Can Women Lead and Teach in the Church? (Part 1)

Are men and women equal? Do men and women have different roles? Can women teach in the church? Should women serve as elders? Can women serve as deacons? These questions have contributed to a very divisive and heated debate among the Church over the past many decades. Throughout Scripture, there is a consistent pattern of role distinctions for men and women. God purposefully and brilliantly created male and female in his image, with ontological equality and functional difference. “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” (Gen. 1:26a). The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are equal in their divine nature, yet distinct in their personhood and function within the Godhead. Likewise, male and female share ontological equality, yet functional difference.

At creation, the equality of male and female is evident. Both male and female were created in the image of God and given dominion over other creatures (Gen. 1:26). Male and female were both blessed by God and commissioned to fill the earth and subdue it, and were both given provision for food (Gen. 1:28-29). At the same time, male and female were created with equally important yet functionally distinct roles. Man was created to cultivate and keep the garden, and was entrusted with the law (Gen. 2:15-16), and woman was created as a suitable helper to be in relationship with man and to assist and support him in his responsibilities (Gen. 2:18-23).

It is within this framework that the discussion of women in leadership and teaching must occur. The complementarian position embraces the foundational model of ontological equality and functional difference within the Trinity and in the creation of male and female. God’s design for male headship and female submission is upheld by these principles and the consistent pattern throughout Scripture. The egalitarian position affirms the equality of male and female at creation, yet some believe there is no distinction in function. Many egalitarians understand the Fall as the introduction of the “problem” of male authority and female subjection, and that in Christ they are made equal and there is no longer any distinction the role in relation to teaching and leadership.

The following series will consist of ten sections. The first six posts will present a Biblical Foundation by providing an exegetical framework of six passages of Scripture: Genesis 3:16; 1 Corinthians 11:2-16; 1 Corinthians 14:33-35; 1 Timothy 2:11-15; 1 Timothy 3:1-13; and Romans 16:1-2. The last four posts will include applications for the local church and explore four questions:  How are the offices of the New Testament understood? What offices are open to women? What teaching roles can women assume? What leadership roles can women assume?

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