A response to a paper arguing for women being pastors

Following is a letter written by a pastor to a friend of mine.  My friend asked me to review it.  I'm hoping that my review finds its way back to the Pastor and that the Pastor is encouraged to stand more tightly with the word of God.  But, who am I to correct a pastor?  I'm nobody.  But, all of us are subject to the word of God and it is through an appeal to Scripture, correcting interpretive errors, and pointing out errors in logic that we hope to encourage the pastor and readers to adhere more closely to God's word in this matter.

The opinion of CARM is that the world is slowly creeping into the Christian Church in various forms such as contemplative prayer, and over-board concern for seeker sensitivity, in various forms of political correctness, i.e., women pastors, being a manifestation of the latter error.

As Christians, we are obligated to follow the word of God in all that it has revealed whether it is convenient or inconvenient and whether or not the world approves. We answer to God.

The original letter is in brown the text and CARM's response is in green.  We have replaced the name and initials of the church with "-------".

Finally, we are hesitant to be critical of a fellow pastor.  The Bible says that we are to be careful when addressing elders in the church.  We mean no disrespect to the pastor of the congregation who we believe loves the people of God.  But, since we are all in the same boat, we are sinners, we need a body of Christ to help us stay on track.



Allow me to first address those of you who have come to (Church name removed) for any length of time and have heard me address the role of men and women both in the home and the church.  If you have attended the "---------" Pre-marriage Class," you know that I believe the Bible (our final authority) teaches that the man is the head of the home even as Christ is the head of the Church. (Eph 5:23)  Furthermore, since I can remember, I have said (and not to everyone's liking) that "matriarchal" systems do not work anywhere in the world because it is contrary to God's plan.  I have not changed my position.  This is what I believe and it is what I believe the Bible teaches.  This is evidenced in cultures where the male is absent; it is equally emphasized where a single mother must assume responsibilities created specifically for the man.  (How our single moms need our prayers and support!).   Therefore, to those of you that believe because we have added to our staff a woman "pastor" I have changed my position on this matter, be assured, I have not.

Secondly, I believe the real struggle with having a woman assume "pastoral" responsibilities is not so much in her role as with her "title."  I'll address this in just a moment.  Allow me to first state the Church's position on "women pastors" as set down in our guidelines for a Church plant.

e. As to the following controversial issues which have torn apart, rather than united, the church, [three are named - Eternal Security, Tongues and Women in Ministry] a plant must hold the following posture concerning … Women in Ministry:

CARM: While it is true that it is a three above named issues have divided the church, it has not been because the issues are not discernible.  Rather, it is due to Christians have not been gracious.  "Love is the perfect bond of unity," (Col. 3:14).  Division occurs when Christians lack the proper grace and love from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Nevertheless, we should not guarantee unity of the cost of doctrinal truth.  There are times to divide.

Original: Women in Ministry

We believe, as Scripture teaches, that a woman may possess every spiritual gift that a man possesses.  However, we strongly hold that God has clearly given specific roles to woman and men, even as He has given specific roles to a husband and wife.  Ephes. 5:23 clearly states:

CARM: First, this Pastor's initial premise is in error.  Contrary to what he states, it is not possible for a woman to possess every spiritual gift that a man possesses.  A woman cannot be a father.  Furthermore, the spiritual gift of being an elder/pastor is something only the male is called to per divine revelation.  The Bible says that the bishop/overseer is to be the husband of one wife (1 Tim. 3:2).  Again, in Titus 1:5-7, Paul says, "For this reason I left you in Crete, that you might set in order what remains, and appoint elders in every city as I directed you, namely, if any man be above reproach, the husband of one wife, having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion.  For the overseer must be above reproach as God's steward..."  Notice that Paul interchanges the word 'elder' and 'overseer'.  It is God who gives gifts to the Church and one of the gifts is the pastor/elder.  By definition, a pastor is an elder.

