Women in Church Office

by C.W. Powell

"And he gave some apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry..." Ephesians 4:11,12

"But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man." I Timothy 2:12

The church belongs to Jesus Christ. He is the head of the church and the director of all its parts. When he ascended into heaven, he provided for the welfare of his church by appointing the gifts of ministry. The purpose for these gifts is to bring God's people into obedience to God. The visible church ceases to exist where these gifts are debased and corrupted. The corruption of these offices begins with the appointing of unbelieving or unqualified men, it proceeds with the appointing of women, and ends, I suppose, with the appointing of sodomites.

The intrusion of women into these offices is a direct affront to the authority of Christ. There are two reasons for this: First: Because of the creation order: Man was created first, and the woman for the man, according to the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 11:9). Second: The Holy Spirit has forbidden the woman to teach or to usurp places of authority in the church. (I Timothy 2:12) Jesus appointed twelve apostles, all of them men. Of course, he did not have the benefit of instruction from the National Association of Women. Otherwise, he might have known better. If God had had the benefit of such instruction, Messiah would have been a woman.

These are days for strong men. There are far too many public relations experts in the pulpit, who hold their finger up to the prevailing wind of public opinion, rather than seeking counsel at the mouth of the Lord. Far too many men are truant before God in terms of exercising the authority and dominion given to them. It is a sad day for the church when people do not know whether they are men or women, either in sex or in office in the church.

The arguments in favor of women in church office are all based in humanism, not Biblical principle:

  1. Equality: The humanist confuses equality of being with equality of office. The Holy Spirit always distinguishes between the two. In Christ there is neither male nor female, bond nor free. But that doesn't mean we are to have unisex restrooms, or same sex marriages. Neither does it mean that women are to hold office in the church against the clear prohibition of scripture. It is a frightful sin for man or woman to usurp an office that God has not given. (Numbers16,17) All the congregation was holy, but that didn't mean that Korah could be priest. This in no way minimizes the very solid contribution women made to the ministry of our Lord, and the labor of love they have performed to establish the church in all lands. That is another subject, and must not be confused with the matter of church office. These contributions are immense and available to any who wish to know.

  2. Pragmatism: "A woman can do the job just as well as a man can." There is no doubt that there are women who are more talented, wiser, and morally superior to many men. There are also many talented men in the pews; but this does not mean all are to pastor churches. One of the most important duties of the church is to ``try those who say they are apostles,'' that is, to examine whether or not a person has a call for a particular office. No church bureaucracy can tender a true call, if God has not. Recognizing that only God could give the church worthy officers, the early church fasted and prayed before appointing them. In actual fact, the work of the Church can be done only by the power of God, for the church is spiritual. A faithful minister does not do the work in his own strength, but by the authority and power of Christ. A woman cannot do the job, because the task is to call people to obedience. A woman in church office is fatally compromised in this spiritual task because of her disobedience in usurping the office. She, of course, can lead the church to apostasy and ruin, just as a rebellious, unbelieving man can.

  3. Many men are unworthy. Rebellion always focuses on failure: children use the failings of parents as a reason for disobedience; citizens use the failings of government as an excuse for civil unrest; church members excuse their own sins by the failings of officers. The Heidelberg Catechism says that we are to obey those in authority ``with all due obedience to all their good instruction and correction, and also bear patiently with their infirmities, since it is God's will to govern us by their hand." (Q. 104) The failure of those in office is no excuse for the rebellion of anyone against God's order. Human failure is the reason that human government must be limited, with checks and balances, but a rebellious spirit is devilish, and overthrows all order. (I Samuel 15:23)

  4. Sentiment. Translation: I want it, therefore I should have it. The humanist makes much of feelings. "It makes me feel bad to be deprived of equal opportunity," somebody whines, and the humanist caves in. "I just don't feel the same about my marriage," is excuse enough to break the marriage vows or to leave children for somebody else to rear. God's rule is different: He doesn't excuse us from our marriage vows, our church vows, or our legal responsibilities because someone gets emotional. But humanism cannot be extricated from the bog of emotionalism by logical arguments, because they equate sentiment with love, and pretend to have the high moral ground. "Aren't we supposed to love?" they intone piously. "Why do you hate women?"

