top of page

Women Preachers?

This is the follow-up episode to the one regarding Beth Moore and John MacArthur.

A lot of heat and memes were generated by a casual comment from MacArthur at a conference the other week.  Like all things today, outrage was the reaction.

At some point our culture is going to find itself simply exhausted trying to keep itself so riled up in hurt, angst, and such.  But that time has not yet arrived, so we must endure fake tears and fake humility and fake battles against fake enemies all in the name of social purity.

Meanwhile the core issue regarding Beth Moore is not being answered by too many who are leaders in the church today. The pressing question that needs to always be asked in every situation is what does the bible say regarding the issue?  It is that simple.

And then the work begins by studying and dealing with the text itself.  Not our emotions, or our presuppositions, or our cultural values. Just, deal with the biblical text.

But if you listen or read so much of what people are communicating right now on this subject, you’ll find a lot of heat, but very little light. 

And this is shameful and should be seen as shameful.  The teachers of the church are always to guide the faithful back to the Word of God, every single time. But instead, we find the teachers reflecting the same terrible spirit of the false prophets of Israel who will not speak truth. And at that point, opinion and cleverness of speech becomes the guide.

But once everyone is looking at the bible, then a genuine conversation can occur. We can debate the text.  We can wrestle with the text. But everyone is focused on the text. And in the end, our actions should reflect what we learn from the biblical text.

With this whole controversy over Beth Moore we want to use it to shed light on a subject that has become divisive.  We want to simply ask, what does the Word say about women and teaching.

We have six points in a key passage. 

Framing this argument is important because it defines what is discussed.

Too many people are trying to argue about whether a woman is to be preaching.  Or should they be preaching from a pulpit? Or should they be preaching from a pulpit in the main Sunday gathering? Or should they be allowed to preach if the elders permit them to teach, but under their “umbrella of authority?”

But the bible simply doesn’t address it at that narrow of a level, so we find ourselves in an awkward position, at least in the eyes of some.  So as we walk through the key passage regarding women preaching (or teaching) we would simply ask that if possible the listener have a bible open and follow along.

Our goal is not to convince anyone. We learned a long time ago that it’s not possible.  Rather, it’s simply to present (and proclaim) with as much clarity the Word of God, and let the chips fall where they may.

If a person is truly wanting to understand, or at least begin to wrestle over the issue at a textual level, that’s the person we want to engage.

Many have come with preconceived notions, who haven't done an honest study of the text for themselves, but have simply adopted the statements of others.

And that’s where a lot of this is at.

Many have heard a few brief statements on FB, or have seen a 2 min. Video clip, but have never done a serious examination of what the Bible says. Nor have they thought about what type of hermeneutic they’re using (or not using) when they choose to read the texts.

So it’s our desire to get people to think and to slow down for a moment and consider how much of what they think (or believe) is actually bound up in a biblical framework.

Again, we’re not going to deal specifically with those who argue that there are no restrictions regarding the teaching ministry of women in the church.  That view will be answered simply by dealing with the text, itself.

Rather, what we’re going to seek to do, is attempt to show how the Bible reveals that the role of teaching in the church is very limited in the sense of the audience and the purpose.  And as a result, the bible also limits who can and should teach.

The key passage on teaching prohibitions.

1 Tim. 2:8-15 “Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension. Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments;  but rather by means of good works, as befits women making a claim to godliness. Let a woman quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being quite deceived, fell into transgression. But women shall be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint.”

There is a flow of logic in this passage that is very easy to follow, and only when you try to make it not say what it’s saying, does it, then, become somehow complex.

Some of this we will deal with very lightly as not everything directly is tied into teaching and the role of women.

First, men should be leading the church in prayer.

Vs. 8 marks out the men specifically.  In the beginning of the chapter he speaks of the need to pray for those in power.  Here, now, he focuses upon the men of the church.

And so he says, they're to be pure in heart so that they might pray properly and effectively.

The problem implied (in the context of what Paul’s speaking into) is that there were fights (and disunity) occurring in the church among the men, and so it was stifling true prayer.  So he says to put these sins away.

Behind this is the idea that it is not the proper “look” of men to be fighting with each other.  Rather, they should be praying men. This is what they’re to be known for. This is what should draw people’s interest about them. They shouldn’t be known for their personal agenda, but they should be known as godly men of prayer, seeking the good of everyone else in the church.

Second, women are to be careful with their dress (9-10).

“Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments; but rather by means of good works, as befits women making a claim to godliness.”

