SERMON: Women in Ministry | Various Texts

Women in Ministry | Various Texts
Shaun Marksbury | Quacco Baptist Church
Sunday Evening Service | 2 July, 2017

My proposition to you isn’t that we should let the Bible lead, something I think everyone in this room already believes.  In fact, I imagine that the Bible is so clear that you will agree with about 90% of what I have to say.  My proposition is that the Bible gives us clear guidance on this issue—that is that ordained men should lead in church services, start to finish.  



Sermon Notes

Women in Ministry | Various Texts
Shaun Marksbury | Quacco Baptist Church
Sunday Evening Service | 2 July, 2017

I.               Introduction

The message this evening comes from a series of related questions that many people in the congregation have been asking.  I have to confess on my part that it is not an issue that I’ve articulated well, especially when it comes to specific aspects of application.  In fact, I’m not sure that it’s an issue that is articulated clearly most of the time in Evangelical churches. 

For instance, we have the issue of the involvement of women in ministry.  We’ve had roughly sixty years of feminism and women’s liberation theology pounding our seminaries and pulpits.  More conservative institutions for the most part have weathered the worldly philosophies, but not completely without comprise.  It seems that there has been a reduction of the biblical view to “no women in the pulpit, everything else is okay.”  That means that women (and unordained men, for what it’s worth) can lead the congregation in prayer, reading, and maybe even some teaching (as long as it’s short).  Some pastors even yield their pulpits to their wives for certain times of teaching, and we’re even seeing more and more Mr.-and-Mrs. Pastor teams.  (There’s a new church in a shopping center just down the road that has one, and it’s one of many.)

Historically, none of this has been the case in Christian churches, and this question that comes to how ministry should operate in the body.  As Christians—Baptists no less—we believe that Scripture should guide how we worship.  This is known as the regulative principle of worship.  The London Baptist Confession of 1689 says, “the acceptable way of worshipping the true God, is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshipped according to the imagination and devices of men, nor the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representations, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scriptures” (22.1). 

Consider the following:
  • ·        God wouldn’t accept Cain’s offering (Gn 4:3–8).
  • ·        In the Ten Commandments, God will not share worship with another god or even an object (Ex 20:2–6).
  • ·        God wanted Moses to build the tabernacle “after the pattern” (Ex 25:40).
  • ·        God wouldn’t accept the unauthorized offering of Nadab and Abihu and killed them for it (Lv 10).
  • ·        Consider also how many of the man-made traditions of worship Jesus rejected (e.g., Mt 15:1–14).
  • ·        Paul condemns the “self-made religion” at Colossae (Col 2:23).

When we consider the biblical evidence, we walk away with one, clear message: God despises experimental religion.  He doesn’t want us to try new ways of doing things, He doesn’t want us to innovate with the old ways.  We don’t do something new on Sunday that will shake things up or that’s neat.  We certainly shouldn’t make changes in our format because we’re afraid of what people will say to us.  While our locations may change (we can meet in homes or catecombs or buildings), and some of our technology may change (microphones and keyboards), neither our means nor our message must change. 

When we select pastors, we should look to biblical qualifications, not whether someone has an MBA.  When we meet, we read Scripture, sing, and preach (1 Tm 4:13; 2 Tm 4:2; Eph 5:19; Col 3:16).  We pray (cf. Mt 21:13).  We make disciples, baptize, and participate in the Lord’s supper (Mt 28:19; Acts 2:38–39; 1 Cor 11:23–26; Col 2:11–12).  And we should do all things decently and in order (1 Cor 14:40). 

My proposition to you isn’t that we should let the Bible lead, something I think everyone in this room already believes.  In fact, I imagine that the Bible is so clear that you will agree with about 90% of what I have to say.  My proposition is that the Bible gives us clear guidance on this issue—that is that ordained men should lead in church services, start to finish.    Let’s start with:

II.            The Question of Leadership in the Church

There are three terms for the role of leadership in the church, bishop or overseer, elder, and pastor.  The three are used synonymously in Scripture, referring to the same office (Acts 20:17, 28; also 1 Pt 5:1-2).  Theologians over the past sixty or so years have fallen into two camps concerning this office:

  • Complementarian—This view teaches that men and women were created to complement one another and equally bear God’s image.  By “complement,” men and women are created for and called to different roles that are essential.
  • Egalitarian— This view emphasizes the equality that men and women share as God’s image-bearers.  Because of the Fall, women were subjected to their husbands.  In Christ, the two are once again equal.  Any roles in marriage or ministry are for whoever is the best suited, regardless of sex.
It’s abundantly clear in Scripture—right from the beginning—that men and women equally bear the image of God (Gn 1:27).  However, contra the egalitarian position, no Scripture anywhere approves the ordination of women to a church office.  There are examples of godly, prominent women in both the Old and New Testaments, but that is consistent only with the premise that we are all imago dei.  Instead of authorizing women to church offices, the language of Scripture makes clear that men are to lead in the church. 

