Friday, May 31, 2013

Can Women Teach? A Summary

I guess the main question people ask me in this area is simply this:  "Do you allow a woman to teach or have authority over a man?"  They ask the question with variations in the wording, but they ask the question wondering if I will be "true to God's Word" in 1 Timothy 2:12.

My answer:  "It depends on the woman.  It also depends on the man."

I'm not trying to be coy when I answer in this way.  It's simply  a statement that best reflects the whole of Scripture.

Paul instructs women of his day not to teach, but to learn quietly.  He does this to remove roadblocks so his Jewish brothers will accept Christ and grow up into Him - in the same way he had Timothy circumcised (Acts 16:1-3), even though it no longer holds any meaning with God (1 Corinthians 7:13).  It's an issue of Effectiveness in spreading the Gospel (1 Corinthians 9:22), not Holiness in judgement before God (Galatians 5:16-25).

His reasons for the command make it clear that he is trying to effectively reach out to the Jewish nation.

  1. In his letter to the Corinthian church, Paul cites the law as being the reason women should learn quietly (1 Corinthians 14:34) even though he knows we are no longer under the law (Galatians 5:18).  Jews, not Gentiles, would care about the provisions of the law.  
  2. Similarly, Paul's letter to Timothy cites creation order and original sin as the reasons for women not teaching or having authority (1 Timothy 2:11-14).  This creation order, by the way, is the same reason Paul gives for a woman wearing head covering (1 Corinthians 11:4-10) - something we understand as a cultural/effectiveness reference today.  Once again, Gentiles wouldn't have the same creation story as a point of reference.  This reference would only make sense to Jews of his day.
  3. Probably the most important indicator, though, is Paul's statement to Timothy about what will change and how.  He says that Eve will be saved through childbearing if women will continue in faith, love, and holiness with propriety (1 Timothy 2:15).  The reasons for the command of silence will be removed, even for Jewish believers, when a woman lives a godly life.

So, what does that mean for our local part of His Church Body?  It means that a woman's authority to teach or lead is directly connected to her walk together with God - just as it is for a man.
Consider the four items Paul mentions in his letter to Timothy:

  • Faith - A person's faith is a key component in their servant leadership and teaching.  Servant Leaders (Deacons) are expected to hold on to the deep truths of the faith (1 Timothy 3:9).  Overseers cannot be young in their faith (1 Timothy 3:6) and Elders must hold firmly to the faith and pass that faith along through teaching the truth and refuting false doctrine (Titus 1:9).  Servant leadership and teaching the truth, is intricately interwoven with a person's faith in the truth.
  • Love - The greatest commands, Jesus tells us, are to love God (Matthew 22:37) and love every person (1 John 4:20-21, Matthew 22:39; 5:43-48).  Paul agrees that it is the greatest command(1 Corinthians 13).  Accuracy in teaching and/or moral authority can be easily discounted by a lack of love in our lives.
  • Holiness - A hypocrite is a "play-actor" who doesn't really believe or live what they teach, so they are just "acting" or "faking it" (Mark 7:6).  Leadership and teaching must begin with ourselves so we will have something to offer others (Luke 6:39-49).  Our goal is always to love God first by obeying His commands (John 14:23) and being Holy as He is Holy (1 Peter 1:15-16), for without holiness no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).
  • Propriety - Our effectiveness in leadership and teaching is greatly increased by living proper lives.  Propriety includes Holiness (Ephesians 5:3) but goes beyond Holiness to increase our Effectiveness in spreading the Gospel (1 Corinthians 11:13).  Communication is greatly enhanced when we speak to people in ways that make sense to them (1 Corinthians 9:19-23).  When communicating to a group that requires women to be quiet and wear head coverings, we have the women wear head coverings and have the men share the Gospel.  Living and communicating in a way that is "proper" for the society will open doors for the Gospel.  This is the reason a wonderful woman of God will still not be able to teach or have authority over some men.  When a man considers it improper, a woman may not be the right part of Christ's Body for that specific ministry.

Ladies, as you grow in your walk together with God, you will grow in your moral authority and have more to teach others.  While this is the same as men, you have an added benefit to your spiritual growth and maturity.  When you continue in faith, love, and holiness with propriety; Eve is restored to her rightful place along side her partner, Adam, as a human being made in the Image of God.