Freed to live through the death of another.

Tag: Ordination of women (Page 1 of 2)

But Hasn’t Culture Changed?

You don’t have to be involved in many discussions on the issue of gender roles in the New Testament and the church today before someone cites the ‘culture Paul / Peter was writing to.’

ancient ephesus 2They usually argue that the culture ‘back then’ was different. Women weren’t educated, had no opportunities to grow, teach, express themselves, attain to leadership positions. Paul was going along with some of the cultural assumptions he had inherited from the ancient world, so as to earn Christianity a hearing.

But our culture now is far more progressive. Things are different now, it is argued, and so our understanding of the roles of men and women must also progress from where it was ‘back then.’

One of the (several) things that is wrong with this argument is that it often assumes a simplistic and monolithic view of gender roles and identity across all swaths of society in the Roman world. But such was not the case then, as it is not the case now.

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Saved Through Childbearing (1 Tim 2.15)

Yesterday, Tim blogged his interpretation of 1 Timothy 2.15 — an admittedly difficult verse. Mary Kassian responded with her take on the verse, which was somewhat different than Tim’s (although, the practical import of the differing interpretations is probably negligible.

I’m thankful for the discussion on the passage, which is tough on any understanding, so I thought I’d contribute my 2 cents. Here’s the passage in question:

11 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15 Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control. (ESV)

The Context

Before getting to verse 15, let me offer a word on the passage. Paul is very clearly addressing the church with very plain, straightforward instructions on how they are to function in a normative sense. He is hoping to come to them soon to give these instructions in fuller detail, but in case he is delayed, he wants them to know how to behave right away (1 Tim 3.14-15).

Furthermore, all these instructions on how the church is to operate (their ‘godliness’) is to be built on the foundation of the ‘mystery’ of Christ, which is the gospel (1 Tim 3.16). That’s what he’s doing in this whole section of the book, so that’s what we can expect to find here. In other words, we won’t here find temporary fixes based on temporary principles, nor will we find allegories or metaphors, but plain pastoral instruction on how to behave because of the gospel.

The Instructions

Now, to our section. Verses 11-12 give the instructions: women must not teach or have authority over men, but should learn quietly, with all submissiveness. Now, don’t miss the obvious. Paul actually commands women to learn in the churches. That is stunningly ground-breaking. Women were not typically allowed to learn, but Paul here commands it. He wants women who care about theology because they love their God. Nevertheless, they are to learn in a manner fitting their role as women.

The Reason

If verses 11-12 give the instructions then verses 13-14 give the reason for the instruction. Paul, a wise pastor (like a wise parent) won’t give blanket instructions with a ‘because I say so’ attitude to a church that loves him. If they are to obey God in a way that honours him, they need to know why this type of behaviour honours him. So he expresses that this was always God’s order–it’s the way God made it. Why did God make it like that? He doesn’t answer here. The mind of God is the mind of God. But we know what we need to know to honour him: he made it this way on purpose, and we’ll do well to keep it that way.

What’s significant about God’s order in this context, however, is that it was inverted in one famous instance: the fall of humanity. There Satan dishonoured God by ignoring his order, and encouraging Eve to do the same. When Paul says ‘Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived,’ he’s not saying outright that Adam wasn’t deceived, and still less is he saying that women in general are more gullible than men. Anyone with a half a brain and a few years’ worth of living under their belt knows that there are just as many gullible men out there as women. What is Paul getting at then? In saying that Eve was deceived, he’s emphasizing that it was Eve that Satan came to; it was Eve who was tempted; it was the woman who took the lead. Satan inverted God’s roles and brought destruction and death to all mankind.

So the instructions are don’t invert God’s order in the male-female relationship in the church. And the reason is that this is the way Satan operates to bring disorder and destruction. But again, as the gospel-centred pastor that Paul is, he will not simply draw out principles and command them without rooting them in the gospel (remember the pattern of 1 Tim 3.14-16). That would be to motivate by law, not gospel, and in the NT it is grace that compels obedience (cf. Rom 6.1-14). So verse 15 offers the gospel hope which is to undergird all of our actions in maintaining role distinctions within the church.