Second, let's take a look at God's word concerning eldership.  We must know what God's word says specifically about pastoring/eldership before we draw our conclusions.  (We have provided an outline of information on eldership at the end of this paper from which the following is extracted.)

  1. The Term "Elder" The Greek term is presbuteros and depending on context means elder, an old man, a leader in the church.  The term is used. It is used of the elder of two persons (Luke 15:25, or more, John 8:9); of a person advanced in age (Acts 2:17; in Heb. 11:2); of the forefathers in Israel (Matt. 15:2; Mark 7:3,5); of members of the Sanhedrin (Matt. 16:21; 26:47); of those who managed public affairs in the various cities (Luke 7:3); of those who were the heads or leaders of the tribes and families, as of the seventy who helped Moses (Num. 11:16; Deut. 27:1). This included:
  2. Regarding the Office:
    1. The pastor is an elder who preaches and/or teaches (1 Tim. 5:17).
      1. The pastor (elder) is to equip the body of Christ (Eph. 4:11-13).
    2. Must be a man (1 Tim. 2:9-13).
      1. All uses of "elder" are in the masculine except for 1 Tim. 5:2 where it means older women.
  3. The Responsibilities of Elders in the NT Church:
    1. Must shepherd the flock (1 Peter 5:2).
    2. They have the tasks of teaching (1 Tim. 5:17; Titus 1:5,9).
    3. They have the tasks of acting as judges (Acts 15:2,6,22-29; 16:4).
  4. Qualifications for an elder
    1. Must be above reproach (Titus 1:6; 1 Tim. 3:2)
    2. Husband of one wife (Titus 1:6; 1 Tim. 3:2).
    3. Household must be in order with children who believe (Titus 1:6 ;1 Tim. 3:4).
    4. Not a new convert (1 Tim. 3:6).
    5. Self controlled and temperate (Titus 1:7; 1 Tim. 3:2).
    6. Honorable, hospitable, seeking good (Titus 1:7).
    7. Have a good reputation (1 Tim. 3:7).
    8. Able to exhort (teach) sound doctrine (Titus 1:9; 1 Tim. 3:2).
    9. Able to refute false teaching (Titus 1:9).

Important: Please take special note of section two outlined above where the declaration from God's Word is that the pastor/elder is to be male and that the elder is one who teaches.  A pastor of a church stands in the pulpit, the place of authority and teaches from God's word.  By nature, the teaching of God's word, in the pulpit, is an authoritative act.  This is why it is to be done by an elder who is appointed in the church. Let's look further into God's word.

1 Peter 5:1-3, "Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, 2 shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; 3 nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.

  1. In 1 Peter 5:1-3, every occurrence of the word "elder(s) is in the masculine form in the Greek.
  2. The elder is to shepherd the flock. A pastor is a shepherd.
  3. The elder/pastor oversees the flock.
  4. Therefore, the pastor is an elder of the church.

Since God has declared the elder is to be the husband of one wife (at the very least a male), it is not possible for a woman to hold this position. Therefore, this Pastor's premise that "a woman may possess every spiritual gift that a man possesses" is shown to be incorrect.  Furthermore, the word of God declares the pastor/elder is to be male.

If this Pastor in his initial paper were to build upon such a faulty premise, his conclusions are suspect.  Let's see.

ORIGINAL: For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.

We therefore believe that a woman can be ordained and function in any role if that role is under the authority of a male Senior Pastor.   In other words, our understanding of Scripture is that a woman should not function in the role of Senior Pastor when a qualified male is present.

CARM: We fail to see the connection between his first (and erring) premise and the conclusion he draws.  The Bible makes no condition of acceptability of a woman being an ordained pastor as long as there's a male Senior Pastor present.  This is a fabrication.  It is not in the Bible. Furthermore, the Scripture that he quotes in Ephesians 5:23 is dealing with the husband-and-wife relationship and not with the church elder authority.  Therefore, this person has misused the Scripture and is misapplying it.  In other words, he has made the exit difficult fallacy of transferring the context of one verse over to another.  This is a common and serious mistake.

