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The Role of Women in the Church (Rev. ed.)

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Text: 1 Tim. 2.8-15

Thesis: To prove that although God has limited what women can do publicly in the worship

             assembly, they are still equally important and valuable in the eyes of God.


(1)    Today, the discussion concerning the role of women can quickly become heated as some say that women may do anything that men may do and others say that women have certain limitations on the role in which they may serve in the worship assembly.

(2)    Let us attempt to set aside our preconceived notions and honestly investigate the Biblical teaching on this matter.


I.                   The Bible teaches that men and women are both intrinsically equal .

A.    Both were made “in the image of God” (Gen. 1:26).

B.     Both were called “very good” (Gen. 1:31).

C.     Both are “all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28).

1.      Note: This verse is emphasizing one’s equality in terms of salvation.

2.      Note: This verse is not intended to be used to abolish gender distinctions and roles assigned by God Himself.

II.                The Bible teaches that God makes certain choices, at times, that in no way is intended to devalue those who are not chosen.

A.    In the OT, God chose Israel as the nation through whom He would bring the Christ.

B.     In the OT, God chose Levi as the tribe from which priest would come.

C.     In the NT, Jesus chose only 12 apostles.

D.    In the NT, God chose only men to be elders who met certain qualifications, which included being married with children.

III.             The Bible teaches that God has made a choice about the role of women in the public worship service that in no way is intended to devalue women.

A.    Let us examine 1 Timothy 2:8-15:

1.      After emphasizing the content of one’s prayer (vv. 1-7), Paul will now (v. 8) emphasize the manner of one’s prayer.

a.       Men are to lead the prayers in the public worship assembly (Note: ‘everywhere [Gr. topos] = church’s meeting places [Ferguson]).

b.      Men are to pray while lifting ‘holy hands.’

(1)   This was a common posture for praying.

(2)   However, “perhaps the main thing being emphasized is not so much the posture, but what the posture signifies – in this case – a holy life” (Reese 60).

(3)   Thus, “not merely pure actions but pure motives are essential in Christian worship” (Guthrie 84).

2.      In verses 9-10, Paul stresses the importance of a woman’s being dressed modestly in the public worship assembly.

a.       “Paul’s purpose is probably not to ban these altogether, but to warn against expensive and extravagant preoccupation with one’s appearance” (Schreiner 119).

b.      He stresses that “the ultimate adornment is a life of good works” (Reese 66).

3.      In verse 11, Paul discusses the manner in which a woman is to learn.

a.       She is to learn ‘in quietness’ (Gr. hesuchia), which is best understood as “a quiet demeanor and spirit that is peaceable instead of argumentative” (Schreiner 123).

b.      Note: The word used here differs from the word used in 1 Cor. 14:34, which basically carries the meaning of “say nothing, keep still, keep silent” (BDAG).

4.      In verse 12, Paul notes two things that a woman is not to do within the public worship assembly.

a.       First, she is not to ‘teach.’

(1)      ‘Teach’ does not exclude all forms of teaching (e.g., Acts 18:36; 2 Tim. 1:5; Titus 2:3-5).

(2)      ‘Teach’ (Gr. didaskein) carries “the sense of authoritative public doctrinal instruction” (Hughes 69).

(3)      Further, it is modified with ‘over a man.’

b.      Second, she is not to ‘have authority over a man.’

(1)      ‘Have authority’ (Gr. authrntein) means “to have or exercise authority” (Knight 141).

(2)      I.e., a woman is not to take a public leadership role in the public worship assembly.

5.      In verse 13-14, Paul explains the reason for the limitation of the role of women in the public worship assembly.

a.       First, the order of creation demonstrates that God has a design for the sexes.

b.      Second, Eve’s fall is an example of what happens when one ignores “her divinely ordained position. Instead of following she chose to lead. Instead of remaining submissive to God, she wanted to be ‘like God’” (Hendrickson 110).

6.      In verse 15, Paul uses ‘childbearing’ as “a synecdoche for the entire status of women in their relationship to God and men” (Coffman).  I.e., a woman will be saved if she assumes her God-ordained role.

B.     Other considerations:

1.      F. LaGard Smith has aptly demonstrated that God has always demanded male-spiritual leadership.

2.      But, what about …… ?

a.       Was Phoebe a deaconess (cf. Rom. 16:1)?

(1)   ‘Servant’ (Gr. diakonos) simply means “one who serves” (BDAG).

(2)   Qualifications for the office of a deacon = 1 Tim. 3:8-13

b.      Doesn’t Paul mention women praying and prophesying in the public worship assembly (cf. 1 Cor. 11:5)?

(1)   The context of the assembly is not stated.

(2)   Further, Paul is clear in 1 Cor. 14:34-35.

c.       Didn’t Philip have 4 daughters who prophesied (cf. Acts 21:9)? Yes, but we are not told where they prophesied.

d.      Isn’t Paul’s statement to be interpreted culturally? No, because it is tied to creation.


(1)    God has made certain choices.

(2)    Let us respect His choice in all areas.

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