III.         The Teaching of Scripture

A.              The consistent image of gender-roles

God in His sovereignty chose to create man first, and then woman.  God speaks to Adam, and presumably, Adam’s expected to fill her in later.  Adam also names the animals as well as his wife, implying his headship over her.  They both bear God’s image, but their roles develop even in the perfection of the Garden of Eden.

With the Fall came another wrinkle in the male/female dynamic.  During the curse of Genesis 3:16, God says to the woman, “Your desire (תְּשׁוּקָהt’shuqah) shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”  The word for desire is the same as in Gen 4:7:  “If you do well, will you not be accepted?  And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door.  Its desire (תְּשׁוּקָהt’shuqah) is for you, but you must rule over it.” 

That consideration (among a couple of other syntactical nuances) prompted a recent change in the ESV.  Since its inception in 2001, the ESV has always translated Genesis 3:16 as above.  However, in 2016, the committee changed it to read, “Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.” 

Whether that is the best translation is debatable, but this seems to be the implications of the curse.  A wife will, at times, sinfully desire the leadership role in marriage.  However, that husband must instead lovingly bear the authority in the relationship (1 Tm 2:12–14).

The image continues most appropriately in the New Testament in the Son of God.  It is not an accident that God chose to be born into the world as a male, a flip of the celestial coin.  He chose not to take on the form of the daughter of God, not to be the second Eve. 

As the first male born to Mary, He was holy to the Lord (Lk 2:23).  Because Adam had transgressed, though, humanity could only be redeemed by the Second Adam (1 Cor 15:45, 47; Rm 5:14).  Thus, He (not “She”) must fulfill the gospel and rule the church.

Furthermore, when He appointed twelve apostles, He didn’t engage in egalitarianism.  He didn’t appoint half women and half men to make it fair, or so that the church could receive a broader perspective.  Despite the claims of some recent television programs and movies, He didn’t appoint even one woman.  He didn’t avoid that appointment because of the cultural and religious norms and mores, for He was crucified for flaunting the traditions of men.  No, He chose men because men are responsible to take the lead.

The church and family should reflect this model.  Indeed, Paul compares the church to a household (1 Tim 3:15), and a key qualification for an elder is whether he runs his household well (1 Tm 3:4–5).  Scripture speaks to the fact that husbands are to lead in the family and that wives are to submit (Eph 5:22–24; Col 3:18; Ti 2:4–5).  As such, it should be no surprise that “the household of God” carries that image forward into the corporate setting.

The image of male leadership, however, is never of oppression.  When Jesus came, He didn’t break a bruised reed or quench a faintly burning wick (Isa 42:3).  When He appointed His apostles, He told them not to “lord it over them” (Mt 20:25).  Men should lead in a manner worthy of their wives’ submission, loving them as Christ loved the church (Eph 5:25).

As such, the model in both the Old and New Testaments for family and church is as follows:
Man      à        Love     |          Follow and Submit         ß        Woman

Even so, could it be that Scripture permits women to lead in some way in ministry if she also submits to her husband or to her pastor?  Is a woman herself entirely disallowed the pastoral office?  If so, can she participate in other ways in front of the church?  I don’t believe so.  In fact, someone said this to me in 2005 or so and it has come true: no reading of Scripture that allows women to lead could not also be applied to homosexuals, and that is exactly what we’ve seen.  Let’s turn to texts that are essential to our understanding.

B.              The key biblical texts regarding women in leadership:

There are six passages that form the battlements of the debate: 1 Corinthians 11:3–16, 1 Corinthians 14:26–30, Galatians 3:28, 1 Timothy 2:9–15, 1 Timothy 3:11, and Titus 2:1–6.  Let’s look at each of these in depth.

1.               1 Corinthians 11:3–16

We looked at this passage this morning.  Because Pastor Paul went over this text, I won’t linger too long here.  The creation order bears out that man was over woman before the Fall, even though man was never meant to see woman as inferior.  The head-coverings in this chapter were a cultural sign in the Roman world of a wife’s submission to her husband, compatible with biblical teaching, and so women mustn’t remove them, even if she’s giving prophetic utterance.  (It is our contention that, though God can, He does not continue to give these kinds of utterances in churches today.) 

Now, while it seems that Paul tacitly permits women speaking, as long as their heads are covered (v. 5), he doesn’t say that women should speak in church.  All he does is highlight their lack of head-coverings as evidence of their pride.  The apostle demonstrates the shameful way women were addressing the congregation.  As such, not only is this a weak verse to be used in support of women speaking in church, it’s more likely part of Paul’s larger argument against it. 

