Saturday, December 06, 2014

Shall Women be Preachers?

Eph 4:11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ …
The call to accept and encourage female preachers is not new, nor is the support for it new. The argument goes something like this. “Only Paul opposed women speaking up in the assembly, only in a couple of passages, and only in specific cultural settings. Maybe Paul contradicted Jesus, but Jesus was right and Paul was wrong. Jesus would have accepted female preachers; He said nothing against it. Besides, women who ‘have the gift’ or ‘feel the call’ must be allowed to preach. It’s a God thing! Those who resist are legalists who lack love and do not understand grace. However, they are still to be loved and somewhat pitied for their lack of enlightenment.”
As we begin let’s note that there is a bigger issue at stake here. It is quite surprising to me that anyone would discuss the specific question of female preachers apart from the wider question: “What does the Bible teach about the distinctive nature and roles of men and women?” After all, Paul (by the Holy Spirit’s inspiration) finds God’s answer to this question in Genesis! Creation and the fall, not any first-century culture or problem, are said to be the basis for addressing this matter. Note the following:
1 Tim 2:11–15 (ESV)
11 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15 Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.
Now look at 1 Cor 14. Some claim that 1 Cor 14 has to do only with the problems in that one setting, because of particular problems in Corinth. The text will not permit that inference. Note that Paul (again by the Holy Spirit’s inspiration) says regarding this instruction, “As in all the churches of the saints …” That seems clear enough.
There is more. The text makes it clear that this teaching is “as the Law also says.” The Law stipulated this arrangement, long before the gospel came to Corinth. The culture did not precede or determine the principle. Rather the God-given principle was the unchanging basis that was applied to the culture. Read the following carefully:
1 Cor 14:33–35 (ESV)
33 For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints, 34 the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. 35 If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.
So let’s return to the underlying issue: the distinctive roles of men and women. The subject of male spiritual leadership and responsibility, a mega-theme throughout Scripture, runs counter to our modern secular culture. Today’s politically correct (and “religiously correct!”) society seems almost to say that men and women are basically interchangeable and that there is no inherent distinction between the sexes and the roles they may fulfill.
The Bible’s message, however, has not changed. And it is unmistakably clear. Here are some principles and truths it declares.
God created both man and woman in His image to have dominion over all creation under His authority. Implication: man and woman are equal in value, in significance, and in esteem. Gen 1
God created man first and created the woman from the man as a suitable helper for him. Implication: man and woman are different in order of creation and in respective roles. Gen 2
The woman was deceived by the serpent and gave the forbidden fruit to the man. Implication: the woman disqualified herself from taking spiritual leadership. Gen 3; 1 Tim 2:11-15
God then said to the woman, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” Gen 3:16
God chose a man named Moses. Moses chose “able men” to serve as judges. He chose twelve male spies.
God chose a man named Aaron and his male descendants to serve as High Priests.
God chose a man named Levi and his male descendants to serve as priests and to lead the worship assemblies.
God chose male judges to deliver His people from oppression. The notable exception of Deborah is just that, an exception, which shows what happens when men like Barak refuse to lead.
God chose a man named David and his male descendants to be kings.
God chose numerous male prophets to preach.
What about the New Testament? Does the creation order no longer apply? Are men and women interchangeable, with no distinctions between their roles? Did Jesus change the original framework, and did Paul then contradict Jesus? Far from it.
Jesus chose twelve men to be His apostles. He commissioned these men (minus Judas Iscariot) to take the gospel to the entire world.
Jesus affirmed the Genesis account of creation and quoted it regarding marriage. Jesus never said anything that challenged or contradicted the truth of Genesis. Matt 19:1-9
Jesus in His parables consistently portrayed the father as the leader of the home. Cf. the Prodigal Son, the Marriage Feast, etc.
Jesus in His teaching consistently portrayed the father as the provider of the home. Luke 11:11-13
Jesus in His teaching consistently portrayed the Father using male terminology.
On the Day of Pentecost, the preachers were all men. They were the apostles. Note that this occurred in Jerusalem, not Corinth, before Paul ever became a follower and supposedly “invented” this idea to address a need in Corinth. Acts 2:7, 14, 37
Before Paul even became a Christian, the Holy Spirit directed the male apostles to appoint male servants to oversee the care of the Greek-speaking widows in the church. Acts 6
Before Paul even became a Christian, the Holy Spirit directed two men, Stephen and Philip, to preach. Acts 7, 8
Before Paul ever wrote 1 Cor or 1 Tim, the Holy Spirit directed that males would be appointed as elders to oversee every church. Acts 14:23
The only person specifically called an “evangelist” (one who preaches the good news) was a man named Philip. Acts 21:8
Women in the first century prophesied, but they were not permitted to do so in the church assembly. Acts 21:9; 1 Cor 11:4-5; 14:33-35
Paul (by the Holy Spirit’s inspiration) wrote that elders and deacons were to be men, each “the husband of one wife.” 1 Tim 3
Paul appointed males – Timothy and Titus – to preach and to lead churches in Ephesus and Crete.
Peter (by the Holy Spirit’s inspiration) also understood and stated the principle of male spiritual leadership. 1 Pet 3:1-7
According to the Greek text of Eph 4:11-16, the terms apostles, prophets, pastors / shepherds, and teachers were all masculine. They referred to male leaders in the church.
Male spiritual leadership is a grave, sobering responsibility. The fact is that men will give account to God for this stewardship. This is not the time for women to do what God expects of men. It is time for men to be men. "Preach the Word."
Cory Collins