This isn’t a hard passage to understand either, but it’s often met with some incredible resistance. And yet, that resistance is very revealing.

Paul simply states that women are to wear clothing that is respectable. There’s so much that could be said here . . . . But suffice it to say that the way a woman dresses conveys very clear messages about herself and her values.

And that’s the underlying principle for Paul.

The internal desire always makes its way to the external. And so, in the case of women, the internal state of the heart, and that which a woman truly wants to be known for, will always manifest itself in an external way.

For men, it’s manifested in multiple ways, but for women, a key one is often their dress.

In light of that, Paul enlarges on that to say that the way a woman dresses should express a modest heart and sound judgment/sober thinking.  Expensive clothing is not something to show off on instagram, it is something to repent of. He expands it even more to say that the hair styles and such are to be kept free from ostentatiousness.  

In fact, imagine the poor slave girl who comes to worship and is now sitting near her, is a woman with the latest clothes, and beautiful perfume, and the fancy makeup and hair.  Imagine the message communicated in that.

And so, how he then sums it up in verse 10 is so good because he refuses to give a specific dress code.  

Rather he says, “dress and conduct yourself in such a way that it models what a godly person should look like.” In other words, when you look at your closet (and your mirror), the question asked is very simple, does this external appearance express that I’m a lover of Christ and a godly woman? Or does it express a desire to be recognized simply for “me.”

So that’s the question to ask.

He doesn't give a list of acceptable clothes, or amount of jewelry you can where, rather he always brings it to the heart.

And then he ends it with a key point, adorn your life with good works.  And this is what is said over and over to women in the NT -- be busy with good works.

Are people noticing you for the external things you adorn your body with?

Or are people noticing you because your entire life is adorned with works befitting that of righteousness?

Third, women are to be active learners (11).

“Let a woman quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness.”

The command is to learn (present active imperative).

Very simple and straightforward.

Learning isn’t something that only men should be actively engaged in. But also women.

The question then becomes, how are they to learn? And Paul gives two statements that fill out the idea of learning.

In quietness.  

There’s a question on if this means silence, or if it’s more speaking of a heart attitude of peaceableness.

But since it’s being set in the context of teaching (in v. 12), then it’s best to see it as quietness-- (though the peaceableness is captured in that as well.)

And this is where understanding grammar and syntax  is helpful.

If you try to understand (or interpret) this idea of quietness (or silence) in v. 11, without first understanding that it’s tightly connected to v. 12, then you’re not going to understand the statement rightly.

Paul is making a connection, here, and so you should let that grammatical connection inform the interpretation of what he means when he uses the term (silence).

So in light of that, this also brings up the question of, is this a statement of no speaking at all? 

So again, if we simply leave v. 11 on it’s own, then you have to conclude that it’s the idea of women not speaking at all -- absolute silence.

But, if you do keep it connected to v. 12, then it’s best understood, then, to be describing the idea of disputing and talking in such a manner, so as to control the instruction (and then through that, slip in teaching on the side).

And this is (likely) the idea of what was happening in Ephesus.

In fact, this isn’t dissimilar to what people do when they start praying for someone, but then really just start to lecture them in the prayer.

The second way she is to learn is interesting.  It is to be in full/complete submission.

What makes this stand out is his insertion of the word pasa (“entire”).

Submission is the appropriate response for everyone toward authority.  The common word and each Christian has various people and institutions to which they submit.

Here, the way a woman is to learn is quietly and with a mindset of submission.

They are not to do it with a half-heart nor with a thought of looking for a way to take over the teaching. 

 Fourth, they are not to teach, nor are they to have authority over men (12).

“But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.”

There’s a little word, de, that is a mild adversative.  It is not so much a contrast, as much as, it’s a word that helps us verbally make a transition to the next point.

So what he’s doing, then, is moving from the idea of learning quietly (and submissively)-- which he frames in a positive statement (in v. 11), to, then, further clarifying it by giving two negative statements.

So in v. 11 he states it in a positive way.

And, then, in v. 12 he states it in a negative way.

So in v. 12, then, he’s making the simple point that to teach or to have authority over men is not permitted in the church.  Now, he doesn’t use an imperative with term “permit,” and likely because the imperative is already bound up in vs 11 with the command instead to quietly receive instruction.

So, note, then, that women are not to teach.

Now this is not the term for preach.  And so, it can’t be understood to simply be the idea of formal preaching behind a pulpit.

Nor, is it speaking of teaching that is merely “authoritative,” as some choose to interpret it.