ORIGINAL: Here is Biblical support for the above position. Scripture clearly states that "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."  Galatians 3:28 Obviously, Paul is speaking of our spiritual place in the Kingdom of God -- for some were still Jews and Greeks by birth, male and female by gender, and slave or free by position.   However, in Christ we have been set free from the law of sin and death therefore we are "one in Him."  This is the heart of God and this is what we should look for throughout Scripture - the heart of God.

CARM: There are two problems with the above paragraph.   First, Galatians 3:28 is dealing with salvation, not with church headship.  This is a verse that is very frequently misused in support of the position that a woman can be a pastor/elder.  The context of Gal. 3:28 is dealing with there being no differentiation in salvation among nationality and gender.  It is not talking about eldership.  Therefore, it does not lend itself to the issue of male headship in the Christian Church.  This is a serious exegetical error made by this pastor.

Second, what is "the heart of God" that the pastor introduces here?  Though it is a commendable to seek the heart of God, we must be careful when using a subjective and biblically undefined statement when trying to build a doctrine.  Granted that the heart of God can mean many things, but without an explicit statement in scripture concerning it, what right does this Pastor have to use the phrase in support of his position?

Incidentally, the only two occurrences of the phrase "the heart of God" occurs in Ezekiel 28:2, and 6-7, "...Yet you are a man and not God, although you make your heart like the heart of God... 6 Therefore, thus says the Lord God, ‘Because you have made your heart Like the heart of God, 7 Therefore, behold, I will bring strangers upon you..." As you can see, its definition is not given. Since it is best to let the Bible interpret the Bible, it is not wise to introduce this phrase in an attempt to support the Biblical position about women pastors . . . especially since the word of God seems to be clear that the pastor is an elder and the elder is to be male.

Original: What is God's heart concerning women in ministry?  That is the question I would like to answer.  By addressing this issue we answer the question: "Can a woman be ordained and can she hold the title of 'pastor'?"

The word "pastor" derives its meaning from English-French culture based on a Latin word which means "to feed."  Literally - "a herdsman," or one "who feeds and cares for the sheep."  With this in mind, does God permit a woman to feed and care for "his own?"  This is the question at hand.  So rather than play games with semantics, let's go to the Book and see if God has used women to "pastor" his own.

CARM: This Pastor is in danger of the fallacy of equivocation.  To equivocate means to change the meaning of words during a discussion without clarifying that change.  The word "pastor" in the Bible (as is the context of this discussion) is by definition a male since the pastor is an elder and the elder is to be the husband of one wife.  But to use the definition of the word pastor to mean one who cares for his own and then say that since a woman cares for her own, therefore she's a pastor, is a violation of the biblical use of that term which occurs only once in Eph. 4:11 -- which usage is in the masculine form in the Greek.

The issue is not if a woman can care for her own, or care for people.  We agree that women have a great ability to nurture.  God undoubtedly recognizes this since he created that ability in them.  But, if it is true that a woman's nurturing ability qualifies her as big a pastor, then why is God so clear about the elder being the husband of one wife?  (The answer deals with a concept called Federal Headship which we will address at the end of the paper).

This pastor has failed to consider the logic of his position.  If pastoring means watching out and caring for people in your charge, then unbelievers can be pastors as well since they too can oversee people in their charge with great care.  Does this then mean that unbelievers can be pastors? This is the kind of logic that this pastor is using in his argument and it is obviously fallacious.

Original: I believe our first example of a woman shepherding a flock, under the authority of a male senior shepherd, was Miriam.   She appeared to be the Pastor of Creative Arts.  In Exodus 15:20-21 we read: Then Miriam the prophetess … took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women followed her, with tambourines and dancing. [21] Miriam sang …. "

Not only does Miriam direct the choir, drama and dance, but she speaks for God - she is a prophetess.  In fact, the words that God has given her are repeated by all … even to this day.

