During the course of researching and writing this article we submitted a question regarding the issue of women in the pastorate to Dr. Albert Mohler. Dr. Mohler’s response was extremely insightful and we appreciate his input and in-depth explanation of his view on the subject at hand.
“I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.” -1 Timothy 2: 12-14
The church was appointed by God in Acts 2 at Pentecost and it’s foundation and initial formation were further explained throughout Luke’s writing of Acts (Acts 8:5-17; 10:44-48; 19:1-7). This marked the initiation of the visible church under the headship of the resurrected Christ (Col 1:18; Eph 1:22; 5:23). Instruction for how the church is to operate with regards to human leadership under the headship of Christ is most clearly seen in Paul’s letters to Timothy, and Titus, commonly referred to as the pastoral epistles. The church’s ultimate purpose is to bring honor and glory to God and to do that through reverent worship of Him in all things. The Bible is clear in the instruction it gives with regards to the proper order of the church, how it is to function, as well as what it is to accomplish while here on earth. When the Biblical church order is not followed, and the will of man usurps the written Word of God, it results in a compromised ecclesiastical structure. Bearing this in mind, an ever increasing trend that we are seeing within churches today is the practice of ordaining women to pastoral and elder-ship roles over entire congregations. This concerning propensity is widespread in our culture today and is not limited to a single denomination. I do not wish to address this issue flippantly or to present a one-sided opinion on my convictions. Rather, I desire to represent Scripture accurately and deliver truth unequivocally. I would also wish to be clear on the fact that I believe some of the churches which employ this practice have good soteriology, and therefore may be capable of proclaiming an accurate gospel in spite of inconsistencies in other areas. This article has come to culmination after several weeks of in depth research on the matter, careful consideration of argument’s from both sides including face to face conversations with pastors in churches that ordain women, and most importantly diligent study into what Scripture has to say about this issue.
While many churches will agree that men are to fill the leadership roles of elders and pastors within the church underneath the headship of Christ, there seems to be a gray area and much less uniformity when dealing with the issue of how we are to interact with churches that do not abide by a Biblical model of church leadership. Is the body of Christ separated by denominational boundaries that can only be crossed in the exhortation but not the rebuke of brothers and sisters that exist within the Church as a whole? Can we extend love and grace to fellow believers by remaining silent on the issue and encouraging them in the things in which they are abiding Biblically, hoping that our example will lead them back to obedience in that area? Or do we show our love for Christ and His Church by boldly proclaiming the written Word of God even in a postmodern culture that rejects anything but inclusivity?
Since we are created by God and the church is His with Christ reigning over it, we look to Scripture to see what His desire for the design and purpose of the church is, not to man and not to what society believes will be the best fit for the culture that we live in. In the creation account and the following fall of man into sin in Genesis 1-3 we see first that man and woman were created equal in the sight of God. So from a spiritual and soteriological standpoint men and women are equal before God. In Genesis 2 we see a more detailed account of the purpose and abilities of men and women. They were not created at the same time, Adam was created first and Eve was created as a helper for Adam after God saw that it was not good for Adam to be alone. “Then the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” (Gen 2:18). So we see even before the curse that wives were designed to submit to their husband and serve as a helper to him. This is not derogatory in any way to the woman it is in fact an honorable role and when used properly brings glory to God, honor and unity to the body of Christ, and stability to the family. We even see the very same word, helper, used to describe God in one of His relational roles to Israel (Deut 33:7; Ps 33:20). Once Adam and Eve sinned in the garden bringing a curse over mankind through their disobedience we see more explicit ramifications of the relationship between the man and woman (Gen 3:16-19). The fall of mankind into sin and the resulting curse produced a power struggle between man and woman, the woman will desire to have control and power over her husband and the husband will rule over her with authority and dominance (Gen 3:16). We see in the first three chapters of the Bible that God has already created a specific purpose for man and a specific purpose for women. Through man’s sinfulness, enmity and strife are now present in those roles.
Looking at the formation of the early church after Christ’s death, burial, resurrection, and ascension men and women both contributed greatly to the church (Acts 1:12–14; 9:36–42; 16:13–15; 17:1–4, 10–12; 18:1–2, 18, 24–28; Rom 16; 1 Cor. 16:19; 2 Tim 1:5; 4:19). However none of the apostles were women, none of the early church leaders were women, not one of the 70 were women, and no book of the new testament was written by a woman. We see in 2 Timothy and Titus the requirements for leadership in the church and they are not able to be filled by a woman. A woman cannot be the husband of one wife nor the head of the family. John MacArthur has said this in response to the question of women leadership in the church:
“Although the Apostle Paul respected women and worked side by side with them for the furtherance of the gospel (Rom. 16; Phil. 4:3), he appointed no female elders or pastors. In his letters, he urged that men were to be the leaders in the church and that women were not to teach or exercise authority over men (1 Tim. 2:12). Therefore, although women are spiritual equals with men and the ministry of women is essential to the body of Christ, women are excluded from leadership over men in the church. Men and women stand as equals before God, both bearing the image of God Himself. However, without making one inferior to the other, God calls upon both men and women to fulfill the roles and responsibilities specifically designed for them, a pattern that can be seen even in the Godhead (1 Cor. 11:3). In fulfilling the divinely given roles taught in the New Testament, women are able to realize their full potential because they are following the plan of their own Creator and Designer. Only in obedience to Him and His design will women truly be able, in the fullest sense, to give glory to God.”
We live in a time where we need to stand strong against the influence of what the culture says is relevant. Society does not define truth. We are not called as a church to be like the world. We are not called to soften the message of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ in an attempt to identify with the unbelieving world. We are called to fight for the truth that is laid out for us in the written Word of God and to be faithful in our own lives to follow His commands for us as believers. I am concerned with the apparent attitude of complacency and the unwillingness to stand up against those who attempt to dilute what is commanded in Scripture. Scripture is extremely clear on the issue of ecclesiastical structure. A church with a woman in the pastorate is in fact pastor-less. This is an issue of disobedience to Scripture in churches that hold to this practice. Unfortunately this is primarily a failing of the men in the church stemming from the lack of physical and spiritual leadership within the family. This does not negate the sin of women involved in the usurping of ecclesiastical authority, but men bear the brunt of the responsibility for it. Churches who hold to and teach a biblically ordained structure of the Church and its leadership need to be faithful to God through an unwavering proclamation of what is right, as well as faithful to their congregations in warning them of the things that dishonor God no matter how big or small they may seem. I also do not see room to endorse churches to your congregation as faithful brothers and sisters in Christ without warning them of the fact that they are compromised in some areas of ministry. Dr. Mohler in his response to this very issue was helpful in pointing out that there is a difference between fellowship and conversation among churches who have doctrinal inconsistencies.
If we are to be faithful stewards of Christ’s Church this is not a time for compromise, this is not a time for tolerance and acceptance of any and every view of Scripture and view of the church that is out there, this is a time to contend earnestly for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. If we allow faulty views of Scripture in any form into the Church that are clearly not in accord with Scripture, then where does it stop? How do you close the floodgates of compromise once you have allowed them to be opened in the Church? Stand on the firm foundation of Scripture and be valiant in its defense even in the face of unpopularity and social scrutiny. Speak truth in love (Eph 4:15) and bring honor and glory to our creator through the obedience and faithful proclamation of His written revelation given to us for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.