There are no new arguments in the effort to expand women’s role in the church to include those tasks that have traditionally been given to men. Some women want to lead prayer as well as teach and preach in public assemblies, and find support for their aspirations by disregarding Paul’s instructions on these matters as first century cultural bias against women. Others argue that Jesus did not specifically forbid women from doing this, so it must be acceptable. They point to certain women like Phoebe (Romans 16:1), Lydia (Acts 16:14) or Philip’s daughters who prophesied (Acts 21:9) as examples of females who exercised spiritual leadership in the church at that time. As I said, there is nothing new or terribly convincing in the attempt to biblically support the views that women and men should exercise similar roles of ministry and leadership in the church, especially when it comes together for public worship.
Of course, the response to these arguments is also an old one. The Bible specifically teaches, by word and example, in the gospels as well as the epistles that male spiritual leadership in the church is the norm. There are any number of passages and examples that can be given to prove this point but the one that speaks most clearly about this specific issue is found in I Corinthians 14:34-38 where Paul answers a question about women’s role in the church.
34 Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. 35 If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.
36 Or did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached? 37 If anyone thinks they are a prophet or otherwise gifted by the Spirit, let them acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command. 38 But if anyone ignores this, they will themselves be ignored.
Note two important points:
- Women are to remain silent in the areas of teaching and preaching.
- This teaching about a woman’s role and conduct is a commandment from the Lord, not the cultural bias of a male Apostle.
Good Bible study and interpretation requires one to base doctrine and the actions that flow from it on passages that clearly define the issues, and examples that confirm the teachings. In this case we see that Paul consistently taught that women were to be in submission to the male spiritual leadership in the church and were not permitted to teach the men (II Timothy 2:11-12). Complementing this teaching are the examples of exclusively male apostles, elders, deacons and evangelists throughout the New Testament.
Our society provides opportunities for women to equally exercise their talents and abilities alongside men. We could elect a woman as President and all citizens, male and female, would need to pay her the honor due to her office, and all of this with God’s blessing.
When it comes to the church, however, some women refuse to accept the role that God has assigned to them in favor of one that they find more gratifying.
Soft rebellion says, “I will serve as I choose, not as God requires.” In the end it may be presented in terms of feminine empowerment but soft rebellion is still an effort to overthrow God’s will and replace it with our own.