God has appointed men as leaders in the home and in the church
After Adam and Eve had sinned, God appointed the husband as leader: "To the woman He said: 'I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; in pain you shall bring forth children; your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you'" (Genesis 3:16).
The husband is the head of the wife.
"Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything" (Ephesians 5:22-24).
"Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord" (Colossians 3:18).
"Likewise you wives, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear" (1 Peter 3:1,2).
Both the husband and wife provide leadership for the children.
"Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord" (Colossians 3:20). "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 'Honor your father and mother,' which is the first commandment with promise: 'that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth'" (Ephesians 6:1-3).
"And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4). Fathers are responsible for bringing up their children in the training and admonition of the Lord. This requires much wisdom and constant attention from birth until the child is grown.
Bringing up children in the training and admonition of the Lord means that their upbringing must be according to the word of God. It also involves teaching children the Scriptures, not only in word, but even more importantly, by example.
Timothy knew the Scriptures from childhood (2 Timothy 3:15). The genuine faith which first dwelt in his grandmother Lois and in his mother Eunice, was also in him (2 Timothy 1:5).
Men have been appointed by God as leaders in the church.
Jesus, the Head of the church, is a man (1 Timothy 2:5). The twelve Apostles are men. Elders and deacons are men -- since they must be "the husband of one wife" (1 Timothy 3:2,12).
Providing leadership in the church is a grave responsibility. Paul told the elders at Ephesus: "Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood" (Acts 20:28). An elder must hold "fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict" (Titus 1:9). Peter wrote: "The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by constraint but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away. Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for 'God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble'" (1 Peter 5:1-5).
Older women teach younger women.
"The older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanders, not given to much wine, teachers of good things -- that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed" (Titus 2:3-5).
Some restrictions are placed on women.
This is to substantiate God's appointment of men as leaders in the church.
"Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. 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 Timothy 2:11-14). "Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church" (1 Corinthians 14:34,35).
We notice three specific restrictions which will be discussed individually: women are to remain silent in the assembly, they are not to teach men, and they are not to exercise authority over men.
Women must remain silent in the assemblies.
"Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church" (1 Corinthians 14:34,35). "Let a woman learn in silence with all submission" (1 Timothy 2:11).
Since men are to lead, women may not teach or lead when men are present. To substantiate men's leadership role, and to avoid any misunderstanding, women are specifically commanded to be silent in the assembly.
This does not apply to singing together, since in that case women are not exercising leadership or authority, but are following the brother who is leading the congregation. It would be wrong, however, for a woman to sing solo or to participate in leading the singing.
Women are not permitted to teach men (1 Timothy 2:12).
Again, this prohibition substantiates the leadership role God has assigned to men. Also outside the assembly, a woman is not to serve as a teacher of men. In an informal and submissive manner, women are free to participate in a mixed Bible study -- which is not viewed as an assembly -- but the study must be led by a man. This restriction is not violated when a woman teaches women or small children.
This certainly does not mean that a man may never learn something from a woman! Apollos is an example of this. "Now a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus. This man had been instructed in the ways of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John. So he began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately" (Acts 18:24-26).
Notice that they "took him aside" and notice that they "explained" the way of God to him more accurately. These expressions depict a conversational situation.
This passage is sometimes misapplied to appoint a woman, or a man and woman together, to lead a mixed Bible class. In the case of Apollos, however, there was not a teacher-student relationship.
The example of Aquila and Priscilla does show that a Christian couple may invite a preacher into their home and explain the way of the Lord to him more accurately! Many preachers have benefited from such help!
Women may not exercise authority over men.
"And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man" (1 Timothy 2:12).
Again, this restriction is simply a consequence of God's appointment of men to lead the church. Leadership is not limited to the assembly. Just as a woman may not teach men, neither may she lead men. For this reason, prayers are led by men in a mixed Bible study, although women join in the discussion.
Some try to justify women participating in "chain" prayers in a mixed group by claiming that each one is just saying his own private prayer, and is not leading the others. According to Jesus, however, private prayers should be said in private: "But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly" (Matthew 6:6). According to Paul, group prayers should be understandable, so all can say "amen" (1 Corinthians 14:15,16). The thoughts of the group are being led by the one saying the prayer. Thus, outside the assembly as well, the prayers of a mixed group must be led by men.
All of the passages in which restrictions are placed on women are in a domestic or religious context. Paul tells Timothy he is writing these things "so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God" (1 Timothy 3:14, 15). Thus it would be extending these prohibitions beyond the context to claim that women may not have leadership roles in business or politics.
At the other extreme, some limit the application of 1 Timothy 2:12, "And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man," to the assembly. The house of God is not a building or a meeting place, however, but is God's family, God's people. Most of what the church does is done from day to day as the living body of Christ. Preaching and teaching are done outside the assembly. Prayers are led outside the assembly. Religious authority is exercised outside the assembly. Thus the restriction that women are not to teach or exercise authority over men also applies to the work of the church and religious activities in general and not just to the assembly.
When a church has elders, decisions are of course made by the elders who are men. When a church does not have elders, since women are not to exercise authority over men, decisions must be made by the men of the congregation.
Man's leadership is compared to Christ's leadership.
This applies both in the home and in the church.
"Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord" (Ephesians 5:22).
To the church at Corinth, where some women were rebellious, Paul wrote: "But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God" (1 Corinthians 11:3).
Man's leadership does not mean that he may be a tyrant. He himself is under the authority of Christ. His leadership must agree with the word of God. He has no right to contradict God's word. In such a case Peter's explanation to the Jewish leaders would apply: "We ought to obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29).
What about women who prophesied?
Philip had four virgin daughters who prophesied (Acts 21:9). Paul mentions women who prophesied (1 Corinthians 11:4-10).
Some misuse these examples to invalidate the commandment that women must be silent in the assembly. It is never said, however, that women prophesied in the assembly. They who make that claim are not joining the Scriptures together, but are tearing the Scriptures apart! Several passages must be combined on the basis of what is stated. They may not be brought into conflict by adding something not stated. Since women are not to speak in the assembly and since women are not to teach men, their prophecy was limited to teaching women outside the assembly.
Let us respect God's appointments.
God has appointed the husband as head of the wife, and men as leaders in the church. As a consequence, women are not to teach men, are not to exercise authority over men, and are not to speak in the assembly. Decisions for the church are made either by the elders or, if there are none, by the men of congregation. God has appointed men as leaders in the home and in the church.
The Scripture quotations in this article are from
The New King James Version. ©1979,1980,1982, Thomas Nelson Inc., Publishers.
Permission for reference use has been granted.
Published in The Old Paths Archive