The Gospel-Hope which Compels Endurance

Paul, building on his case from Genesis 2-3, recalls that even the curse (which would bring a competitive striving for ruling the home between the woman and her husband) still brought a promise of deliverance through childbearing (Gen 3.16). Immediately after the curses, comes these words: ‘The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living’ (Gen 3.20). Before the curse and after the curse, God’s plan was unchanged–women had a role; but it will be cursed with pain now, so that they must endure. Mary would ultimately fulfill this purpose and promise, giving birth to the Saviour of the world, who delivers us from the curse (Gal 4.4-5). The creation of woman in the image of God, the promise of the seed of the woman bringing salvation, and the coming of the Saviour from a woman all give nobility to that role. Paul is reminding the Ephesian women that this is no second class calling, but was the role and the means essential for bringing salvation to men, women, and children worldwide. They will do well to follow in the pattern set in creation and in redemption.

As for the word ‘saved,’ I think it is best to take that in the typical Pauline sense of ‘salvation from sin and judgement.’ But it’s important to see that it’s in the future tense. He is holding out the completion of the work of salvation in a holistic sense–you will be saved, if you endure. The work of salvation will finally be accomplished, if you persevere, content in your role. This fits well with the curse-redemption motif, and with the Satan-temptation motif as well. Just a couple chapters later Paul says, ‘So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander. For some have already strayed after Satan (1 Tim 5.14-15).’ There again we have a reference to biblical femininity and being ‘saved’ from the temptations of Satan who would induce discontentment and uprising from the God-ordained role. Just as Eve would have been saved, and just like younger widows will be saved, the women of the church will be saved by contentedness in fulfilling their role.

But the trouble with this, of course, is that it seems to make childbearing and role-fulfilling a work necessary for salvation. But the remainder of the verse takes care of that. These women will be saved as they persevere in ‘faith, love, and holiness.’ Those are important concepts, as related to salvation within the letter of 1 Timothy. Paul has already said that the aim of his gospel-protecting charge is ‘love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience (holiness) and a sincere faith‘ (1 Tim 1.5). That only comes from the gospel. Those things that women are called to persevere in are only found in the gospel. Again, in 1 Tim 1.13-14, Paul says of himself, ‘though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy … and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.’ So even the apostle Paul had no other hope of holiness, faith, and love, than what is found in the gospel Christ Jesus. The gospel which was, after-all, first prophesied to a woman (Gen 3.16) and first witnessed by women at the tomb (Luke 24.10-11).


So what am I saying? That Paul is laying out a gospel-hope as the foundation for living in godly submission as a Christian woman. Christian women, though called to submission in their role, and denied the role of teacher in the church, are no less human and are in no more need of salvation than men. Their role is dignified, honourable, pleasing to God from the beginning of creation to now, and was used powerfully by God in the redemption of humanity. Women are, at the end of the day, to be saved in the exact same way as men–even the apostle himself: clinging to the gospel of Jesus, and walking in a manner worthy of that gospel.

The ‘self-control’ he reminds them of, then, is merely a concluding word, noting that all of what he has written to women from verse 9-15 can only be carried out as they use gospel-gained self-control to persevere in their role, thus saving themselves from the temptation of Satan and the judgement that follows it.

Again, at the end of all the debate, I really don’t think that the practical outworking of all this will be much different from this interpretation than from Tim’s or Mary’s, but I do think this is probably the best way to understand Paul’s line of reasoning in this text.

Justifying God

Abraham banishes Hagar

Abraham banishes Hagar

Genesis gives an interesting picture of Abraham. There were times when he was faithful and times when he was not, but overall the NT looks back on him as the prototypical ‘man of faith’ who will inherit the promises of God. The highest goal we can strive for is to be like Abraham–in fact, to have faith, in order that we may become one of his children.

But Abraham’s faith wavered. God had made tremendous promises to Abraham about his ‘seed’ and ‘blessing all nations’ and things like that. But when Abraham gave his situation an honest evaluation, it was tough for him to see how this could come about. The circumstances just didn’t look like God was going to fulfil his promises.

