Over the last couple of weeks, there has been a lot of discussion about the woman’s role in the church. More and more young ladies are frustrated that they are not allowed to preach and teach during the public worship assembly. They see a prohibition against female preachers as misogynistic and oppressive. Much has been said in regards to this, but here are a few points I hope we’ll consider.
A Personal Story about Women in the Church
Yesterday my mother shared something very encouraging with me. She said one of our cousins paid me a great compliment recently. This cousin remembers my great-great-grandmother and she said that she can just see my great-great-grandmother in that “cloud of witnesses,” cheering me on while I preach. I cannot begin to tell you how very much that encouragement meant to me.
I owe my faith, at least in part, to four generations of faithful Christian women. This is not to discount the role of my father and grandfathers, but I feel the weight of what Paul wrote to Timothy (2 Timothy 1:5):
I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.
I believe there is a very real sense in which my mother, my grandmother, my great-grandmother, and even my great-great-grandmother preach every Sunday. They preach vicariously through me. Whenever I stand in the pulpit, the faith that first dwelt in them, is seen in me.
I realize that no one means it as such, but I believe those who are pushing for women preachers are actually being demeaning toward these kinds of godly women. Here are three things we need to understand about the biblical role of women in the church:
1. A Broader View of Christian Service
I hear women say about not being able to teach during the worship assembly, “It isn’t fair that I can’t use my talents to glorify God.” But here is my question (and please don’t take offense), why is your view of Christian living and Christian service so narrow that the only way you think you can serve God is during the worship assembly?
There are a million ways that a young lady, with a talent for speaking and a passionate love for the Lord, can serve and glorify God. My mother is that type of woman and she finds countless ways to use her talents to serve the Lord outside of the worship assembly.
We must broaden our view of Christian service and realize that 99% of Christian life takes place outside of the worship assembly. Stop focusing all of your attention on the 1%. Christian living is so much more than just the worship assembly!
2. A Deeper Respect for Meekness and Submission
Our culture says “submission” is a dirty word. Culture says that a doctrine, which teaches people to submit, is oppressive and archaic. If this is true, then we must throw out every bit of Christian doctrine, because submission is what the New Testament is all about.
The New Testament is particularly about the submission of Christ. He became a submissive servant by submitting to crucifixion (see Philippians 2:1-11). He taught that the seat of greatness is not on a throne or in the spotlight, but on the floor, washing someone’s feet (see John 13). If you can’t accept this teaching, you don’t yet understand Christianity.
Men and women both have countless opportunities to practice submission and meekness, but women have a greater opportunity. Which means they are due greater honor. Because women have the talent and ability to teach, yet remain submissively silent, they are due greater honor in the church than the one who teaches.
We see this principle laid out all throughout the New Testament:
- A woman’s submission to her husband is a picture of the church’s submission to Christ (Ephesians 5:22-33).
- The best way for a Christian woman to influence her unbelieving husband is by modeling respect and submission (1 Peter 3:1-2).
- A “gentle and quiet spirit” is of “imperishable beauty” and is precious in the sight of God (1 Peter 3:4).
- Because of Creation and the Fall, a woman in the worship assembly is to “learn quietly with all submissiveness” (1 Timothy 2:11).
- In the assembly, women are “not permitted to speak, but should be in submission” (1 Corinthians 14:34).
As is often said, “Meekness is not weakness.” Women are not being mistreated when the Lord asks them to take on this role in the assembly and in their marriages. In fact, I think of it in a similar way to a husband opening a door for his wife or even carrying her over a threshold. It is not done to say she is incapable of doing these things; she is honored by allowing someone else to do them.
3. A Deeper Respect for Wives and Mothers
Our culture says it is demeaning to women to say they should be wives and mothers instead of preachers. When they say this, they are implicitly saying the role of preacher is more important and significant than the role of a wife and mother. They speak with disdain with they ask, “So, I can just be a wife and mom?” With all due respect, the word “just” has no place in that sentence.
My wife does a job I cannot do. She gave birth to our sons and she mothers them every day. I cannot be their mother. When my boys grow up to be faithful Christians, they will owe a great deal to their mother. I believe the role of wife and mother is a more important role than the role of preacher.
Paul wrote to Timothy, saying:
I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works. Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control (1 Timothy 2:8-14, emp. mine).
Not every man will be a preacher and not every woman will be a wife or mother. But that does not change the fact that in order to be qualified to be a mother, you must be a woman. And in order to be qualified to teach in the worship assembly, you must be a man. That is no more demeaning to a woman than it is to a man. It celebrates two of our unique roles within the kingdom of God.
I am so very thankful for my heritage of godly women. I celebrate their faith, their meekness, their submission, and their obedience. I celebrate them for being Christian women, for being wives, and for being mothers. They did not think this a lesser role. And honestly, I’m quite tired of people demeaning them by saying they had a lesser role in the kingdom of God.
I love you and God loves you,