|Vol. 14 No. 6 June 2012
Louis Rushmore, Editor
It is important to emphasize biblical fundamentals, especially when they differ from contemporary religion. Since, the churches of Christ belong to Jesus Christ (Romans 16:16), they are obligated to conduct themselves according to what He authorizes (Colossians 3:17). Really, all people living in the Gospel Age should heed the words of Jesus Christ rather than Moses or the Old Testament prophets (Matthew 17:1-5; John 12:48). Further, Jesus Christ is the Lawgiver (James 4:12) and Mediator (Hebrews 9:15) of the New Testament, to which people living today must turn for religious instruction. In addition, Jesus Christ condemned alteration of divine instruction with “the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:9). The inspired apostle Paul likewise condemned false Gospels (Galatians 1:6-9) and the human will when substituted for the divine will (Colossians 2:23). Hence, one must turn exclusively to the New Testament to learn what God has authorized respecting Christianity.
The respective roles for men and women in the church and in the home are not culturally based, but they go back to near creation. They were implemented by God before there was any culture (1 Timothy 2:13-14; 1 Corinthians 11:8-9).
The churches of Christ are obligated to implement in congregations the type of church leadership that the New Testament authorizes. Therefore, the churches of Christ do not have female leadership in the church because it is not authorized by God. Since God has restricted women from leadership roles in the church, this places a serious responsibility upon male members of the church to assume their God-given role (1 Timothy 2:8).
Everyone who respects biblical authority and wants to please God will concern himself with what Almighty God has authorized. In the case of church leadership, that means that the local church will be led by godly men, and that the church will not have female leaders. We can no more change the respective roles that God has assigned to men and to women than we can alter God’s plan of salvation. Both corruptions of scriptural instruction would be eternally and spiritually disastrous!
Erosion of Male Leadership
Attitudes in contemporary society around the world already have infringed on the God-given roles of men and of women. Women are not the least inferior to men intellectually and certainly not spiritually. Furthermore, equality between men and women spiritually is a biblical doctrine (Galatians 3:27-28). In addition, equality between men and women in the workplace may prevail, and perhaps that is all right. However, in the home and in the church, God Himself has specified the respective roles of men and of women, and faithful Christians must not deviate from divine instruction. The reason that for over 6,000 years women have been submissive to men in the home and in religion is because God legislated that doctrine in Scripture. For nearly the past 2,000 years, God has included in the New Testament the submission of women to men in the home and in the church. Despite political correctness in modern society, perhaps nothing better illustrates the unchanging roles for men and women as God designed them than the immutable fact that the female of our species still must give birth to our offspring. The apostle Paul alluded to this role in 1 Timothy 2:15. The role of women in the church or in the home is only controversial to those who do not properly respect the authority of God and His Word.
The inspired Word of God gives several reasons for the subordination of women: (1) “For Adam was first formed, then Eve” (1 Timothy 2:13); (2) woman, not man, was deceived by Satan (1 Timothy 2:14); (3) woman was created from man (1 Corinthians 11:8) and (4) woman was created for man (1 Corinthians 11:9). Yet, a woman’s salvation and worth are not tied to a man (Galatians 3:28). However, the Gospel does not dissolve physical distinctions between races, political or economic status, or the sexes. The standard for Christians, including women, is not the practices of society around them (Romans 12:2). Final authority for the conduct of Christian men and Christian women in the home or in the church rests with God. Our Heavenly Father has the absolute right to distinguish between roles for women and for men.
In the Beginning
Male leadership in the church that Jesus built had its beginning in the Garden of Eden. Yes, 4,000 years before the institution of the New Testament church, Almighty God established male leadership in religion and in the home. This principle of male leadership continued throughout Patriarchy and Judaism, and male leadership persists under Christianity. What we are discussing herein is essentially, “The Role of Men,” except our emphasis specifically concerns male leadership in the church.
