Men and Women in the Church

Date: May 4, 2014
Study: In His Image: Biblical Manhood, Womanhood, and Relationships
Teacher: Kameron Slater


  • Genesis 1:26-27: Men and women are created in God’s Image. They are equal in glory, honor, value, dignity and worth.
  • Genesis 2Men are created by God to be the spiritual leader, obey God’s commands, and to protect women. Women are created by God to be man’s helper. They have a unique role and distinct responsibilities to strengthen and assist.
  • 1 Corinthians 11:1: The roles and responsibilities that men and women have are a reflection of God’s Trinitarian character.

There are some clear distinctions in the roles of men and women, but for the most part there are significant similarities in the ways men and women are called and equipped by God to participate in the work of the gospel and the ministry of the local church. 

  • 1 Corinthians 12:4-11In these verses, and the context of the chapter, we see that there are all kinds of gifts God gives to His church through the Spirit and that who He gives them to is not based on gender. God gives intentionally and indiscriminately for the purpose of building up the Body. This means that both men and women are gifted and expected to use their gifts for “the common good” of the whole church. There are, as we’ll see, certain structures God has set in place regarding use of authority and roles, but on the whole men are edified by women and women are edified by men.
  • 1 Corinthians 12:12-27: These verses highlight the unity and diversity in the Body of Christ. God has given every Christian, whether man or woman, gifts which He intends them to use for the edification of the church. This means that no one is unimportant or irrelevant to the life of the church. Every member is a crucial part of a healthy, well-functioning body. This text also shows that it is wrong for any part of the Body to think it wasn’t important because it couldn’t do what another part could and it would be wrong for any part of the Body to think it didn’t need another, different part. So with respect to men and women and the roles they’re given, we should always remember that God has designed the Body just like He wants it. This should help us guard our hearts against pride, insecurity and discontentment.
  • Galatians 3:26-28: This passage highlights the wonderful fact that in Christ, all people have equal status before God. There is no caste system in God’s Kingdom. There is no racism or sexism. There is only unadulterated, equality in Christ. All people are sinners apart from Christ, all who are in Christ are redeemed and reconciled to God. This is really a revolutionary idea: in the church we find a place where cultures, ethnicities, histories, and differences all collide, but by the grace of God, we are united as children of God and in turn as brothers and sisters is Christ. What this doesn’t mean is that social, racial, and sexual distinctions are removed. In the church, we know that we all have different color skins, we know that we each bring different cultural backgrounds and histories we possess, we are not unaware that men are men and women are women. We also know that Christ unites us in an identity that is superior to all those things.

WOMEN IN THE CHURCH (1 Timothy 2:8-15)
The church at Ephesus, which Timothy was pastoring, had been under the attack of false teachers. They’d tried to teach that certain foods were off limits and that marriage was forbidden for Christians. These and other false doctrines introduced dangerous ideas that stirred up strife and dissension among the members, distracting them from Gospel ministry. In 1 & 2 Timothy we see that these false teachers seemed to especially target vulnerable women, particularly young widows (1 Timothy 5:14-15; 2 Timothy 3:6). It also appears that the false teachers were encouraging women to throw off the long-standing, biblical role of women in favor of a more independent, egalitarian lifestyle.

  • Dress with Modesty
    To combat this teaching, Paul begins by speaking to the women about the way they were dressing. In the ancient world, flamboyant dress would often signal a woman’s bid to be independent from the authority of men, particularly from her husband. In light of this, Paul calls the ladies to check their hearts and exercise self-control by dressing more modestly. By doing this, they’d reflect a heart that was submissive to the divinely-ordained role God had given and also honor their husband. In our day, women who love Christ should be very intentional to check their hearts when it comes to the way they dress. Our culture’s standards are not set to protect the hearts of men, but rather to seduce them. It is a loving thing for a woman to dress in such a way that honors her husband if she is married or that protects the men around her, especially her brothers in Christ.
  • Learn with Quietness and Full Submission
    In verse 11, Paul exhorts them to “learn with quietness and full submission [with all submissiveness].” Let’s consider a few things from this verse:

    • It’s good to keep in mind that in the time in history that this was written, Paul’s encouragement for women to learn at all would have been scandalous. In many cases women were not allowed to receive the same instruction that men did, so this call to learn was revolutionary.
    • The word used for learning “quietly” is used in several places in the New Testament to describe a crowd that is silenced in preparation for someone’s speech. In our verse, it helps us to see that ladies, during the public gathering of the church, are called to settled down and not be unruly so that God’s Word can be taught. In particular, the women among them who were characterized by (1 Timothy 5:13) “going house to house, gossiping, being busybodies” were told to be quiet and stop stirring up trouble. So, they and the ladies who were trying to usurp the authority of the leaders were to be silenced so that God’s Word could be proclaimed. This doesn’t mean a woman can’t say “Amen” or  “preach on preacher” during the service.
    • Finally, “submissiveness” has to do with the role relationship between men and women that we’ve been talking about throughout the semester: a general disposition among women to encourage leadership in men.
      So this verse, in a positive way, is calling women to emulate the posture of Mary who sat at the feet of Christ in Luke 10:38-42 and at the same time to avoid the posture of Miriam in Numbers 12 where she led a revolt against Moses and said “has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?”
  • Restrictions for Women
    In verse 12, Paul gives two restrictions on women in the life of the church: he says women are not permitted “to teach or to have authority over a man.” These restrictions are followed by two reasons in verses 13 and 14 and finally a word of promisein verse 15. Let’s take a look at each part of this:

    • The 1st restriction is that women are not permitted to teach. The word “teach” is used in the New Testament mainly to describe the authoritative communication of truths about Jesus and God’s will to other believers. This teaching initially consisted of the oral tradition of the apostles, and then later their written, inspired words of the New Testament Scriptures. So when Paul speaks about teaching here, he’s describing the kind of teaching that someone gifted by Spirit would do to bring authoritative instruction in doctrine to the congregation. This kind of teaching is often done by a person holding the office of elder.
      • Does this mean then that the Bible prohibits women from anyone in the church? No. Now, it’s not obvious from the English translation, but the word “man” in verse 12 is the object of both verb, so a more literal translation of the verse would read “I do not permit a woman to teach a man, and I do not permit a woman to have (or exercise) authority over a man.”  This simply means that the role of instructing the entire church from Scripture is restricted to men.
      • This doesn’t mean that a woman should never teach. As we’ve seen in Titus 2:3-5, Paul specifically tells older women to teach younger women about what it means to be a godly woman. So a woman who’s gifted in teaching can and should use her gifts in the church by teaching other women and children.
    • The second restriction is that women are not permitted to have authority over a man. The word translated “have authority over” means to have control over another, in the sense of governing or ruling them. In the New Testament, and especially the pastoral epistles, this ruling or governing function is ascribed most primarily to the to the office of elders / pastors / overseers. For instance, 1 Timothy 3:5 speaks of an elder “caring for” the church in the same way that he “manages” his own home. Then 1 Timothy 5:17 specifically speaks of elders / pastors who “rule well.” Paul says this kind of managing and ruling is limited to men, because women are not permitted to have authority over men in this way.  This is why only men should serve as elders in the church.
  • Here are two reasons those restrictions are given:
    • In verse 13, we read that “Adam was formed first, and then Eve.” It is important to see here that his argument is not one from pragmatics or preference or cultural relevance; his argument is one rooted in creation. God made man and woman in a certain order to communicate an inherent truth that He intended to guide and guard people in this life. Adam was created before Eve giving him the honor and responsibility to lead her. Eve was created after Adam and was given the honor and responsibility to be his helper. This means that for a woman to authoritatively teach doctrine to a man or hold governing authority over men among God’s chosen people, would be to work against God’s design. This argument is important because the voice of our culture regularly cries out for Bible-believers to wake up and come into the 21st century. It calls for those of us who would hold this view to realize that culture has progressed and that it’s foolish and destructive to impose ancient values upon a modern-day woman. It’s pretty short-sighted to think that we’re the only culture who’s been progressive. Every culture has seen itself as being more enlightened than the last. And more importantly, we must realize that if we ever progress past God’s wisdom, then we’ve stopped progressing and have dangerously regressed to making our self gods. God made this world and He knows how things were created to work, He wants us to trust Him and His ways.
    • The second reason for these restrictions is that Adam was not the one deceived, it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.”  Now, this is a tricky verse to interpret. Some have argued that it means women are generally just more gullible and more easily deceived than men. In light of this, they propose that women are restricted from teaching because they’d be more susceptible to teaching false doctrine. That is not a good interpretation, for at least a couple of reasons: there’s no indication in the text of Genesis that Eve’s deception is representative of all women or only of women. The ability to be deceived seems to be a universal human problem (2 Corinthians 11:3). Also, if Paul really thought women were more susceptible to being deceived and therefore to teaching false doctrine, why would he call for them to teach other women and children? Women are not categorically more gullible than men.
      A better interpretation is to realize that when Paul says “Adam was not the one deceived,” he simply makes clear that Adam is not the one who failed the test. The serpent didn’t come to him first to test him. The point isn’t that Adam couldn’t be deceived; the point is that the serpent didn’t come to Adam and instead came to Eve. When Satan went to Eve and lied to her, he didn’t do it because of her gullibility. Instead, in his crafty plotting he aimed to upend the created order God had established. So, instead of going to Adam, the God-appointed leader, he deliberately defied that order and went to Eve, putting her in the position of spokesman, leader and defender. So Paul meant something like this: “Adam was not deceived (that is, the deceiver did not approach Adam and didn’t deal directly with him); but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor (that is, the deceiver approached her and led her into deception and transgression).”  The statement is more about the serpent’s strategy of bringing about deception among God’s people by tempting men and women to reject their God given-roles. Satan wants men to be passive and indifferent toward God’s command and he wants women to come out from under the protection of men so that they can be deceived. This verse isn’t saying men can’t be deceived, its saying God designed men to lead women in obeying God’s commands and that Satan’s plan is to defy God’s original ordained order in the Garden and his goal today is to tempt women to usurp men’s authority and fall into the same trap that Eve did.
    • So, both of the reasons Paul gives for restrictions are rooted in God’s original plan for creation. God created men to lead and for women to rebel against male leadership is Satanic. The different roles we find in the Scripture for men and women are what God intended from the very beginning, and therefore they’re good for both men and women in general and specifically in the church. To resist them is to resist God’s design for our good and His glory.
  • Questions Regarding Women in the Church
    • Does this mean a woman can never teach a man anything?
      Many who would argue that women can indeed instruct men would quickly turn to the scene were Pricilla and Aquila instructed Apollos in Acts 18:24-26. This passage teaches us that God used a husband and a wife in an immature, but wildly gifted believer’s life. There simply isn’t enough information for us to build doctrines on or undermine what we know from 1 Timothy 2:12. It seems best that in matters of interpretation, application and exhortation, we should seek to hold tightly to what we’ve seen in 1 Timothy 2.
    • Does this mean that a woman can never share the Gospel with a man?
      Not at all! Women are free to share the Gospel with non-Christians, whether men or women. The commands we see are in regards to teaching when the church is assembled. The first evangelists after Christ rose were Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Mary the mother of James. Now, there should be wisdom in building the relationship with a non-Christian of the opposite sex, but in general, it is fine for a woman to share the Gospel with a man.
    • What does Paul mean by women being saved by childbearing in verse 15?
      This is often considered one of the top 5 most difficult verses to interpret in the New Testament. Since we are in the context of roles of women the verse most plainly seems to say that women will be “saved” by adhering to their role of resting under male leadership, as seen most primarily in their role of being a wife and a mother. And this role, and marriage in general, were one of the things the false teachers were attacking. Being a submissive wife and a mother however doesn’t actually save someone, their perseverance in faith accompanied by love and holiness does. Good works accompany salvation, they do not accomplish it, Christ does. The basic idea is that when Eve stepped out from under Adam’s leadership, she died. When God’s people stray from God as their husband, they die. Only through submission to God’s design do people find life. This is a picture of the Gospel as we are called to submit to the Gospel of Christ and come under His care as our Spiritual husband.[For those unmarried or without children, and desire either, this can be salt in the wound. The solution: rest in God’s sovereignty, suffer well in what He has entrusted to you, and ensure that your heart is submissive to His design.]


