Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence (1 Timothy 2:11 KJV).
When Paul wrote these words to Timothy, he was instructing the young pastor with regulations to keep worship in an orderly fashion. The people of Ephesus that Timothy pastored had formerly worshipped false gods. The women of that day were mostly idle busybodies who went from house to house gossiping and drinking.
These old habits came with them into Christian worship. They had to be instructed in their new way of life. Apparently, some of the women were trying to take over the worship services. Paul had to take matters in hand and provide guidelines for peaceful assembly.
This was a cultural matter because of the previous lifestyles of most of the congregation. We can apply the principles of these scriptures, without adopting the cultural attitudes of that day.
For example, we observe the command to dress modestly without adhering to New Testament modes of dress (1 Timothy 2:9) because we know that modesty tells us not to clothe ourselves in a provocative manner. We don’t use this verse to define modest as wearing a biblical robe. In the same way, we can apply Paul’s instructions about women’s behavior in Ephesus by considering the reason he had to address the problem and not use it as a weapon against females obeying the anointing God puts on them.
The King James Version of the instructions to Timothy uses the word usurp which according to Strong’s Concordance #831 means to act as an autocrat, self-appointed, or acting without submission.
As long as a woman feeling led to contribute to a church meeting respects the authority of the pastorate, she can scripturally teach. Also, a married woman would need to agree with her husband about her teaching role to prevent strife and discord in the home.
When these two conditions are met, the Bible gives us four reasons women can be leaders in the church.
- We are all made in the image of God.
Adam and Eve were created equal. God didn’t distinguish that one was better than the other. He created them both as mankind.
So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them (Genesis 1:27 NIV).
Adam was created from the dust of the earth, and Eve was fashioned from Adam’s side (Genesis 2:21-22).
Since she came out of Adam’s body, they both had the same DNA. The reason women’s value in society changed was because of deception. It wasn’t God’s doing, or God’s plan for the opposite sex to become subservient to males.
- We are all co-heirs with Christ.
God has given to all of us His Spirit without a determination as to male or female. We are one in Christ.
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise (Galatians 3:28).
The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if we indeed share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory (Romans 8:16-17 NIV).
When Apollos arrived in Ephesus, Pricilla and Aquila invited him to their home and taught him more about Jesus than he already knew. Acts 18:26 tells us that both Priscilla and Aquila instructed him. Priscilla’s role in discipling Apollos is clearly mentioned in this scripture.
- We are the same body with different functions.
God sees us all as His children with different purposes.
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it (1 Corinthians 12:27).
We each have a part to fulfill. When we attempt to take another person’s role or we are dissatisfied with our own, the group of believers suffers (1 Corinthians 12:25-26).
Many women, including Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Susanna, followed Jesus and supported Him out of their own means. They couldn’t do this if they didn’t have good management qualities (Luke 8:3). How could Joanna manage the household of Chuza if she wasn’t an excellent steward? Even though these stories occurred before the birth of the New Testament church, the principles that would guide the believers were already in place through Christ’s teaching.
Philip the evangelist had four daughters who prophesied (Acts 21:9). They fulfilled their function by allowing the Holy Spirit to work through them and this blessed those who heard their words.
- We all have the mind of Christ and His identity.
For who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16).
In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul gives instructions for disciplined worship. In verse 39 he admonishes the people as brothers and sisters signifying that both can prophesy and speak in tongues in a service if the process is not disruptive.
When Paul began his letter to the Ephesians, he addressed them as God’s holy people (Ephesians 1:1). He didn’t distinguish between men and women. Throughout this letter, he referred to those who believe in Christ as chosen, adopted, and sealed. This is the same group of people that Paul’s instructions about women were directed to. The Apostle saw them as equal in the body of Christ.
Women’s Leadership Throughout the Bible
Jesus restored the value that Satan stole from women in the garden. The Messiah didn’t hesitate to minister to the woman at the well despite the stringent rules of the day (John 4:7-9). After hearing the Savior’s message, she persuaded her community to listen to Jesus. Mary of Bethany took the initiative and gave preference to Jesus that no man gave Him by anointing her Lord with costly perfume before His crucifixion (John 12:2-3). The Son of Man’s mother took on the task of solving a problem at the wedding in Cana (John 2:1-11). The resurrected Christ entrusted the first commission of the gospel to Mary Magdalene (John 20:17-18).
We have many examples of women’s motivational influence in the Old Testament such as Deborah, Esther, Abigail, and the Proverbs 31 woman. If these women who were under a covenant of law could stand for God and contribute when the need arose, how much more can we under the New Covenant in Christ’s kingdom?
Paul commended Phoebe (Romans 16:1-2) and gave instructions to the Christians in Rome to assist her in any way because of her service to the believers. In this same chapter, he also singled out Priscilla (v.3), Mary (v.6), Tryphena and Tryphosa (v.12), and Julia and the sister of Nereus (v.15) as women who had labored and served with him. It’s obvious from Paul’s endorsement that these women were valuable to his ministry and to the congregations where they worshipped.
Misrepresenting scripture to prevent females from presiding over a meeting or teaching in the congregation violates the command to rightly divide the Word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15). We are not to lean to our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6) or rule by religious tradition.
When we work together as members of Christ, we can fulfill His commission to make disciples and encourage one another.