By divine inspiration, Moses wrote regarding the aftermath of sin in the Garden of Eden, “To the woman He said: ‘I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you’” (Genesis 3:16 NKJV). Therefore, the subordinate role of women to men does not pertain to custom or culture, but predates both. Also, the Gospel has not altered or removed the subordinate role of women any more than it has affected (1) painful childbirth, (2) sweat and labor, and (3) physical death (Genesis 3:16-19), all of which will remain until the end of time.
By divine inspiration, the apostle Paul connected male leadership in the church to male leadership in the Garden of Eden. “Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression” (1 Timothy 2:11-14). Likewise, when writing to the Corinthian church, the apostle expressed the same doctrine. “But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God… Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man” (1 Corinthians 11:3, 9). It is no more appropriate for a woman to take for herself a role that God designated for men than it would be appropriate for a man to take for himself the role of Jesus Christ. Therefore, Christian sisters must not presume to teach men publicly, and Christian men do not have God’s permission to allow women to teach men publicly about religion. As far as God and the children of God are concerned, the respective but distinctive God-given roles for men and for women are unaffected by contemporary culture and society.
Role of Women Defines Role of Men
“The Role of Women” helps define “The Role of Men.” Specifically, whatever is not the role of women in the church must be the role of men. For instance, women are forbidden in the New Testament to teach men publicly about religion. “Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence” (1 Timothy 2:11-12). “Let your women keep silent in the churches [assemblies], for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church [assembly]” (1 Corinthians 14:34-35). Therefore, men have the responsibility for publicly teaching God’s Word to other men. However, Aquila and Priscilla, Christian husband and Christian wife, show that a woman may teach a man privately (Acts 18:24-26), as long as she does not attempt to take charge over him or to teach in an authoritarian way (1 Timothy 2:12). Christian women can and must teach their non-Christian husbands, too (1 Peter 3:1), but by example if he will not consider their words. In addition, women also speak and teach when they participate in singing (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16). Otherwise, women are forbidden by inspired Scripture to preach or to teach men publicly.
The New Testament Defines the Role of Men in the Church
“The Role of Men” in the Lord’s church has been predetermined by God, and it is not subject either to alteration or neglect by Christian men. Before one even entertains discussion of church leaders (e.g. elders, deacons, preachers, and teachers), Christian men (and women) must realize that God has chosen men over women to lead in the church.
In the church, leadership roles are assigned to men and supportive roles are delegated to women. Yet, not even every man can be an elder (1 Timothy 3:1-7), deacon (1 Timothy 3:8-13), preacher or teacher (1 Corinthians 12:18). However, men as a group are charged by God with the responsibility to guide and publicly teach the church. God has forbidden women these same duties.
That men rather than women are to lead in the church is evident from the New Testament teaching that men are to lead the public prayers. “I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting” (1 Timothy 2:8). The word “men” means “male.” In addition, “men” in verse 8 are contrasted with “women” in verse 9.
No one dare change any doctrine of the New Testament at all (Galatians 1:6-9; Revelation 22:18-19). Of course, then, especially Christians must be careful to observe the God-given respective roles of men and of women in the church (and in the home). The fact that many males may not rise to the occasion to be teachers and preachers is a sad commentary on men, but that human failure does not negate God’s law respecting the roles of men and of women in the church. The fact that many males may not rise to the occasion to be the husbands and the fathers in the home that they should be is a sad commentary on men, but that human failure does not, for instance, make a wife into a husband or make a mother into a father. The home needs both male and female roles to be the coordinated home that God designed it to be. Likewise, the church needs both male and female roles to be the coordinated church that God designed it to be.
When Christian women take for themselves the role of men either in the home or in the church, it is the fault of Christian men. Women, though, are not blameless. First, men ought to take for themselves the roles in the home and in the church that God assigned to them. Secondly, Christian men ought to forbid Christian women from assuming for themselves roles that God has not given to them. The respective roles in religion and in the home that God established from the dawn of man’s earthly pilgrimage are still in force. By divine design, the role for public activity in the assembly of the church belongs exclusively to designated males.