Grace Bible Church Adult School of Biblical
Women's Ministry in the Local
Why Godly Women Should Be Submissive in Attitude
Dennis Gundersen, Pastor 2/27/00 cf. First Timothy 2:11-14
As the Apostle Paul begins to inform Timothy on "how the you ought to behave in the house of God" (cf. 1 Tim. 3:15), he explains how
are primarily called to initiate public praying in the local church, so that it becomes a center of powerful intercession and thanksgiving for the salvation of all kinds of people.
But women also have a ministry within the local church: they are to be modest in appearance (vs. 10a); they are to be involved in good works (vs. 10b); they are to be submissive in attitude (vss. 11-14); and they are to be dedicated to rearing children (vs. 15). Our last lesson considered the first two aspects of a godly woman's ministry, leaving us to further consider Paul's words, that
Godly Women are to Be Silent and Not Teach Men
Having appealed to women to be modest in appearance and adorned with good works, the Apostle is quick to explain a limit on these good works, i.e., they are to be submissive and not usurp the authority of men in the local church. Obviously, all saints should have a teachable attitude; and all members should manifest a submissive spirit to their elders. But in the gathered assembly, when the church meets, something more is required of the women.
In Hebrew tradition the women sat in a separate balcony or an ante-room at a distance during meetings, and that was as near as the ladies could be. A typical exposition of Deut 31:10-13 (i.e., men, women and children should hear, learn and fear) alleged that men came to
, children to
, women to
. They wrongfully implied that women were only there to hear and not learn, as men were. Paul disallows this bias by permitting women to be present during the teaching, not left out. But their presence is to be silent, not as contributors.
Actually, this is a two-facet command: she must be quietly receptive to the instruction with a submissive attitude (vs. 11), and she may not be a teacher in the gathered assembly (vs. 12). Paul further makes clear that the "ruling" position of Elder could not possibly be open to women, when he states emphatically that she is not to teach or exercise authority, a single word meaning to "govern." She must not "rule" in the way that those who teach rule. It has nothing to do with brains or inferiority. It has to do with a plan of God for order and making an order which is workable and recognizable. It's not her position. Women may teach groups of persons when those groups do not include men; but not with men present. That would be out of God's order. The reason that
follows is sweeping and significant in the context of any church, at any time.
Why Godly Women are to Be Silent and Not Teach Men
No doubt some feminist movements at Ephesus would react as some do today, claiming the Apostle was sexist or patriarchal, so he gives a twofold reason. First, because of something about how God created women at the beginning and second, because of something women have shown about themselves since creation. Notice both answers transcend the culture of Ephesus, going back to the dawn of mankind's creation. To explain it precisely, when a woman teaches in the church and thus attains to the leadership that gives to the speaker, she is behaving inconsistently with the sort of creature she is made to be. This is not what she was designed for by her Creator. And she is behaving in a way that blatantly ignores her own obvious personal weakness.
First Reason: The Man was Created First, Not the Women.
Adam was created first, then Eve, Paul says. So we need to look at Gen 1-2 to learn more about this, and when we do, we discover that the creation of Adam prior to Eve does not just establish a "Me first, so I'm the boss" precedent, but that God made Adam and then, finding it not good for the man to be alone, He created a helper suitable to his needs; one to come alongside and assist him. Was this design meant to teach something and not just be a fact of history? Paul says yes. This design was established, from the beginning of creation, to reveal that men were not given wives by God to lead them, but to assist their husbands. That being so, would God ordain an entirely opposite order in the larger, extended "family of God"? Paul says this couldn't be. So if women are public teachers in the church, their actions will be inconsistent with what God made them. For as teachers in the church, women would not only lead their own husbands, but one prominent woman could potentially lead the entire congregation. That could not be God's design, for God made a man and then finding that man to have some unmet needs for assistance, created an assistant for him. Women were made to be helpers. So the first reason is anchored to the order of creation.
Second Reason: The Woman was Deceived, Not the Man.
