Can Women Lead and Teach in the Church? (Part 9)

What Offices Are Open to Women?

The preceding discussion demonstrated that there is a consistent pattern throughout Scripture of ontological equality and functional difference between men and women. God’s design for male headship and female submission in the church is rooted in the doctrine of the Trinity, the doctrine of Creation, and throughout the Bible. The practical outworking of this is that there are two areas of the church that are reserved for men: authoritative leadership and teaching the Scriptures to men and women. These are both identified above as elder responsibilities. Therefore, the office of elder is not available to women.

The preceding discussion also noted that deacons are not required to have authoritative leadership or teaching duties, but rather are to help and submit to the elders. It was shown that Paul gave very clear instructions that women are not permitted to teach men nor exercise authority over men in the church (1 Tim. 2:11-15). The office of deacons does not require either of these duties. Therefore, the office of deacon is available to women.

What Teaching Roles Can Women Assume?

Both men and women are responsible to help fulfil the Great Commission. That is, all believers are called to make disciples and teach them to obey the commands of Christ (Matt. 28:18-20). In addition, the New Testament describes the variety of spiritual gifts that believers are given through the Holy Spirit. Teaching and words of knowledge are listed among these, yet there are no gender-specific descriptions attached to them (Rom.12:6-8; 1 Cor. 12:8-10, 28; Eph. 4:11-12).

While women are called and gifted to teach, it is the context in which they practice teaching that must be consistent with God’s design for male headship and female submission. Therefore, just as in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16, women must exercise their gifts in a way that demonstrates their respect and submission to male authority in the church. While Paul is clear that women are not permitted to teach men in the church (1 Tim. 2:11-15), there are additional Scriptures that encourage women to teach two other groups in the church: women and children.

First, women are encouraged to teach other women. In his letter to Titus, Paul gives a clear exhortation to the qualified male overseers in the church to identify and teach the older women in the church to prepare them to instruct younger women in godly conduct (Titus 2:1, 3-5). The older women are to teach what is good and encourage young women in seven specific areas: to love their husbands, to love their children, to be self- controlled, to be pure, to be working at home, to be kind, and to be submissive to their own husbands (Titus 2:3-5).

Second, women are also encouraged to teach children. In the book of Deuteronomy, Israel is reminded of the greatest commandment, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deut. 6:5). They are then instructed to teach the law to their children all of the time throughout the day, “when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up” (Deut. 6:7). Both men and women have the responsibility to disciple and teach the next generation to love and obey the commands of God. Women can play a key role in this area as primary caregivers for children and nurturers of the next generation both in the home and in the church. The writer of Proverbs reminds us not to forsake the teaching of our mothers (Prov. 1:8, 6:20). In addition, Paul acknowledged that Timothy’s faith had been passed down to him through his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice (2 Tim. 1:5). It is evident that women have a crucial responsibility to teach God’s word to children.

 

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