The fact that Miriam spoke for God and helped Moses shepherd the Israelite nation becomes even clearer when she and her brother Aaron speak against Moses (their brother).  Both Miriam and Aaron said: "Has the Lord spoken only through Moses?" they asked.  "Hasn't he also spoken through us?"  In verse six of this Chapter, God says He has spoken through Aaron and Miriam through dreams and vision, but with Moses face to face.  (This is a great lesson in not lifting up one's hand against God's "senior pastor," but that is another matter we will address at a later time.)

CARM: Miriam was the Pastor of Creative Arts?  He is reading into the text far too much.

Miriam was a prophetess, not an elder or a pastor.  The Old Testament setting was not the same as the New Testament church.  Paul and the apostles knew very well about Miriam and you find no reference to her in support of women eldership.  What you do find in scripture are distinct and clear declarations that the elder/pastor is to be male.  There is no qualification in scripture for "under the headship of a male" in the female pastorate.

We know that many people would like to include this in the Scriptures so as to make more palatable the idea of equality among the sexes (because they are listening to the secular).  However, like it or not, the male and female each have their respective roles as stated in scripture.  The elder is to be the husband of one wife.  A pastor is an elder as is demonstrated in 1 Peter 5:1-3.  Therefore, a pastor, in the church context, is to be male . The author of this article should not take an Old Testament non-church-context about a prophetess and transport it into the pastoral epistles' church-context thereby overriding the clear declaration of Scripture regarding who is to be the elder.

Original: The second example of a woman shepherding God's people is found in Judges.  (Remember, we are looking for God's heart - the spirit of the law evidenced by example). Judges 4:4-5 tells us, Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time. [5] She held court under the Palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites came to her to have their disputes decided.  Two significant details are addressed by the Spirit in these two verses:

CARM: This is the first mention of what he means by "God's heart".  He defines it as the spirit of the law evidenced by example.  He offers a subjective definition by using the phrase "spirit of the law".  Do not be swayed by the appeal of subjective, heart-oriented words and phrases. Instead, stick to what God toward actually says or you will end up in error.

Original: 1) As a wife, Deborah is submissive to her husband's headship - "Deborah … the wife of Lappidoth."  As a woman serving with pastoral gifts is submissive to the male senior pastor's authority - recall Jesus appointed no woman apostles - so the wife is to submit to her husband's authority (wherever and whenever it does not transgress the Word of God).  With that said, let us keep in mind that Jesus and the apostles used many woman to help care for and bring the lost to salvation.  (Mark 15:41; Luke 8:2; John 4: 28-20, 39; Act 18:18,26; Col 4:15).

CARM: Where is the senior pastor in the life of Deborah as revealed in the Old Testament citation?  It is not there.  Remember, the idea of a pastor in the Christian Church is just that, in the Christian Church which is founded on Jesus Christ.  Jesus appointed apostles and the apostles appointed elders.  The apostles taught us that the pastor is an elder who teaches (1 Tim. 5:17) and that the elder is to be a man (1 Tim. 2:9-13; 1 Peter 5:1-3).  We repeat this on purpose.

What this author has done is take a New Testament word and church office, ignored the definitive declaration of the pastoral epistles regarding the gender of the elder, and then impose upon an Old Testament context upon the New Testament concept.

Remember, unbelievers can have pastoral gifts, helping, guiding, protecting, teaching, etc.  Does this qualify them for being called a pastor?  The way this author is using the term you would have to say that even unbelievers would be qualified as pastors since what he's doing is taking the term pastor, using a broad definition of it (excluding the male eldership qualification), and applying it to Old Testament women and then transferring it back to the New Testament church.  This is very poor biblical interpretive methodology.