  5. Denial of apostolic authority: Paul was a chauvinist, a man of his times, and this flavored his instructions to the churches. Modern man is more enlightened in his efforts to "free" the woman. But Paul did not speak his own words: the words were given to him by God (I Cor. 2). Liberal theology spares no effort to substitute the words of man for the words of God. "Don't listen to Paul," they say. "Listen to us. We are scholars. We know better." The premise is not true and is a subtle denial of the inspiration of Scripture. Besides, if Jesus is not God, but only an inspired man, then what makes him right? And if he is God, the appointing of men only to the apostleship makes a statement for all the ages, and is in line with the theology of Paul, Peter, and the other apostles. The Son of God knew what he was doing. He underscored apostolic authority by saying, "As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you." He did not speak his own words, and they did not speak theirs.

But what does humanism care about the Bible? What really counts is man's word, man's feeling, and man's glory that counts. Or should we say womyn's word, womyn's feeling, and womyn's glory?

Objection: Didn't God use Deborah as a prophetess? What about Joel's prediction that women would prophesy? Of course, if the Bible does not speak with authority then we can disregard these places, can't we? But if it does speak with authority, these places must be reconciled to the prohibition of women "usurping" authority and teaching in the church. The reconciliation is simple: God is free to use whatever means he wants to convey his message at special times. One time he used a small child to predict the end of the house of Eli, the high priest. Another time he used an ass to speak to the prophet. Shall we install children and asses in church office?

Those who reduce all debate to emotional paroxysm will now accuse me of equating women with children and asses. Rebellion is never rational, but only emotional, and cannot be subdued with debate. This ad hominem argument is refuted by stating that I love both women and children. I have been married to the same delightful woman for over thirty years. Her friends know her as a strong woman who kept her home, taught in Christian school, and reared six sons, and labored as a helpmeet to her dinosaur husband. I fought those who tried to restrict a woman's "place" to the home. I never knew many donkeys and so cannot claim affection for them.

We cannot cut the knot by saying that Paul was speaking to the culture of his day, and forbade women to usurp authority because it might offend that culture. If true, then feminists of the last generation should have given that generation the respect Paul gave his. But it isn't true. Paul says that women are not to usurp office because of the order of women in creation: "Adam was first formed and then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.." (verses 13,14) In the created order, before sin had even entered the world, the woman was cast as a helper, not as one to exercise dominion and authority over the man. The Holy Spirit speaks in a similar manner through the Apostle Peter, commanding wives to be in subjection to their own husbands, and husbands to give honor to their wives as to the "weaker vessel." (I Peter 3) Peter also teaches that the true adornment of the woman is a "meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price." Such ideas are not fashionable in today's "enlightened" society, but that does not make God's word void, or change the nature of men and women. Some think they are wiser than the apostle, and can tell us what he meant to say. Every age has those who try to re-interpret the Bible to fit the public.

We are all to live under authority. Ephesians 5:21 commands us to be "filled with the Spirit," and then tells us what that means: joy in the heart; thanksgiving to God; and submission to each other. Then, he tells us what this submission is (5:22-6:9): Husbands and wives are to submit to the order God has provided for the home; children and parents are to live in God's order; so are masters and servants (management and labor). Slavery is not living under authority, but being forced to live under unlawful authority. Those who impose the rule of women in the church are subjecting the church to unlawful authority, to slavery. (Isaiah 3:11,12 David put it clearly: "I will walk at liberty: for I seek thy precepts." (Psalm 119:45) There are fearful warnings to those who would presume to speak for the Lord, when He did not appoint them: "I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in my counsel, and had caused my people to hear my words, then they should have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings.... I am against the prophets, saith the Lord, that steal my words every one from his neighbor." (Jeremiah 23:21,22,30)

Notes: Rev. C.W. Powell is Pastor of Trinity Covenant Church in Colorado Springs, California.

"Humanist" in these papers means one who makes man the reference point in his thinking, rather than God and the scripture. Though he speaks of "God," the humanist denies that God has revealed Himself in the Bible. He relies upon his own thoughts, feelings, and intuition about God, and uses the Bible only to confirm these thoughts, feelings, and intuition. Those who have other definitions should defend their own turf.

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