Answers to more issues about women pastors and elders

  1. What is meant by the issue of  "authority" in the context of preaching and teaching?
    1. When the church gathers together for participation in mutual fellowship, baptism, the Lord's supper, worship, and preaching, it is functioning as the church.  When a man, the pastor, goes into the pulpit to preach, he is speaking the word of God.  This does not mean that every pastor is always speaking the word of God properly.  But it does mean that the church has gathered to hear from God's authoritative Word which is presented by a duly appointed minister of the gospel (Titus 1:5) who is gifted and called who is gifted by God to teach the word of God (1 Tim. 5:17).  This very act of presenting a verbal declaration of God's word in the pulpit, in the church setting, is by nature authoritative.  This is not the position of women.  This is why Paul says, "But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. 13 For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve," (1 Tim. 2:12-13).
    2. Acts 15:2, 6-7, "And when Paul and Barnabas had great dissension and debate with them, the brethren determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders (presbuterous--masc. plur.) concerning this issue . . . 6 And the apostles and the elders (presbuteroi--masc. plur.) came together to look into this matter.7 And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brethren, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe."
      1. Note:  In Greek verse 7 says, "Peter stood up and said to them, men (masc. plur.) brothers (masc. plur.) you know that . . . " The word "men" is there in the Greek when Peter refers to the brethren.  This demonstrates that in this case, "brethren" is not a generic reference that includes females.  This is important because the issue of authority is specifically designated to rest with those who are called the brethren, and are specifically male.
    3. Regarding the office of elder.
      1. The pastor is an elder (1 Peter 5:1-3)
        1. This verse says that the elder must shepherd the flock, which is what a pastor does.
      2. The pastor is an elder who rules, preaches, and/or teaches (1 Tim. 5:17).
      3. The pastor is to equip the body of Christ (Eph. 4:11-13).
      4. All uses of "elder" in the church teaching context are in the masculine except for 1 Tim. 5:2 where it speaks of treating older women as mothers.
      5. Must be a man (1 Tim. 2:9-13).
      6. Husband of one wife (Titus 1:6; 1 Tim. 3:2).
      7. Must be above reproach (Titus 1:6; 1 Tim. 3:2)
      8. Household must be in order with children who believe (Titus 1:6 ;1 Tim. 3:4).
      9. Able to exhort (teach) sound doctrine (Titus 1:9; 1 Tim. 3:2).
      10. Able to refute false teaching (Titus 1:9).
  2. "Husband of one wife"  Does this mean that only married men can be elders?
    1. At the time of the writing of the New Testament marriage was expected   For basically everyone.  People got married very early by our standards, most often being married in their mid to late teens.  Also, Polygamy was common in the nations around him.  It is in this context that Paul is speaking which is why he says the elder is to be the husband of one wife.  In other words, he assumes the natural condition of marriage and addresses the issue and reputation of polygamy.  Also, note that marriage is assumed and he clarifies that the elder is to be the "husband of one wife."  This assumes that he is speaking to men, not men and women.  After all, women cannot be the "husbands of one wife."
  3. If a woman is not to teach or exercise authority over men, then it means they can't teach at all, ever.
    1. In 1 Tim. 3:14-15 Paul says to Timothy, "I am writing these things to you, hoping to come to you before long; 15 but in case I am delayed, I write so that you may know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth." Notice that the first epistle of Paul to Timothy is addressing how we are to behave in the church.  Therefore, when we look at 1 Tim. 2:12 where Paul says he does not want a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, he is speaking in the church context.  There is nothing wrong with a woman being in authority over a man in a job situation or teaching a college, etc.  Certainly mothers in the home are in authority over their young male children.  There's nothing wrong with this.  But as far as the church goes, the authority structure is set up that the male is to be in the position of authority.  See Acts 15:2,6-7 and 1 Tim. 5:17
    2. Can a woman teach in a Bible study at church?  I don't see why not, as long as she is not a pastor or an elder teaching in an authoritative context.
  4. Saying women can not be pastors is to deny their gifting.
    1. This objection fails to recognize that God gives different people different gifts in different ways and though a person might be gifted in teaching, it doesn't mean he or she is qualified to be a pastor.
    2. To say that a woman has a gift of teaching and therefore should be open to the possibility of being a pastor, ignores the pattern of Scripture set up by God where the men are the ones who are to be elders and pastors.  After all, the Scripture says the elder is to be the husband of one wife.  Never in Scripture do you find anywhere designating a woman as a pastor or a ruling elder or teaching elder in the church.  The common and natural assumption is that the males are the ones who are in that position.
  5. What about a woman who says she's called by God to be a pastor?
    1. This is an appeal to experience.  A woman claiming she is called by God to pastor does not mean it is true. People misread guts calling all the time.  The issue is what does the Bible say, not what does a person feel he or she is called to do.  Of course,  we are not discounting a person's internal calling from God.  We are saying that such a calling must be in harmony with Scripture or it is false.
    2. Then she has not heard from God since God would not violate what he has already revealed in Scripture.
  6. 1 Tim. 2:11-13 is about a particular wife, not about women in general.
    "Let a woman quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness.
    12 But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man,
    but to remain quiet. 13 For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve,"

    (1 Tim. 2:11-13).
    1. This is conjecture.  If such a position is offered, it must be supported by Scripture, not by opinion.
    2. If this scenario is so, then it would mean she was not have authority over her husband.  So, when she's in the pulpit teaching the authoritative Word of God, doesn't it mean that her husband would have to leave so that she's not teaching them?  This would be ridiculous.
  7. 1 Tim. 2:11-13 is about a particular woman who was teaching error to her husband.
    1. The term "a woman" is used elsewhere in scripture, sometimes of individual women and other times of women in general.
      But, there is a related passage that deals with "a woman" and authority/headship.  Paul says in 1 Cor. 11:3-6, "But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ. 4 Every man who has something on his head while praying or prophesying, disgraces his head. 5 But every woman who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying, disgraces her head; for she is one and the same with her whose head is shaved. 6 For if a woman does not cover her head, let her also have her hair cut off; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, let her cover her head."
    2. Are we to conclude that "a woman" is only a particular woman who is to keep her head covered?  Or is Paul speaking to women generically by referencing "a woman"?  Notice that in verse 5 Paul says "every woman who has her head uncovered . . . " then he speaks about "a woman."  We can see that "a woman" is in reference to every woman.
  8. 1 Tim. 2:11-13 has nothing to to do with the office of pastor.
    1. By what exegetical gymnastics do you arrive at this?  The topic is teaching and authority.  Is the pastor not a teacher in authority?
    2. It would be up to the person who makes a statement to prove that this is the case.  When Paul mentions the issue of teaching and authority, we can certainly understand that this would involve the office of an elder.
  9. What about Deborah in the Old Testament?
    1. Deborah was a judge in the Old Testament.  But this is not the New Testament church, dealing with the issue of pastors and elders.  So, citing Deborah doesn't address the New Testament issue of the elders being male, and authority, the teachers, and the husbands of one wife.

About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.