Abraham loved God, and believed God’s word. But he doubted that God had the power to bring about his purposes, because of the circumstances of Abraham’s life. Abraham knew that God had promised children, but knew that the chances of that in the later stages of his (and Sarah’s!) life were slim to nil. 

Abraham was concerned that God be justified. He desired for God’s promise to be fulfilled, for God’s word to come true. 

Many of us find ourselves from time-to-time in situations like Abraham. We know God’s commands, God’s promises, God’s declarations regarding the future. But when we look at the world the way it is–and in particular, our world the way it is–we start to wonder how (or if) God will actually pull it off.

But we want him to! We want God to be shown right! We want God to be justified in the words he has spoken and in the declarations he has made. We just aren’t really convinced that, given these circumstances, there is any way he can show himself to be true.

So what did Abraham do? He found his own way to bring about (what he thought) were God’s purposes. In his eagerness for God to be justified, he thought he would help God out, by adjusting the rules a little bit. Abraham took Hagar, his wife’s servant, and had a child by her, thinking that this would be the means by which God would be justified.

But God said no. His promises were bigger, and his power is bigger than Abraham could have imagined. Abraham may have had the right intention, in trying to show God to be just, but his problem started when he felt like God needed to be justified by us. He spent too much time looking at his own circumstances (and wondering what could possibly be done), and not enough time gazing at the God who had made the promise.

This applies on so many levels. Theologians, for example, may wonder how God could be good, fair, righteous, etc., but still demand that only men hold certain positions in the church. They think, ‘Our society is more advanced than the church of Christ!’ We wonder how God could be the things he says he is, and still insist on something so backward. So we seek to justify God by bending his rules. 

My hope for myself (and for you) is that I would spend more time gazing at God and thinking about his omniscience and omnipotence, and less time thinking about my circumstances. The more I’m convinced of his infinite ability to deliver on his word, the less I’ll be tempted to justify him by compromising in my own life.

Egalitarian or Complementarian: How to Decide?

Both the complementarian and the egalitarian positions ultimately must stand or fall based on their interpretation of Genesis 1-2. Both sides agree that male and female were created alike, with the same human nature, both created in the image of God with equal dignity and value; but was it God’s intention for there to be distinction in role or was it not?

One basic rule for the interpretation of Scripture that is adopted by the majority of evangelicals is that Scripture must be allowed to interpret Scripture. In other words, where an issue is dealt with in obscure places and then again in clearer places, we must allow the clearer revelation to interpret the less clear. Also, it is standard hermeneutical practice among evangelicals to allow the newer revelation to give clarity to the older (since Christ is the mystery proclaimed in the OT, but revealed in the NT, which has implications for everything!).

This issue is a good place to employ this helpful rule. While scholars may debate the validity of seeing a distinction in role in Genesis 1-2, the apostle Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, has already given us a clear and authoritative interpretation. In 1 Timothy 2:11-15 Paul argues that women must not teach or have authority over a man in the local church, and he cites Genesis 1-2 as his rationale: “Adam was formed first, then Eve.” Lest we think this was an appeal only relevant in a particular situation in a particular local body of believers, Paul uses the same logic again, in 1 Corinthians 11. In this passage he argues that within the kingdom of those redeemed in Christ (therefore, among those spoken of in Gal. 3:28), “the head of every man is Christ, and the head of a wife is her husband”. His defence of this position is drawn from the same text in Genesis, and he says “man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.” To these passages must be added Ephesians 5:22-33. In this glorious text, the apostle looks back at the “profound mystery” of two becoming one flesh, which is spoken of in Genesis and says that the original human marriage is patterned after the loving authority-submission relationship of Christ and his bride, which God had purposed to establish from before the creation of the world.

In these decisive passages, where Scripture interprets itself, we are able to see clearly that it was God’s intention for there to be a distinction in role, including a loving authority-submission structure within marriage, and therefore within the local church. Many other details of many other arguments from both sides could and should be examined where time and space allow, but here it suffices for us to know that the testimony of Scripture is on the side of the complementarians. Throughout the Bible, from creation on, through the fall and ultimately through redemption, God has testified that he has a plan for male and female, equally created in his image, equal in essence and value, yet distinct in their roles in the home and in the church.