Original: 2) Deborah led Israel, that is she was the final authority.  This was not God's plan (that a woman would govern men - as the chapter bears out in the story of Barak and Jael), but as our Church Plant Criteria states, where no man is present, or better worded, where no man assumes his God-given role, God will use a woman. (Women do this today.  As single mothers, they assume a double role, and God graciously assists - but that is not His plan.)

CARM: Correction, God was the final authority in Israel.

The fact that there are women pastors particularly in the American church, is a sign of two important failures.  First, it demonstrates that there are many churches that do not take the word of God seriously in the matter of male headship.  Second, it further demonstrates the failure of men to heed the call of God, to step up and be responsible as godly men, and to stand for righteousness whether they (or church congregations and pastors) like it or not.  To rationalize that because men are not doing their job, that God OKs women to do it, is a double edged sword.  If it is true that God uses women when the men will not do what they're supposed to do, then it is because of the sin of men that women are pastors!  The sword should cut at the heart of men who fail to answer the call of God.

Nevertheless, let's look at an exceptional case.   Let's say that there was a woman pilot transporting 20 orphans during a war situation and they crash on a deserted island where they live isolated for two decades.  Furthermore, this woman pilot is also a Christian and she takes the responsibility of teaching young children, male and female, about the Lord. In a sense, she's functioning as a pastor.  Should we be so bold as to say that she should not teach the young manor that she is not functioning in a pastoral sense? Of course not. It is most certainly better at the gospel be preached then not.

But, are we to conclude that a woman and orphans on a deserted island qualifies the exception to the rule in regular churches?  Are we to say that since is acceptable on a deserted island that we should do it in regular churches?  Not at all.  Exceptions to the rule do not make the norm.

It seems that the author of the article is saying that because men are not doing what they're supposed to be doing, then it is then OK for women to be pastors.  However, the pastor's church has hundreds of men upon which to draw (we are told there are several thousand attendees).  If there are no men capable in a church of several thousand, then we assume that the pastor is not discipling various men in that church to bring them to the place of eldership.  In other words, he is not doing his job in this respect.  The right thing to do is raise up men and disciple them so that they can be elders according to the Scriptures.

Original: The other reason why Deborah is used to shepherd (lead) Israel is because she was a prophetess - that is she heard and spoke for God. She was a prophet just as Moses, Samuel, Elijah and Daniel were prophets.  Hence, because of her "spiritual gift," the people looked to her for counsel, direction and arbitration.

CARM: True.  But does that mean that she is qualified to be an elder in the New Testament Christian church context?  No.  Furthermore, there are no more prophets and prophetesses in the Old Testament sense, of which Deborah was.  (See Luke 16:16)  Remember, the pastor is an elder who teaches (1 Tim. 5:17) and that the elder is to be a man (1 Tim. 2:9-13; 1 Peter 5:1-3).

Original: So today, women who have spiritual gifts should not be denied a place in ministry because they are woman.  The church can be enriched by the spiritual gifts God gives to women.  Women have insights and natural intuitions that are peculiar to their gender - their contribution to the church, like the home, is invaluable.  Again, the caution is to make sure those gifts are used in the role God has defined.  God places every gift in context.  When we decide to remove the context set by Scripture we turn life into death, the blessing into a curse.

CARM: We are not saying that women should be denied a place in ministry because they are women.  We believe that women are greatly gifted and underutilized in the church.  Even though we personally believe that many women may be far better than many male pastors, what I feel and what we want have no bearing whatsoever on what the word of God says.  Again, the pastor is an elder who teaches (1 Tim. 5:17) and that the elder is to be a man (1 Tim. 2:9-13; 1 Peter 5:1-3).   The pastor of this article is correct in his last statement in the above paragraph. He should abide by it.

Original: This could easily become a book - or at least a "Master's thesis."  And, I am not unaware that I have not addressed the arguments to why women should not serve in pastoral capacities.  However, it is not my purpose to do so in this format.  My purpose is to simply state the position of the Trustees and Advisory Board of Prayer Ministries, Inc.

