For most of history in societies that were influenced by Judeo-Christian culture, men and women had very different roles. Men did the hard, backbreaking work in the fields, or the long hours in the mines, while women worked around the house, cooking the food, making and mending household needs like clothes and soap, and rearing children. This of course has changed dramatically in the last century or so as more women have left the home and now perform many of the same jobs as men, even serving in combat in the military. What I’ve been thinking about is whether this new way of doing things can be Biblically supported? This breaks down into two categories: the church and the home. We’ll deal with the church first.
Roles of men and women in the church are very explicitly laid out in Scripture. All official church offices are restricted specifically to men. Period. There is no allowance for women in any pastoral or elder/deacon roles. Every time those roles are referred to, or laid out, they are either filled by, or limited to, men. For example, in Acts 6 when the Apostles delegate work to a group of deacons, they chose men to fill the office. In 1 Timothy 5 when Paul explains how elders ought to be treated, he uses the masculine word “father” to describe an elder. In 1 Timothy 3, when Paul lays out the criterion for a bishop or pastor, he specifies the bishop must be the husband of one wife. Obviously only men are husbands of wives. The same criterion is used for deacons. Offices established in churches are limited to men only.
Of course, we live in a time when there are more than just deacons, elders, and pastors in a church. We have Sunday School teachers, choirs, choir directors, youth pastors, children’s church, and a host of other ministries. What role should women serve in those? I think the answer to this comes from Paul’s instructions in 1 Timothy 2:9-14 and 1 Cor 14:34-35. The passage in First Corinthians makes it clear women are not to teach in church. Male headship is strongly emphasized. Women are supposed to be silent, but for what purpose? The context of 1 Cor 14:34-35 when cross referenced to 1 Timothy 2 makes it clear they are not supposed to be teaching, or leading
That may sound highly patriarchal and realistically, it is. That was God’s design. Paul even says “Adam was first formed then Eve.” as a support of his argument in 1 Timothy 2. Male headship is emphasized throughout Scripture. More on that below, but it is important here as well because it applies to the leadership of a church. Women are not permitted to usurp authority over men in a church setting. That would mean no female Sunday School teachers in mixed classes, no female “worship leaders”, and so on. However, given this would not apply to women teaching young minors, or other women. In fact, the Bible specifically instructs older women to teach younger women (Titus 2:3-5). Nor would it prohibit women from singing in choirs or in special music. Singing is done unto the Lord (Ephesians 5:19) and is thus an act of worship. Prohibiting a woman from worshipping God in a manner we are expected to do, but is not limited to men explicitly (as teaching, leadership, and pastoral roles are) is simply wrong. However, explicitly leading congregational worship, through song-leading or “worship team” leadership would be sinful because it places women in a position of church leadership.
My argument is not that women should not participate in worship, but that they should not lead it. A person who leads the church in singing is leading the church in worship, because singing is worshipping God. This would also be true of leading the church in prayer. Playing a musical instrument for corporate worship or singing or playing a special are expressions of individual worship and thus are acceptable. However, leading a male/female choir, or congregation in singing is different because its more than expression of individual worship, though it is that too. It is now usurping authority that God designed to be held by men.
Based on this principle we need to also discuss limits for men. While nothing is explicitly prohibited for men when it comes to church roles, I would argue that Titus 2:3-5 would at least advise against a man teaching a woman’s Sunday School class, or counseling/teaching minor girls. Given the potential pitfalls, this probably is not something he should be doing based purely on common sense, but I think Scripturally we can make a case for it as well.
Please understand I am in no way arguing that women should be excluded from the church or that they cannot use their talents to serve God. However, there are specific, well defined ways in which they can serve. When we allow women to step outside their God-ordained roles, we not only allow them to sin, we also cause grievous harm to the church.
Do you know what’s going to happen when you die? Are you completely sure? If you aren’t, please read this or listen to this. You can know where you will spend eternity. If you have questions, please feel free to contact us, we’d love to talk to you.