The Gender-Issue Landscape

Seeing as how I’ve been giving some really broad, yet really brief overviews of theological positions this week (dangerous at the best of times, but necessary just about always), I thought I’d continue with that pattern but on a different issue.

So, we approach again the gender debate. Are women free to take any office in the NT church, or are they restricted by their gender? Are men more valuable than women? Did God create men & women with difference in roles, or is that result of sin or some construct of society? Does redemption in Christ undo gender distinctions? These are just some of the numerous questions involved in the gender issue.

Despite how some argue, there are only two positions on the issue of women in ministry in the local church: one is either a complementarian or an egalitarian. This is so because it must be decided, Is being a woman (just having this gender) a disqualifying factor at some point for some positions of ministry or is it not? Regardless of where one draws the line, as soon as a line is drawn, one becomes a complementarian at some level. What follows is a brief sketch of both the egalitarian and complementarian arguments.

  1. Egalitarians
  2. Egalitarians argue for created equality. Adam and Eve were created as equals, both alike in the image of God; there was absolutely no distinction between them other than gender. They have functional equality as well, both given responsibility to rule of the creation. As a result of the fall, however, human relationships have been subjected to disorder and falsely established and wrongly motivated hierarchy. Sin introduced disorder into God’s creation, and the result of the curse of God was that man would “rule over” woman, but woman would “desire” man (Genesis 3:16). The perceived supremacy of male over female in relationships, in the world at large and throughout history is a result of the fall and the resulting disorder. However, now that we are in Christ, and because of the redemption that he has accomplished, “there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28). This means that the relationship of equality in essence, function, and relationship has been completely restored. Differences have been obliterated and females, like males, are encouraged to pursue all areas of ministry in the local church.

  3. Complementarians
  4. Complementarians, just like egalitarians believe that Adam and Ever were alike created in the image of God, and that both are of absolute equal value. Complementarians, however, see a distinction in role between male and female, even in the Garden of Eden, before the fall. This is shown in several ways: Adam was created first, then Eve; Adam was given the command and the primary responsibility for the care of the garden; Eve was created to be Adam’s helper; and, the fact that Adam was the one to name Eve. That there was a distinction and overall distinction greater than that admitted by egalitarians is demonstrated by the apostle Paul’s use of the Genesis texts in places like 1 Corinthians 11 and 1 Timothy 2. For the complementarian, the fallen disruption of God’s created design is perceived differently. Where there was loving leadership and glad-hearted submission before, Adam’s desire is to “rule” (that is, by force of power, not lovingly) over Eve, while Eve’s desire is “against” (that is, with evil intent, to subvert and rule over—see Gen. 4:7) Adam. Complementarians argue that there is true role restoration in the redemption that Christ accomplishes, but it is not of the nature envisioned by the egalitarians. Rather, it is a reestablishment of the loving headship-submission relationship of Adam and Eve, which was designed to prefigure the relationship of Christ with his bride (Ephesians 5:22-33). That this is a restoration of the relationship as it was in Eden is evinced by 1 Timothy 2:8-15.

Who’s In Your Church?

The Kerux has had quite an interesting conversation emerging on his blog lately about the issue of baptism and church membership. These are issues I’ve thought about for some time, but I confess, I have not come to a firm view.

The arguments against having paedobaptists as members are legion, but I think that most (all?) of them fall short. Here’s one of the arguments against it that drives me nuts:

Paedobaptists have aberrant theological views. We should not allow people with aberrant theological views into church membership. Therefore, paedobaptists should not be allowed to be members in baptist churches.

Some even extend this logic to the issue of who we allow to partake of the Lord’s Supper. That just doesn’t make any sense to me! Does that not seem unbiblical to anyone else?

It seems to me that when I examine the New Testament evidence, there is no theological quiz given before the Lord’s Supper. Believers were not required to jump through theological hoops to be considered ‘valid church members.’ Membership in the local church was based on identification with Christ–which, granted, included baptism.

But paedobaptists believe they have been baptised, and if they are believers, have identified themselves with Christ. So why do we exclude them? Because they believe an ‘aberrant theological view.’

But don’t you hold ‘aberrant theological views’ too? I’m certain that I do.