CARM: Actually, he did not address the issue of the clear declaration that the elder is a person who teaches (1 Tim. 5:17) and that the elder is to be a man (1 Tim. 2:9-13; 1 Peter 5:1-3), the husband of one wife.  This is a very solid and essential declaration of scripture that, so far, he has not even touched.  If he has not even examined such clear teaching of Scripture, can we trust his conclusion about women being pastors?

Original: In conclusion, a final look at the married couple who accompanied St Paul on his second missionary journey - Aquila and Priscilla, and Nympha (Colossians 4) - whose home served as the church at Colosse, along with Phoebe who served in Cencrea, makes it quite clear that women were certainly given pastoral responsibilities under the authority of men who were appointed as elders (senior pastors).  Paul's letters continually place Priscilla's name in front of her husband's because she was the "type A" personality in the relationship (Acts 18; Romans 16:3-5) whose gifts were not only recognized by her husband but by the church at large.

CARM: Really?  Where are they designated as pastors and elders?  The Greek word for elder is 'presbuteros' in the pastoral epistles where it refers to church hierarchy and authority.  In the pastoral epistles dealing with church authority and office, it is always without exception used in the male gender.

Here is the faulty argument that he is using.

1. A pastor is someone who exercises care over another.
2. Cite a woman, or women, in a home who cares for others.
3. State that she is qualified to be called a pastor.
4. Conclude that we can have female pastors in the church.

This is an absurd leap of logic.

Original: Although Paul told the women in the Corinthian church to keep silent, he certainly did not give those instructions to Priscilla or Nympha. Why?  Because both of these woman understood the word of God and were able to explain it with accuracy.  (2 Tim 2:15) If the Holy Spirit allowed Deborah to govern a nation and Priscilla and Nympha to serve as assistant pastors in Corinth and Colosse, would it not behoove us to follow the same pattern?  The answer is unequivocally "yes."

CARM: The reason Paul told the women in the Corinthian church to be quiet was most probably due to lack of proper order and the gathering of believers in the Corinthian context.  Most probably, Paul did not need to construct Priscilla or Nympha to be quiet because there was no problem with the order and manners that they possessed.  Obviously, Paul would not make the blatant mistake of saying to some women be quiet while encouraging others to speak if there was not a contextual reason for both.  The pastor has not examined the contextual reasons yet he makes broad conclusions.

Nevertheless, how does this mean that a woman can be a pastor or elder?  It does not.  Furthermore, there is no problem at all with woman being able to understand and teach the word of God.  But as we have seen the Scriptures clearly teach, the pastor is an elder who teaches (1 Tim. 5:17) and that the elder is to be a man (1 Tim. 2:9-13; 1 Peter 5:1-3).  In order for this pastor to support a woman pastor in his church, is to ignore the pastoral epistles -- as he has done in his defense of his position -- and is a serious mistake.

CARM: Observations

  1. This pastor who authored the original paper began with an erring premise, i.e., that a woman can possess any spiritual gift a man possesses in the church. He is reading way too much into the context of Old Testament verses, i.e., citing Deborah "with pastoral gifts is submissive to the male senior pastor's authority." He is erringly transporting Old Testament contexts into New Testament concepts of pastors. He has misapplied Galatians 3:28 which is dealing with salvation, not with pastoring and eldership. He has not looked at the pastoral epistles regarding the qualifications for an elder which clearly defined them as being male.  This is perhaps his biggest mistake. He has used to broad definition of the term pastor and then applied overly broad definition to different contexts.

We are sure there are many who will not be happy the analysis of this pastor's defense of his position.  All we can say is that we are they need to, as Christians, stick to the word of God and not listen to what they feel is right.  The logic is simple and the Scriptures are clear.  We do not need to rip verses from their context and commit interpretive fallacies when trying to uphold an agenda that we want the word of God to support.