2.               1 Corinthians 14:26–40

In this text, Paul gives his clearest prohibitions against women speaking in church.  In chapter 11, he talks about the pride in prophecies.  In chapter 12, he talks about the pride in spiritual gifts in general.  In chapter 13, he highlights the love we should have for one another in Christ’s church. 

Finally, in chapter 14, he condemns the lack of order in churches amid charismatic chaos (see vv. 26, 33, 40).   Rather than everyone speaking at once, they should do so “in turn” (v. 27).  No more than two or three people should be allowed to speak in tongues, and “one” should interpret (v. 28).  If someone receives a prophetic utterance, he should speak and then remain silent afterward (v. 30).  The prophets are to weigh and judge the prophesies given (vv. 29, 32). 

It’s within this call to order that Paul says that “women should keep silent in the churches.”  This is a parenthetical thought specific to the role of women in churches. 

  • V. 33 states the universality of the command, “As in all churches.”  This isn’t an issue that was strictly for the Corinthian believers, and when previously addressing women in church, Paul again made the command universal (11:16).
  • Paul says in v. 34 that women should remain silent; “For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says” (v. 34).  Now, Robert Thomas in his book Spiritual Gifts (114–15) lists five views on this verse, concluding that it means that women are not to speak in public services (the most natural reading of the Scripture).  As equal image-bearers, their submission pictures Christ’s submission to the Father (1 Cor 11:3).  The Law includes Genesis, so Paul is again referencing the creation order and the Fall.
  • V. 35 would continue, then, to further emphasize their silence in churches.  If they have questions, they should ask their husbands, but at home.  They should learn, and their husbands should take the responsibility to teach them.  Paul concludes, “For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church”—scandalous.
The women of Corinth were interrupting the church services with questions, not for edification but to embarrass or passively voice disagreement.  So, women were asking questions of the interpretation of prophecies, calling the taught Word of God into account.  Perhaps some were even using the time to air a disagreement they were having with their husbands.  Paul says that all this discussion should happen behind closed doors, and that godly women should not interrupt the services.

For those of you thinking that he’s just picking on women here, notice the greater context.  He’s essentially telling a bunch of people to hush.  Some people were engaged in tongues and other things to draw attention to themselves, and too many people were turning the worship into a stage for their pride.  So, he’s telling most men to be quiet, as well.

3.               Galatians 3:28

Egalitarians say this is the “magna carta” of the church, erasing all differences between men and women.  However, Paul continues to use terms and define roles elsewhere, so this doesn’t seem to be his purpose.  This verse doesn’t erase the differences between bond and free, because Paul also gives instruction for them in their respective roles.  The main purpose here is to speak of our unity in Christ through salvation.  That’s why some books on church government have no indexed references to this verse—it has nothing to do with the discussion at hand.  Passages speaking of who should be ordained should be consulted.

4.               1 Timothy 2:9–15

This is another prohibitive text.  What some of the women did in this community was use the braiding of hair to weave in expensive pearls to signify wealth.  Paul here says that women must avoid showy displays meant to attract attention or signal social status, as the church isn’t a country club or a fashion show.  Their adorning was to be done “with modesty and self-control” (v. 9).  Instead of pridefully drawing attention to themselves, v. 10, godly women adorn themselves “with good works.”

With that said, we then come to v. 11.  Women are to be learners, contra some of the misogynistic beliefs of the Jewish men.  However, according to v. 12, they cannot be teachers of men or to exercise authority over men.  In fact, the Holy Spirit here uses the words “quietly,” “submissiveness,” and “quiet” to describe the modest and self-controlled demeanor of women as they learn.  Paul points to the creation order: first, man was created before woman, and second, woman was deceived, not man. 

5.               1 Timothy 3:11

This is also seen as a permissive text for women being ordained as deacons.  For the sake of time, we won’t go into it.  For, even if we grant “deaconesses” biblically, we do so recognizing that elders bear the responsibilities of leadership and teaching within the church.

6.               Titus 2:1–6

This is a permissive text.  It’s clear here that, not only are women are permitted to teach, they are commanded to do so.   However, within the context of the conversation, notice there’s no mention of women teaching men, only other women.  Women should and must be teaching in the church—there are some things that men cannot communicate well to women, and vice versa.  It’s the task of the whole church to build up the church—not just the task of the pastors.  With that said, this text cannot be used to counteract Paul’s earlier words. 

IV.         What about the public reading of Scripture?

This is where the main question at our church comes into view.  This is more of a grey area since Scripture doesn’t say specifically if a woman (or an unordained man, for that matter) can or cannot read Scripture.  Now, some of our discussion has been focused on whether reading implies teaching or authority.  I think a case could be made there, but not a strong one.  If the discussion began and ended there, we’d have to say this is an issue in which we could agree to disagree.

