Thinking Cap # 32 - The Role of Women in Ministry

Now here's another one of those topics where there are very few neutral individuals. We all have our biases, and have a fairly good idea (if we are really honest with ourselves) where we want to end up, regardless of what the verses might say. We have all developed an ability to "wrest" (2 Pe. 3:16) the scriptures, that is put them on the torture rack and twist and pull at them to make them say what we want them to say. As a result, my approach on this thinking cap will be to go from the general to the particular as openly as I can. 

This topic is important because women are now being ordained into the clergy and pastoral positions in virtually every denomination. I don't doubt their sincerity, nor their ability. But, is this Biblically a good or a bad thing?

1. Consider Adam and Eve before the Fall. God made male and female in his image equally (Ge. 1:27). God made man first, then Eve as a helper (Ge. 2:18). Man was given primary responsibility in creation (Ge. 2:19-20). Woman was made from the man (Ge. 2:21-22; 1 Cor. 11:8). Woman was made for the man (Ge. 2:18; 1 Cor. 11:9). Man named her "woman" (Ge. 2:23). Marriage was a divine institution (Ge. 2:24).

2. What can be concluded about Adam and Eve after the Fall? They were conscious of their nakedness, and sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves (Ge. 3:7). Fear emerged (Ge. 3:10). Self-justification emerged in both of them (Ge. 3:11-13). Bearing children would be painful (Ge. 3:16ab). The woman's desire will be for her husband (Ge. 3:16c). Man would rule over her. (Ge. 3:17b). Man would work by the sweat of his brow (Ge. 3:19).

3. Why is the distinction between Adam and Eve before and after the Fall important? It is important because Paul makes such a distinction (1 Tim. 2:11-15). Paul gives two reasons for his position --- the order of creation, and Eve's deception and sin. It is also important because Christian feminists believe that redemption in Christ effectively puts one back to a pre-fallen state. If a woman becomes a Christian, they say, she may be assured of being as Eve was before the Fall. It is pointed out that the husband's "rule" is done away with. Therefore equality implied (in the woman being made from man) is restored, according to this view. Thus, we must come to terms with this issue: Do we base our position on the pre-fallen situation which, some say, shows an equality? Or do we base our position on the post-fallen situation, which seems to accentuate the rule of man over the woman?

4. Paul's use of *kephale*, "head" in 1 Cor. 11:3 is the key to our understanding of the role of women. "But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God." The question becomes, does *kephale* mean head as "source," or head meaning "authority"? Those advocating the opening of the pastorate to women want *kephale* to mean "source." "Source" means only that woman came from man, as a river flows for a lake. Equality would become the order of the day. Those who take a more traditional point of view say that *kephale*  means "authority." This would suggest that "leadership is male." If so, the man has "authority" over the woman in the home and in the church.

5. In the LXX (Septuagint), the Greek translation of the Old Testament, with which Paul was familiar, *kephale* means "authority" every time. *Kephale* does mean "source" in a few passages of Hellenistic literature, but never does it take that meaning in the LXX. This would have influenced Paul's use of the word. In Eph. 5:22-24 ("Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing."), head (*kephale*) clearly means "authority." Likewise in Eph. 1:22-23, Christ has been exalted far above all rule and authority, power and dominion (vs. 21) and "head" can only mean "authority."

6. What does *kephale* mean in 1 Cor. 11:3? It could mean "source", but if that was all it means, the verse then makes no sense. If it means "source," then no-one is in charge --- they very issue Paul confronted. Therefore it must mean that Christ is the authority over every man. This is what Paul means by "head." Jesus Christ is in charge. Therefore every man must submit to Jesus Christ. Jesus is the head because He has been given all authority and power (Mt. 28:18). He knows the will of the Father and deserves and demands submission. Likewise, man is the authority over the woman. This does not mean "chain of command," that woman submits to man rather than to Christ. She submits directly to Christ. But part of her submission to Christ will be the affirmation that man is the head (authority) of the woman.

7. What then is the role of women in the church? 

a. In worship, Paul requires their submission and humility (1 Tim. 2:11). Their appearance should be feminine (1 Cor. 11:15 --- a covering of long hair).

b. They were allowed to pray and prophecy (1 Cor. 11:5). It was an assumption they could pray in public worship, as long as their appearance was godly. That a woman could prophecy was also assumed (Joel 2:28; Acts 2:18; Acts 21:9).

c. They were not allowed to teach or have authority over a man (1 Tim. 2:12). This would not refer to a woman teaching generally. She could surely teach children. She could teach other women (Tit. 2:3-4). She could teach alongside her husband (Act. 18:26). It refers to taking the place of those entrusted with the formation of apostolic doctrine. Only men were called to this (1 Tim. 3:1-7). The cultural factor has to be answered in the light of the eternal principles of 1 Tim. 2:13-14. The prohibition of a woman speaking in 1 Cor. 14:34-35 probably refers to her interpreting a tongue. It does not rule out her speaking at all (1 Cor. 11:5). Interpreting a tongue was seen as handling divine revelation that fell to an apostolic function.

d. If one adheres to the Bible as the sole basis for belief and practice, a woman could not be the senior pastor of a church; she could be a part of the team. The whole tenor of scripture suggests there is a difference between the sexes. The woman's role following the Fall is decidedly one of submission. 

8. What does this say about men? We are to be loving, caring and sensitive. Male chauvinism has done more to contribute to the lack of balance than many would care to admit. Had men over the years followed Paul's words, "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;" (Eph 5:25), there may never have been a Feminist Movement. Men must be more concerned that they themselves are loving than they are that women be submissive.  

Pleasant Thinking, 

Kent Haralson
Berean Baptist Church
West Palm Beach, FL


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