What is Federal Headship?

Federal Headship is foreign to the modern mind, but it is a biblical concept.  It is the teaching that the father is the one who represents his family, his descendents.  Proof of this can be found in Heb. 7:8-10.

"Here mortal men receive tithes, but there he receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives.  9 Even Levi, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, so to speak, 10 for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him."

Levi was a distant descendent of Abraham, yet it is said that Levi paid tithes to Melchizedek even though he wasn't born.  How is this so?  We know that Levi did not physically carry out the act of paying tithes, but we do know that Abraham did and we also know that Abraham was the representative head of his descendents.  This is how it can be said that Levi also paid tithes to Melchizedek.

Federal Headship also finds its place in the Epistle of Romans when Paul says in Rom. 5:12-14,

"Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned— 13 (For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law.  14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come."

The Bible knowledge Commentary says, "The federal headship view considers Adam, the first man, as the representative of the human race that generated from him. As the representative of all humans, Adam’s act of sin was considered by God to be the act of all people and his penalty of death was judicially made the penalty of everybody."1 Also, "The federal headship of Adam presupposes and rests upon his natural headship.  He was our natural head before he was our federal head.  He was doubtless made our federal representative because he was our natural progenitor, and was so conditioned that his agency must affect our destinies, and because our very nature was on trial (typically if not essentially) in him.  Whatever, therefore, of virtue in this explanation the natural headship of Adam may be supposed to contain the federal theory retains."2 Therefore, it should be clear that Adam represented us and when he fell, we fell.

But some may object and say that this is not fair.  They will say that we should not be held responsible for Adam's sin because we never sinned.  If this is the position that they want to hold, then let's take a look at the cross and see why Federal Headship is important in relation to Jesus.

Jesus represented His people

1 Cor. 15:45 says, “The first man, Adam, became a living soul.  The last Adam became a life-giving spirit."  The "last Adam" is a reference to Jesus because of the similar relationship that exists between them both.  That is, both Adam and Jesus are representative heads.  Please consider 1 Cor. 15:22 that says, "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive."   This is teaching us that Adam and Christ are heads of groups. Notice "in Adam" and "in Christ" referencing our position in relationship to both of them.

If Adam did not represent mankind, then Jesus could not represent the Christians when He died on the cross.  As Adam's offense resulted in condemnation to all people, so also, Jesus' sacrifice results in justification for those who believe in Him (Rom. 5:18).  It is because of Federal Headship -- legal representation -- that we are able to be saved at all.  As Adam's sin was imputed3 to us because of the Fall, our sin was likewise imputed to Jesus on the cross and Jesus' righteousness is imputed to us when we receive Him.  In other words, if it was not for the biblical idea of Federal Headship (of one person representing others), then Jesus could not have represented us on the cross.  If Jesus did not represent us on the cross, then it could not be said of us that "...you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God," (Col. 3:3); and, "Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him," (Rom. 6:8).

Jesus represented us so completely on the cross that it can be said that we have died with Him.  If it were not for Federal Headship, this would not be possible and we could not have died to sin.


Federal Headship is a biblical concept with some very important ramifications.  Because of the biblical concept, we are able to enjoy salvation; we have died to sin, and we can rest in Christ who represented us before the Father in His satisfaction of the Law of God.

Final Remarks

So how does the teaching of federal headship applied to the issue of women pastors.  Quite simply, federal headship teaches us that the male is to be an authority in the church.  This authority is based upon the fact that Christ represented his people on the cross and that Jesus, being a man, was called a the second Adam.  As Adam represented all of mankind, Jesus represented his people.  The natural order is established with male headship in the church, Jesus is the head, and in the family where the husband is the head of the wife.  There is no mention in Scripture were a woman can be a pastor (in violation of the pastoral epistles teaching that the elder is to be male), as long as there is a male head over her.  By definition, a person in the pulpit, on Sunday morning, preaching the word of God, is in a place of authority.  Such authoritative proclamation of the gospel is the responsibility of the elder in the church.  Again, the elder is a person who teaches (1 Tim. 5:17) and that the elder is to be a man (1 Tim. 2:9-13; 1 Peter 5:1-3), the husband of one wife.