  • Elders (1 Timothy 3:1-13)
    An overseer / pastor / elder is the role given to those who lead the church in understanding and obeying God’s will. He is one who guides, protects, governs the church. This leadership and oversight requires him to be “able to teach” God’s Word rightly and defend it against false teaching. By saying an elder is a “husband of one wife”, Paul implies that he’s a man and a man who “manage[s] his own house well”.
    The role of elder is the role entrusted with the authority to oversee and the responsibility to teach, which as we’ve seen from 1 Timothy 2 is reserved for men. So for a woman serve in the role of an elder / pastor is against God’s design and will have negative effects on the church.
  • Deacons (1 Timothy 3:8-13)
    The role of deacon is given to qualified people who assist the elders by carrying out specific ministry tasks that bring unity to the church and serve the practical needs of the church. When we look at the qualifications for this role we should see many similarities to elders, but two major differences:

    • This role does not require someone to be “able to teach” because this role is a service-oriented role, not a role that is entrusted with spiritual authority.
    • Because authority and teaching are not required, this role is not limited only to men. It seems that after stating the requirement for men, Paul moves to unique requirements for women in verse 11 and then goes back to men in verse 12. Though this passage (and others like it) is a little ambiguous, most churches feel comfortable with women serving as deaconesses because the role is not one that holds authority or responsibility to teach.

CONCLUSION (1 Corinthians 11:3-11)
God’s character is reflected in the roles He has given to men and women through creation. The roles of men and women are rooted in the Trinity. From the beginning, God created men to be the leader and women to be his helper. This is true in the home and this is true in the church. Men uniquely relate to God as the head of the home and the church, while women uniquely relate to God by serving their husbands by being their helper. Men and women both glorify God, each by serving in their God-ordained roles.Women and men are not independent of each other. Woman was made from man, man is now born of women, and both men and women find their sources of life ultimately in God Himself.

God is doing something through the church: He’s displaying His wisdom to the rulers and authorities in heavenly places. Right now, God is saving sinners through His Son and building His church.

In conclusion, remember that from the beginning, Satan’s strategy has been to confuse and upending God’s ordained order for men and women. Remember also that God Himself created us male and female and He gives us roles to live out, all which are for our good and His ultimate glory.


**Lesson adapted from Lesson 8 and 9 of Capitol Hill Baptist Church’s “Biblical Manhood and Womanhood” Core Seminar**



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