Paul's next reason is less popular than his first! "And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the women being quite deceived, fell into transgression." Women should not have the leadership involved in teaching in the church because the woman God gave Adam for a help-meet was the deceived one when error about God was presented. She was the one who got tricked into succumbing to temptation based on a lie. The point is obvious, i.e., woman lacked discernment; she was too gullible.
Paul is not minimizing the damage of Adam's sin or making excuses for Adam's sin or calling his sins less harmful because he was not deceived. Paul is not talking about which kind of sinner is worse, the ones who are tricked or the ones who walk into it knowing what they are doing. Adam probably knew better that he was sinning than Eve, when he disobeyed. He had heard God's command directly and there's nothing better about disobeying like that.
Women have shown, from the beginning of human history, that they succumb to temptation more often by being fooled, tricked or deceived. Hence, women are less suitable for leadership and teaching in the church, because false doctrine is an influence which usually creeps in through the sensitive minds of those who are more easily fooled. However that may sound or however much it clashes with our feelings, that's what Paul means in this passage.
Said another way, Paul looks back and says: "You ladies must be submissive to the men, for when you are not, tragic things happen. And it's no surprise. You weren't made to be the leaders, men were. You are prone to be deceived. What happened in the garden can happen in your church and bring harm to it; if ladies teach or are permitted to take charge, grave dangers will take place. Because in the garden we see the most important decision a lady ever made in human history without consulting her husband, and look at the results." Obviously, if a man does not allow a godly woman to correct him because that might be "taking authority over a man," he is using this to selfish advantage, not applying Biblical wisdom. Any good local church will have some saintly women with outstanding minds and gifts who can effectively lead other women and help give insight to men. But wisdom will be vindicated by her deeds and one of the deeds most outstanding in godly women will be an attitude, a demeanor, which shows that they are submissive.
Conclusion and Application
Just as men are to initiate powerful praying in the local church, so women are to adorn themselves in good works and cultivate an attitude of submission to men, because of the order of creation and because of what happened at the fall. Central to a woman's role is to help, assist and complement men. And the public worship of gathered saints is to illustrate this.
Does this mean that women cannot give their personal testimony during a worship service? What about women singing? What about women publicly praying?
How do we know that what the Apostle taught here, was not simply a cultural time-bound issue for women at Ephesus?
What help could you give to charismatic and liberal church attendees, who sit under the ministry of a woman Pastor or women Elders? Should you say anything? Have you said anything?
Teachers for the GBC Adult School of Biblical Theology research various commentaries and sources to glean a precise understanding of the text. No one claims originality and we all welcome constructive criticism to help better understand the Scripture. Our quest is to "search to see if these things are so."
Some question whether Paul's words are in fact a command to women to quietly receive instruction, since the word translated "quietly" often connotes "stillness," and being still is not the same as being quiet. Hence, Paul would be addressing a particularly
unruly group of women,
to settle down and listen respectfully to teaching and stop being loud and obnoxious. It's a weak objection, because frankly Paul leaves no warrant to be misunderstood. He drills his point in with three distinct words: "quietly" is only the first; "submissiveness" is added to that, he appends "entire" to submissiveness, and tops it off in v 12 saying a woman is not allowed "to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet." Times of public teaching are not hers to do, and they are not times for her to raise objections or challenging questions, even in the kind and generous manner in which godly men may do so.
Interestingly, Paul says "Adam was not deceived", raising a valid question: Did not Adam sin every bit as much as Eve? He certainly did. In fact, being the first created human, we learn in Rom 5:12ff. and 1 Cor 15 that Adam was the "head" of the human race, representing all of us! And as that head, when he fell into sin, we fell into sin. He stood for all of us and fell for all of us. So why is more made here of Eve's fall than Adam's?
In a world in which neither men or women are perfect and each has their tendency to sin in their own way. e.g., in acts of adultery. Most men who sin that way do so fully aware that what they are doing is wrong, hideous, unfaithful. But so often, women who fall into sexual sin with a man do so because some man has sweet-talked them and fooled them into thinking he really cares for them, when he may just want nothing more than sex.