  1. The Term "Elder"
    1. PRESBUTEROS - elder, an old man, a leader in the church. The term is used
      1. of the elder of two persons (Luke 15:25, or more, John 8:9).
      2. of a person advanced in age (Acts 2:17; in Heb. 11:2).
      3. of the forefathers in Israel (Matt. 15:2; Mark 7:3,5).
      4. of members of the Sanhedrin (Matt. 16:21; 26:47).
      5. of those who managed public affairs in the various cities (Luke 7:3).
      6. of those who were the heads or leaders of the tribes and families, as of the seventy who helped Moses (Num. 11:16; Deut. 27:1). This included:
        1. acting as judges in apprehending murderers (Deut. 19:12).
        2. conducting inquests (Deut. 21:2).
        3. settling matrimonial disputes (Deut. 22:15; 25:7).
        4. If theirs was a city of refuge they also heard pleas for asylum (Joshua 20:4).
      7. of those qualified by the Holy Spirit who exercised spiritual care and oversight of the local congregation.
    2. EPISKOPOI - overseers, bishops
      1. Titus equates bishop and elder in Titus 1:5-9.
  2. Regarding the Office:
    1. The office of Elder is a divinely appointed office as defined in the Pastoral Epistles.
    2. Elders are apparently appointed by the laying on of hands (1 Tim. 4:14; 2 Tim. 1:6).
    3. Should receive double honor in the church (1 Tim. 5:17).
    4. The pastor is an elder (1 Peter 5:1-3).
    5. The pastor is an elder who preaches and/or teaches (1 Tim. 5:17).
      1. The pastor (elder) is to equip the body of Christ (Eph. 4:11-13).
    6. Must be a man (1 Tim. 2:9-13).
      1. All uses of "elder" are in the masculine except for 1 Tim. 5:2 where it means older women.
  3. The Responsibilities of Elders in the NT Church:
    1. Must shepherd the flock (1 Peter 5:2).
    2. Must voluntarily exercise oversight upon the flock (1 Peter 5:2).
    3. Must live as examples to the flock (1 Peter 5:3).
    4. Anoint and pray for the sick (James 5:14).
    5. They have the tasks of teaching (1 Tim. 5:17; Titus 1:5,9).
    6. They have the tasks of acting as judges (Acts 15:2,6,22-29; 16:4).
  4. Qualifications for an elder
    1. Must be above reproach (Titus 1:6; 1 Tim. 3:2)
    2. Husband of one wife (Titus 1:6; 1 Tim. 3:2).
    3. Household must be in order with children who believe (Titus 1:6 ;1 Tim. 3:4).
    4. Not a new convert (1 Tim. 3:6).
    5. Self controlled and temperate (Titus 1:7; 1 Tim. 3:2).
    6. Honorable, hospitable, seeking good (Titus 1:7).
    7. Have a good reputation (1 Tim. 3:7).
    8. Not addicted to wine (1 Tim. 3:3).
    9. Not greedy (1 Tim. 3:3).
    10. Able to exhort (teach) sound doctrine (Titus 1:9; 1 Tim. 3:2).
    11. Able to refute false teaching (Titus 1:9).
    12. They must be ready to earn their own living if necessary (Acts 20:17, 33-35).
  • 1. Walvoord, John F., and Roy B. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, (Wheaton, Illinois: Scripture Press Publications, Inc.), 1983, 1985.
  • 2. Hodge, A. A., Outlines of Theology, (Escondido, CA: Ephesians Four Group) 1999.
  • 3. To impute means to reckon to another's account, to credit to another's account.

About The Author

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