Sunday, March 25, 2018

Should Women Be Ordained? - Part 3

This is part three in a series on what the Bible says in regards to the ordination of women in the church. Again, instead of rewriting what I believe has already been well laid out, I am sharing Dr. Jim Feeney’s writings on the subject for your edification. You may disagree, and that is your right, but please be able to point to the Bible for your reasons and not the culture.

Argument #3: “We believe that particular Scripture [in First Timothy or in First Corinthians (see below)] is just 'situational' or simply a local cultural instruction.”

A Biblical Response: If the direct context and surrounding verses make it plain that a verse is related to a unique situation, then that is an understandable argument. A good illustration of this would be the prophet Nathan’s exposure of King David’s adultery (“Thou art the man!” — 2 Samuel 12:1-7). That is clearly a unique situation; it is certainly not an indictment of everyman.

However, the Bible as a whole was given as timeless truths and universal principles. In the absence of clear proof, it is a dangerous precedent to isolate verses and declare them “situational” or “cultural” and then to proceed in a direction contrary to the clear statements of those verses. There are two main Scripture portions (1 Corinthians 14:33b-37 and 1 Timothy 2:11-14) that, without situational or cultural reinterpretations, clearly prohibit women from leading or teaching men in the churches.

•• 1 Corinthians 14:33b-37   As in all the congregations of the saints, [34] women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. [35] If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church. [36] Did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached? [37] If anybody thinks he is a prophet or spiritually gifted, let him acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command.

• The command that women not speak in the churches is not situational or cultural. It was the inspired apostle’s teaching to apply to all cultures — “As in all the congregations of the saints ... women ... are not allowed to speak.” Many modern Western minds, having been beaten down for several decades by the secular Feminist Movement, react in horror at a statement like this. But it is urgently important that we hold to the Bible and not let our modern culture shape the Church and its practices. God wants His Church, by contrast, to influence the culture in the right ways of God.

• “As in all the congregations ... women should remain silent in the churches ... [KJV] as also saith the Law.” The apostle Paul wrote these verses to Corinthian Greeks and told them that “the Law” said the same thing. The Jewish Law had the same precepts that Paul wrote to the entirely different Corinthian Greek culture 1,500 years later. These were different cultures a millennium and a half apart. Yet Paul gave the Corinthians a cross-cultural, cross-millennial message concerning male leadership and speaking ministries in the Church. Significantly, under the Law the Jewish priests were all men. The apostle Paul’s carefulness in prohibiting the women from usurping men’s leadership roles in the church was entirely consistent with Mosaic Judaism’s teaching on this same subject (“as also saith the Law”).

• Some who have pushed for women’s leadership and pulpit roles in today’s Church have proclaimed that Paul was a male chauvinist. That is, pure and simple, an assault on the reliability and fully inspired nature of the Bible and deserves no further comment among Christians with a high view of Scripture.

• Others in trying to find a loophole in these verses in order to “liberate” women have suggested that, while not a male chauvinist, Paul must have been influenced by the biases of his culture or his personal maleness. Again, the simple, in-context reply to that false assumption is the text itself (vs. 37) — “What I am writing to you is the Lord’s command.” It was not Paul’s bias; it was the Lord’s command.

•• 1 Timothy 2:11-14   A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. [12] I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. [13] For Adam was formed first, then Eve. [14] And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.

• The statements here are so clear that it is understandable how those influenced by a feminist philosophy would wish to reinterpret them to be understood as merely situational and/or cultural. But they cannot be relegated to isolated, specific “situations” that are not revealed in the text. What is revealed in the text is that Paul intended these prohibitions for the Lord’s Church and was not just addressing local customs, practices, or marriage relationships (as some maintain). To the contrary, the apostle states, “I am writing you these instructions so that ... you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:14-15). These are instructions for the Lord’s Church, not to correct local or cultural problems. As 1 Corinthians 14:37 says of Paul’s similar teachings there, “What I am writing to you is the Lord’s command.” It is not situational, cultural, chauvinistic, or biased. It is for the entire Church Age the Word of God, “the Lord’s command”.

• 1 Timothy 3:15 asserts that these teachings reserve to men the roles of church leadership and pulpit ministry “in God’s household, which is the church. Likewise, 1 Corinthians 14:34 teaches that “women should remain silent in the churches”. I can find nothing in these verses that prohibit capable women from leadership in the secular realm — for example, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, in my opinion, a very capable leader of her country. No, these are commands for the Church.

• The apostle Paul wrote, “I do not permit a woman to ... have authority over a man... [13] For Adam was formed first, then Eve.” Genesis chapter two enables us to understand this reasoning. We see there that the man Adam was created by God and exercised dominion over the creation before Eve was even created. Based on that original design of God, Paul delivered the inspired Scriptural principle that women are not to have authority over men in the Lord’s work, because in the Garden of Eden God established the man in authority over the creation, then created the woman to be a “help meet” to the man (see Genesis 2:18, KJV, with 1 Corinthians 11:9).

• Also note that immediately after Paul forbade women having authority over men in the church (1 Timothy 2:12), the apostle then listed the qualifications of a church leader/overseer in 1 Timothy 3:1-7. These prerequisites for leadership roles included (vs. 2) that the leader is to be “the husband of but one wife”. Church leaders are to be male, not female.

• The apostle also wrote, “I do not permit a woman to teach ... a man ... For ... Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived...” Referring again to Genesis (chapter 3:1-6, 13), Paul forbade women to teach men. Again, Paul’s reasoning was not simply his own, but it was the inspired Word of God. And the reason God in His Word told the women of the church not to teach men was their susceptibility to deception, as revealed especially in Genesis 3:13, where, after she had eaten the forbidden fruit, Eve said, “the serpent deceived me”. It cannot be reinterpreted out of the text that the reason Paul listed for women not teaching men was the deceptibility factor seen first in Eve and still a relevant factor thousands of years later at the time God inspired Paul to write this.

• Someone might ask, “What about women teaching women on doctrinal issues?” I do not know that the Bible makes a clear statement on that. On the one hand, it is clear that older women are to teach younger women on womanly subjects (Titus 2:4-5 — “Then [the older women, vs. 3] can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands...”). But in this same chapter (vs. 1), Paul writes to Titus, the recognized spiritual leader, “You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine.” It was the male leader who was commanded to teach and establish sound doctrine. This fact — coupled with the Genesis 3:13 and 1 Timothy 2:14 references to the woman’s susceptibility to deception — leads me to recommend that the teaching of main doctrinal subjects in the churches be done by the male pastors, elders, and other male ministers.

• Let us for a moment hypothetically assume (as some assert) that Paul was writing to Timothy about some unnamed situational problem in the Ephesian church that Timothy led. Even if so, that would change nothing. Paul’s reply must still be seen as “scripture ... given by inspiration of God, and ... profitable for ... correction” of erroneous conduct “in God’s household, which is the church of the living God”(2 Timothy 3:16, KJV; 1 Timothy 3:15). There is no proof whatsoever in the First Timothy text that it was a situational issue. But even if it were, God spoke through Paul the heaven-inspired Scriptural principle that applied to that church and to all churches — that is, men are to lead and teach in the assembled congregation. Situational or otherwise, God established the principle of male leadership and male teaching roles in the assembled church.

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