So whether we like it or not, we’re either (a) saying that we hold no aberrant views on any secondary issues, or else (b) what we’ve already done is drawn a line in the sand, saying that there are certain aberrant views we will accept and others that we won’t.

Why draw that line at baptism? What if someone in our church is a dispensational premillenial (gasp)? What if someone is a continuationist rather than a cessationist? What if–God forbid–one of our people should be Arminian? Do we say ‘Get out of our church!’ or, ‘There’s no bread for your types around here!’?

I think not! If someone were to start picking apart my systematics with such a fine-toothed comb, I would think it would not be long before I would be barred from the Table!

Let me pose this question to all who are concerned for the preaching of doctrinal truth from our pulpits: Who do you want in your church?

I want people who love my Lord Jesus and are committed to loving him with heart, soul, mind, and strength. I want paedobaptists in my church because they’ll hear me preach on baptism. I want Arminians in my church because they’ll hear us teach on God’s sovereign saving grace. I want egalitarians in my church because they’ll hear the truth about gender distinctions in the church and in the home. I want charismatics and cessationists in my church because these are secondary issues and we love and serve the same Lord and we all have much to teach each other!

Where else will all of us with ‘aberrant theological views’ go to hear the truth, if not to our local church?

All-Male Eldership, Part 6: Concluding Thoughts

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Conclusion.


It has been the intent of this series to present several of the exegetical arguments for the complementarian position. Admittedly, some arguments are more persuasive than others, but we have been firmly founded in the God-breathed texts from the Old and New Testaments throughout.

We have not claimed to have all answers for all questions, nor have we come close to providing exhaustive definitions, arguments and proofs, so as to close the case—that was not the intent. What was desired has been accomplished, however, and the Scriptures have been allowed to interpret themselves in order to present the reader with a broad view of how God inspired his writers to structure the husband-wife relationship.

Since this has been a presentation of the classical interpretation and the plain reading of all of the passages mentioned, a personal plea to the reader must be made:

Do not allow yourself to be swayed away from the doctrine of Paul, Peter, and the historic Christian church by any showy argument.

If there is any temptation to move to a novel egalitarian position, scrutinize motives in agonizing detail: Why do you desire to depart from the biblical teaching?

Examine arguments carefully: Are they logical? Are they consistent with the style and intent of arguments of biblical writers? Are the criteria used biblical in nature?

And most importantly: Make sure your position is derived from Holy Writ and nowhere else. No other text is God-breathed, and no writer since John has been inspired. We may be absolutely sure that God’s will (at least at one point) was for wives to submit to husbands. We may not in any sense whatever be certain that it was ever or ever will be God’s desire for a husband-wife relationship to exist without headship and submission.

Seriously consider: Where does the burden of proof lie? The argument must not be framed in a way so as to make complementarians the ones who must give an explanation why we believe what we do, since what we believe is plainly revealed in Scriptures. The burden of proof clearly lies on egalitarians.

For those swayed by the “cultural exceptions” type arguments, let me ask you this: Just for a moment, put yourself in Paul’s place, wanting to lay down clear and binding regulations for the male-female relationship for all Christians everywhere… how would you present it? Would you refer to the creation order and why we were each created? Would you refer to the relationship of man and woman prior to the fall? He did. Would you refer to the undoing of the curse in redeemed Christian relationships? So did he. Would you refer to the inner workings of our Triune God? That was Paul’s approach. So now, let me ask you, what could Paul have referred to that would convince you that this commands are binding for all time? There is nothing left! You’ve rejected every God-breathed reason that has been given.

If we complementarians are wrong, it is because we have attempted to stick too closely to the revealed will of God. If egalitarians are wrong, it is out of desire to abrogate the commands of God in order to appeal to a feminist and pluralistic culture. Clearly, unless there is absolutely not one a single doubt anywhere in your mind that an egalitarian interpretation of Scripture is correct, it only makes sense to remain a complementarian with Paul, Peter and the 2000 years of church history that has followed them. May we all be able to stand before the judgment throne of God one day and be cleared of any charge of adding to or subtracting from all the words of his divine self-revelation.

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