(Continued from yesterday)
Yesterday we looked at the context and observed the text of 1 Tim 2:12, today we continue with its interpretation. The traditional view held by the Church for nearly 2,000 years is that women should not be elders or pastors, and by extension preachers. This is based on a literal interpretation of passages like 1 Tim 2:11-14 and 1 Co 11:3-10, and the fact that there are no women elders in the Bible.
Looking at the W5 observations, we can interpret 1 Tim 2:12 as follows: Paul does not allow a woman to teach formally/publicly in church, or exercise authority over a man. Furthermore, his restriction applies to all churches across time and culture, since the rationale goes beyond culture.
Some try to soften Paul’s prohibition by claiming that he was only addressing a local problem in Ephesus in his days, since Timothy was pastoring in Ephesus (1 Tim 1:3) at that time. But this does not fit the context and is not valid.
Now, since preaching involves teaching God’s truth and exhorting God’s people to apply it, not permitting women to teach implies that Paul does not allow women preachers either.
Let me elaborate. There are only two offices in the Church – elders (overseers or bishops or pastors) and deacons. Elders, overseers, bishops, pastors all point to the same people. “Elder” speaks to their mature spiritual experiences and understanding; “overseer” or “bishop” speaks to the character of the work undertaken, that of overseeing, or ruling, or leading. Pastors are shepherds who address the caring aspect of the overseers’ work. These are equivalent terms for the same people. Their qualifications are given in 1 Tim 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. Deacons, on the other hand, are servants who assist the work of elders. Their qualifications are given in 1 Tim 3:8-13.
If you compare the qualifications and work of elders versus deacons, the big difference is that elders:
• teach (1 Tim 3:2 able to teach; Titus 1: 9 holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.) and
• rule (1 Tim 3:5 take care of the church of God; 1 Tim 5:17 The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.)
Deacons are not required to teach, and they do not rule.
So, when Paul does not allow a woman to teach and exercise authority (rule) over a man, he is specifically forbidding women to be elders and pastors. That is not to say sisters are not competent. Competency has nothing to do with it. Many sisters are more competent than many brothers. It is simply God’s sovereign choice to appoint male leadership in both the home and the church. Just as He chose the Levites to serve Him as priests in the OT, no other tribe can claim the priesthood even though they may be just as competent.
Women can teach:
• Other women or children Titus 2:3-4 Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children,
• Privately Acts 18:26 and he began to speak out boldly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.
but not men in public assemblies.
But doesn’t the Bible teach that men and women are equal:
• Gal 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Yes, but in what sense? In the sense that we are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus (Gal 3:26), heirs according to promise (Gal 3:29). That’s our position in Christ. The egalitarian view tries to apply this equality in our standing before Christ to our roles in Church, which is a misapplication as the Bible clearly distinguishes between the role of men versus women. All are Abraham’s descendants, but not all are priests, for example.
What about the mediating view? Wasn’t Barak not up to the task and Deborah stepped in:
• Judg 4:8-9 Then Barak said to her, “If you will go with me, then I will go; but if you will not go with me, I will not go.” She said, “I will surely go with you; nevertheless, the honor shall not be yours on the journey that you are about to take, for the LORD will sell Sisera into the hands of a woman.” Then Deborah arose and went with Barak to Kedesh.
Yes, but Deborah was a judge, not an elder. She did not teach, and ruled in the sense of settling disputes, not managing a congregation. Besides, that was the exception, not the rule. God’s purpose will be accomplished one way or another. If men are unwilling or unavailable for the task, God can and have used women to achieve His will. But that doesn’t change His choice of male headship. We may not like it, but it’s His choice, not ours.
In short I subscribe to the traditional view. Situations happen in which women step into men’s roles, but that’s not God’s design.