Grace Bible Church Adult School of Biblical Theology
Women's Ministry in the Local Church:
What is to Be Central to the Role of a Woman's Life?
Dennis Gundersen, Pastor 3/5/00
cf. First Timothy 2:15
As we have discovered, just as men are to initiate powerful praying in the local church, so women have vital ministry. In summary: godly women 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). Their submission is based on the order of creation (i.e., Adam was first formed then Eve) and the essence of the fall (i.e., Eve was deceived, not Adam). The final passage of the chapter gives focus to what is central to the role of the woman's role, i.e., raising children.
But women shall be preserved (i.e., saved) through the bearing of children, if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint.
In what way does Paul mean women are saved through bearing children? Obviously he doesn't mean that women are justified by having children. The key word is, of course that word "saved" (Greek,
) NASV translates
. The Greek verb has a variety of uses in the NT: 1. being saved from sin, 2. Physically delivered from a shipwreck, 3. healing from illness, 4. postponement from death, even 5. protection from deception by false teachers. Hence the term does not demand it refers to salvation from sin. It can refer to anything from which we are saved.
What Paul says "saves" women is probably merely a reference to how godly women are going to keep themselves out of harm's way. Then when Paul says, "if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint," he is speaking of their perseverance in the faith. This is similar to, "He who endures to the end shall be saved." cf. Matt 24:13; Rev 2:26.
We are all to continue in "faith". To call on us to continue in "love" is to call on us to persist in the good works which are the sum of our obedience. To continue in "sanctity" is to continue in holiness; it's a form of the word used for "saints", what we are. And to continue in "sanctity
" is to say, it is imperative that a woman's holiness be a self-controlled holiness. None of this is at all out of the ordinary for any Christian.
As for men, so for women, of course, who are one in Christ and in His one way of salvation, that it is by faith in Christ, and that not a temporary, momentary claim of faith but a life of faith in the Son of God. And it shows all these marks in all. But in the context we can affix some special meaning to these, particularly in the context of the more peculiar phrase, "women shall be saved through the bearing of children IF they continue
" in these traits.
Why would Paul cite this one act - bearing children? Not even a good deed, like "raising children", but using the term "bearing", almost universally used in Scripture for giving birth or begetting children into the world. It can be used for the whole process of raising children up, & we could say it is inconclusive whether Paul had in mind just the birth of children or the rearing of children. But his word almost always means just "birth".
Would Paul risk speaking of this as though it had some merit that might earn salvation? Not at all. We could never charge the Apostle of grace with confusing the way of salvation, but clearly he is using some sort of manner of speaking which is not precisely how we would have said it. But hey, it makes the Bible a rich book for us, and not always predictable, right? Taking Paul in his own context - what has he been saying women should
To not do
Adorn themselves modestly in dress
Adorn their walk with good work
Quietly receive instruction with submissiveness
Not adorn themselves in attention-grabbing ways
Not teach in the church as a gathered assembly, with men present
Not exercise authority over a man
This context leaves us only this choice: Paul, having named some areas that a woman of good works will
from (seizing authority in the church) he has yet to name specific good works she
be doing. His only
"to do's" so far have been negatives; did you notice that? His only positive comment about her duty has been general: that she should do "good works."
So it only makes sense that he would fill out and explain his exhortation to good works, at the last. And why not with this - with a focus on her children as her primary sphere of good works?
It is common for writers to speak of "a part" as though it were "the whole", and I do think Paul does not mean to exclude her love for her husband or her other home duties by saying that "bearing children"
" her, but rather I see him as using that to sum up her entire ministry at home.
I also see him doing this: he cites one major facet of a godly woman's obedience, as the certain fruit which will emerge from a life of good works done unto Christ. 1 Tim 4:16
sheds light on this point, as we see Paul writing to another class of persons in the same way - naming part of Timothy's own task as a manifestation of a fruitful life to God:
Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things; for as you do this you will insure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.
There's a verse which makes a Christian squirm in discomfort when we read it - for it says Timothy
his salvation by faithfully persevering in personal discipline and in his care over his teaching. That he even insures the salvation of others! Is this contrary to grace? Think of it this way. Would you be uncomfortable if I said "A man who walks in righteousness before God will be saved"? Probably not. We know that "without holiness, no man will see the Lord", Heb 12:14. If the general does not make us uncomfortable, then to state it with a focus on some specific good work should not make us uncomfortable either.