As such, we have to consider a little more.  There are some passages in addition to the ones we’ve considered.  Consider, for instance, that God through Moses gave the task of publicly reading His Word to the elders and to priesthood (Dt 31:9–13):

Then Moses wrote this law and gave it to the priests, the sons of Levi, who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and to all the elders of Israel. 10 And Moses commanded them, “At the end of every seven years, at the set time in the year of release, at the Feast of Booths, 11 when all Israel comes to appear before the Lord your God at the place that he will choose, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing. 12 Assemble the people, men, women, and little ones, and the sojourner within your towns, that they may hear and learn to fear the Lord your God, and be careful to do all the words of this law, 13 and that their children, who have not known it, may hear and learn to fear the Lord your God, as long as you live in the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess.”

Later, Ezra the priest engaged in the public reading of Scripture (Neh 8:2–5):
So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could understand what they heard, on the first day of the seventh month. And he read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand. And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law. And Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden platform that they had made for the purpose. And beside him stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah on his right hand, and Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah, and Meshullam on his left hand. And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people, and as he opened it all the people stood.

When Paul addresses Timothy, he calls him to take on the pastoral task in Ephesus.  He says to him (1 Tm 4:13): “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.”  The verb translated “devote yourself” is singular, meaning that Paul means these three instructions specifically for Timothy.

When we see Scripture read publicly, then, it seems to always fall under the auspices of ordained leadership; debating whether reading or prayer is teaching is secondary to that point.  Moreover, we saw that Scripture calls all women and most men to remain silent in churches (singing and other congregational responses notwithstanding).  These considerations have historically lead churches to restrict the reading to pastors or elders alone.

In the Presbyterian Church, the Book of Church Order (50-1, 2) has that the public reading of Scripture is to be done by a minister “or by some other person,” historically, a visiting minister, an elder, or a someone in training for ordination.  However, the PCA has begun allowing un-ordained men and women to engage in this practice, teetering close to the same decisions the PCUSA faced before compromising on other issues.  As the Westminster Larger Catechism Question 156 says,

Q. Is the Word of God to be read by all? A. Although all are not to be permitted to read publicly to the congregation, yet all sorts of people are bound to read it apart by themselves, and with their families: to which end, the Holy Scriptures are to be translated out of the original into vulgar languages.

V.            Common objections:

  • Isn’t this just legalism? 
    Properly defined, legalism is a system of salvation based on personal works.  One can be legalistic in the application of scriptural commands by misapplying the commands, increasing the burden one must bear beyond what God said.
  • Can’t the Bible mean different things to different people? 
    This is the postmodernist’s approach, attacking the sufficiency of Scripture by questioning whether anything can be certain.  This is spiritual suicide, however, for if the Bible can mean anything, then it means nothing. 

  • What if a woman feels called to ministry and she’s blessing people? 
    Several prominent women preachers are either “pastors” or instruct both women and men and have avid followers—Beth Moore, Kay Arthur, Joyce Meyer, Darlene Zschech, Christine Caine, Lysa TerKeurst, etc.  Whether they are good or bad teachers, solid or heretical in doctrine is beside the point.  Nowhere does Scripture list the qualification for ministry as a feeling.  While some certainly can desire ministry, that alone is no reason to justify their desires, even if some people feel that the ministry is helping them in some way.

  • What if a woman hears God tell her to enter ministry? 
    The Holy Spirit has inspired clear Scripture on the matter—men are specifically called to ministry.  For the Holy Spirit to then communicate to a woman that she should enter ministry would be to contradict Himself, and God is not a God of confusion.  As such, a woman claiming to hear from God in such a way would be a false prophet adding to Scripture (cf. Dt 4:2; 5:22; 12:32).

VI.         Final Thoughts

Women are essential to the life of the local church.  By “essential,” I mean that we could not do what we do without you.  My wife, for instance, takes care of so much in my life so that I can be ministering to others; her ministry to me and our children is no less vital.  That’s true of all women—they have a high calling from Scripture that makes church possible.  Just because it’s a different calling doesn’t mean that it’s less godly or special. 

You may or may not have thought through all these issues before, and that is alright.  Typically, other than a few items of ministry, most in the church take certain features of church life for granted.  Perhaps you’re not even sure you agree.  That’s also okay—you do not have to agree with every layer of doctrine this church teaches to be a member here; you only need to know what it teaches and begin studying for yourself.

Understand, though, that there isn’t true freedom leaving a biblical framework for worship.  We’re left with the ideas of men, our own presumptions, and the question of tradition.  Only in the Lord do we experience true freedom, and He tells us to abide in His Word.

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