Rather, the word, here, “to teach” is commonly used in the New Testament simply to refer to instruction in biblical truth -- (and that’s any kind of instruction in biblical truth). That is, teaching doctrine. Instruction in theology and exposition of the bible.

Note also, they are not to have authority over men.

Here is a second prohibition.

There is no way to make this mean just “authoritative teaching.”  

Rather this is a completely separate category from “teaching.”

It’s the idea of exercising authority over someone or some group. And so, here, it’s specifically stated to be over men.

There is not a lot that needs to be discussed on this part because it is very straightforward.

However, this idea of condensing the idea of “teaching” with “authority,” so that it somehow means “authoritative teaching” is the gymnastics that people play.

They’re two very different categories, here.

Now they are connected, because there’s something inherently authoritative to the nature of teaching. And so Paul is picking up on that.

But he’s essentially saying: I don’t permit a woman to teach a man, and precisely because I don’t permit a woman to exercise authority over  a man.

So he’s not saying they can teach, as long as they don’t do it in an “authoritative way”-- (that just doesn’t make sense, because again, authority is always inherent to the nature of teaching). But rather, it’s I don’t permit a woman to teach a man, but in the first place, because women are not permitted to exercise authority over a man.

This also applies to those who try to make the argument that if elders allow women to teach, then it’s somehow okay because she is teaching as a result of the elder’s authority.

The simple response to this is, you’re not allowed to sin, even if the elders tell you it’s okay to sin.

This is like saying that a woman can lead her husband because the husband has determined the wife may now have the authority to lead the home.

It’s inherently contradictory.

A final point that is helpful with this verse, is to understand the term for “man” here, refers to adult males.  This helps clarify the restriction.

He then reiterates the idea of being quiet.  It is expected.

Fifth, the argument for these prohibitions are rooted in Genesis 1-3 (13-14).

This requirement has NOTHING to do with some sort of contemporary problems in Ephesus.  This is one of the most common ways people try to dismiss this passage.

You’ll often hear that there were women in the church who were teaching false things and this is what Paul is speaking about.

However if you read the book with any care, it is obvious that Paul makes it clear that the false (and bad teachers) were men.  It’s always men, who come into the church and homes and create problems.

Second, this has nothing to do with the contemporary view of women in the culture.  There is no accomodation taking place.  

Paul roots the reasoning of the command from the order that man and woman were created, and also the consequences of how they fell into sin.  Therefore, the mandate is transcultural.

This is a simple chiastic structure where the prohibition of teaching connects to the fact that Eve was deceived.  And the prohibition of authority is connected to Adam being created first.

There are consequences to the Fall.

And there is a purpose behind the way God created mankind.  It also presupposes that man and woman were unique creations, unlike so many evangelical teachers who argue for prehumanoid evolution.

Again, these are not hard to follow.  They are just hard to accept if culture and personal beliefs are greater than the Word.

Sixth, Paul gives us an illustration that captures everything that he has just taught (vs 15)

“But women shall be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint.”

“Preserved” vs “saved” is a question.  The term can mean either. The answer lies in the purpose of the passage.  It most certainly is not meaning that having babies is the means by which a woman is saved from God’s wrath.

What’s going on here is that Paul is using a figure of speech called a synecdoche to sum things up.  

This simply means that you refer to a part of something to actually refer to the whole.  

“Check out my new wheels” is a way to refer to your new car.  “All hands on deck” refers to sailors. 

So here, Paul takes the one thing that’s unique to women, (the ability to bear children), and uses it to speak of their calling.  So he’s simply saying, embrace God’s design for you. Be busy with that work. And it will preserve you. Rebel, resent, and resist this calling and no good thing will come, up to and including apostasy.

But don’t think just embracing your femaleness is enough.  Use it to express their faith, their holiness, and their self-control.

So, back to Beth Moore.

By simply applying this text to the situation everything basically goes away.

She should not be teaching in mixed audiences at all.  It really is that simple. It has nothing to do with whether it’s a Sunday or it’s behind a pulpit or anything like that.

It doesn’t matter what sort of anointing she has, or gifting, or opportunities.  What matters is what the bible says is good or bad, right or wrong.

So, we’re planning to do another episode to try to flesh out the application of this text (and a few others) to expand our sense of what a woman’s calling in the church ought to be with regard to teaching.


Couldn’t Load Comments
It looks like there was a technical problem. Try reconnecting or refreshing the page.
bottom of page