Look at another instance of the same kind of wording: 1 Tim 6:17-19. It's an exhortation to "those who are rich in this present world":
Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed.
Does a rich man "store up for himself" heavenly treasure, his good foundation for the future, and take hold of eternal life by being generous and ready to share? Isn't that salvation by works? We can confuse ourselves about Paul's meaning that way. But isn't it just as easy to say that a genuinely converted rich man will manifest his being in the grace of God by being fruitful in this way? Could we regard an utterly selfish rich man as converted?
You see, coming to faith in Christ and being His faithful disciple does not just involve
good works of our own choice; it includes submission to Christ in the particular good works to which we, in our callings, have been called. For all of us, coming to faith in Christ meant a new life in some very specific matters. Repentance was connected with real life choices. It had an affect on the role which was central to your God-given duty in life.
For a man who is pastor, we would be so disturbed to find a lack of personal discipline combined with carelessness about what doctrine he preached, we would wonder if he was a Christian. And why not? It is essential fruit in a pastor's life to be exemplary and to be careful about doctrine.
A believer possessing a lot of wealth, if he was selfish and hoarding, of course it would be only honest to wonder if he was saved! Who could help it? A rich man who was "a new creation" will walk as a new creation in particulars. We expect fruit to show in the main calling in which one is called. A cruel master; a disobedient child; an unsubmissive wife; an abusive husband; a tyrannical ruler. Why do we think they are not Christians? Because the heart of what they are supposed to be is unchanged.
This explains why, when John the Baptist came preaching "the salvation of God", Luke 3:7, the next thing we find men asking him is, "What shall we do?" His answer to each pertains to the main calling of each.
So it is here in 1 Tim 2:15 with women. What woman can truly be walking with God, if she is in rebellion against her primary area of calling? She must continue in that - a focus on her duties at home with her children. Along with love, with sanctity, with self-restraint - a self-restraint which will prevent other wishes to do this or that from overcoming her heart, so she can keep herself focused on this calling.
Faithfulness, for most women, will in the plan of the God who saves them, take them through the path of this good work - mothering. So are you getting it? If good works follow salvation and show it to be real, then a good fruit which inevitably demonstrates in most Christian women's lives that she is in Christ by faith, that demonstrate her to be the godly woman she claims to be is, her devotion to raising and training her children. There is no godly woman who neglects this. It is an essential to her walk with God, and a woman who will not practice this is in a rebellion at heart that demonstrates the absence of faith in Christ. That, I see as Paul's meaning.
She is not striving for prominence in the church. She is not eager for her voice to be heard in the middle of every controversy in leadership. She has her own calling. She aims to train up a godly heritage and this prior work at home would be neglected if she was seeking to lead in the church. Let others, whom God calls to rule, rule in the church. The righteous woman will serve where she is called.
The world has made a target of demeaning this for almost a century now. But the least bit of common sense and thought shows that there is nothing to minimize here. The potential influence a mother has is well-known; the constant opportunity afforded her, to fill her children's lives with the words, the experience, the example that she wants to, is an awesome thing. It's an astonishing mind-molding position. It can make the power of preaching seem futile by comparison - for how often so little of what we preach sinks into those who most need it. Even the pulpit, I am saying, can lack of the convincing advantageous power of a mother.
G. Campbell Morgan, when asked "Who is the greatest preacher in all your family?", because he was from a long line of preachers, answered without hesitation: "My mother." He said his dedication to preaching was the fruit of maternal labors; that his knowledge of the Bible and his sermons were the work of his mother.
In Christ, Paul's point is, the dignity and usefulness of woman, forsaken at the fall by a woman who took the lead in her own hands, is restored to you in the power of a redeemed life. To be dissatisfied with domestic service, saying "It matters so little", is a trick of the devil to tear women away from an incredibly powerful calling. Here is why there is a "Women's Liberation Movement" - because there is a devil who assaults God's most powerful weapons and the vitals of the work of God.
No, you ladies won't have outward, visible leadership in the church. Neither men nor women can have both jobs in the church! God is practical in His distribution of work. And my experience has shown that individual work gets better results. So, far from having a demeaning role, women have a tremendously powerful role. Don't be drawn to distraction by what role God has forbidden you; even more, don't let yourself be distracted with the world. No, but continue in the faith, and in love, and in sanctified self-restraint - content with the influential sphere God has given you. In this, for you, there is safety.
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.
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.