite three arguments to support their position. The first argument is that the Bible was written in a time when the society was very patriarchal. Paul wrote this from a patriarchal point of view but since that time, cultural has changed, as the culture has changed so have God’s intentions regarding women in leadership positions.

The problem with making any biblical teaching cultural and no longer binding is where does one draw the line. When is a truth cultural and when is it universal for all cultures and times. If we, for example determine some teachings are cultural, than could we not say God’s teaching on homosexuality, polygamy, lying, abortions etc. are also cultural and not binding as well. In other words truth that is cultural depends on my opinion not on God’s authority. Human opinion is not a very reliable guide in determining anything that relates to biblical truth!

The only biblically correct way of determining whether biblical truth is cultural is to see if the Bible states that it is cultural. For example, the ceremonial law of Moses was given to the Jews and was in effect until it was fulfilled in Jesus Christ in His death of the cross. Thus no longer do we put children to death for disobedience nor do we worship on the Sabbath. The ceremonial law is no longer in effect (Rom. 7:4). With this in mind, there is nothing in the Bible that indicates that God’s teaching about women and their role in leadership is cultural. Therefore we must accept it as being as relevant today as when it was given.

The second argument used is that all have been made one in Christ. Therefore Paul writes there is neither Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female in the eyes of God (Gal. 3:28). However, let us note that these passages are speaking about the value or worth of the individual before God and their eternal inheritance (Eph. 3:6-7; Rom. 10:12-13; Eph. 6:5-9). It does nullify their present roles that they have been called too. The Gentile is still a Gentile, the slave is still a slave, and the male is still a male. For example, both men and women are equal in value before the Lord, but no man is able to bear children. That is a role that God has given to women only. The reconciliation of Christ in the church has not changed the roles of the sexes.

The third argument that is used is the ability of the woman to pastor. I often hear the argument given that many women have the gifts and abilities of a pastor. Often people speak of how good a pastor some woman have been and how much they done for the Lord as proof that this must be God’s will. But let us remembered that God used Deborah to free Israel from its enemy, but it was God will for Barak to do it. God worked through a woman because of the unwillingness of a man.

Also let us note that ability alone is not the final criteria in the calling of the Lord. I may have the ability to do well as a pastor or elder in the church but if I am married to more than one woman, God says I can not serve (1 Tim. 3:2). Jonathan was just able qualified to be king as David was, but God rejected Jonathan to serve as king. Ability or results do always mean God has approved of what is taking place.

What then does the Bible say on this matter. Beginning with 1 Cor. 11:3-16, God tells us that order of authority in the church is as follows: God, Christ, Men, Women. He goes on to illustrate this point in his teaching about the head covering and that men should not have their head covered because they are in position of authority over the women in the church. In 1 Tim. 2:8-14, God speaks about what is proper in the church when it comes the roles of men and women. God says the women is to learn in silence for she is not to be the teacher (pastor or preacher) over men (11-12) This means women are not to teach any adult males but are restricted to teaching children and women. God goes on to say that this difference in roles is based in the order of the creation of man and in order of the fall of man (13-14). 

God carries this a step further in the next chapter of 1 Timothy when He gives the qualifications of elders and deacons. God says first that the elder is to be a “one woman man”(1 Tim. 3:2). This speaks more than being in a monogamous relationship for if that were the idea here God would have used the Greek word for monogamous. Thus is difficult for a woman to be a “one woman man”. Likewise He says the elder is one who rules his home well (1 Tim. 3:4-5, 12). According to Ephesians 5:22-33, it is the husband is to be in the role of authority in his marriage and in his home thus this requirement in Timothy can only be applied to a male.

It would seem very clear that God intended for men to lead in the role of pastor, elder, and deacon in the church. This does not mean women are second class citizens but rather that God has given other roles that are as equally important to the church as any male role.

I can make one additional point on this whole matter. It has been my experience as a pastor of 27 years that much of the internal strife I have had to deal with in the congregation has been centered in women who have tried to usurped their authority in order to have their way in the church. I am not alone in this observation as I have talked with other pastors, they have made the same observations as well.

We need to recognize our God given roles and fulfill those roles. Remembering that rewards in heaven will not be determined by the role one is given but rather by how faithful we have been in fulfilling that role.