by the Yorba Linda Vineyard
There are many great Godly people that are trying their best to follow Jesus and His Word that have various thoughts on this issue of women in leadership. We are in no way trying to bash, belittle, or berate anyone. At the Yorba Linda Vineyard we believe women when called and anointed by God for leadership (of any type) should be free to answer that call and fulfill their role within the church. Our intention is to show that what we believe about women leading in the Church is based solidly on the whole counsel of God and that we intend to honor His Church whether or not others see the Scriptures as we do. This is not, nor should it be, a Salvation essential or make or break type issue so we believe that people can hold their own beliefs on this but to be careful what they say about others that may hold a different view. We at the Yorba Linda Vineyard are called to love the whole Church because it is the body of Christ. It’s also our family, and you love the family even if you at times may not agree on everything.
The key is to look at the totality of Scripture and get a clear picture of what The Lord says regarding women and leadership, regardless of what the world, the culture, or even our own feelings say. We’re only going to look at a couple things here but we have provided a resource list at the end of this paper for more information for you to look at whenever you like.
Let’s start in the Old Testament. More than one time the Word shows that God called, anointed, and blessed women leaders. God chose these women, when He could have easily chosen and equipped any man to fulfill these roles. The culture of the time was very male dominate and men would not have likely been quick to desire to receive instruction and counsel from a women, unless God ordained it.
- Miriam: called “the prophetess” (Ex15:20) and one of the 3 main leaders called by God to lead the people out of Egypt. (Mic 6:4)
- Deborah: was the Judge of Israel for 40 yrs and she was a married woman (Judg 4:4-5; 31). She was also a military commander, that the general of Israel’s army gave way to because he saw her gifting and calling. (Judg 4:8).
- Huldah: a prophetess that King Josiah and high priest Hilkiah inquire of for help and to receive instruction from on how to follow The Lord. (2 Kings 22:14-20).
- Esther: read the whole book written about what she did and how God used her to save His whole people from being utterly wiped off the face of the earth!
- Isaiah wife: referred to as “the prophetess” by Isaiah himself to show his full acceptance of her gift and calling. (Isa 8:3)
In the male dominated culture in the times of the O.T. The Lord chose to use women in key roles at key times to accomplish His purposes. These were just some of the women The Lord used to shape the history of the nation of Israel in the O.T.
Now let’s look at the birth of the Church in Acts.
Act 1:14 “They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.”
Here they are waiting as Jesus instructed them to for the baptism of the Holy Spirit. These women after being with Jesus must have been confident Jesus had something for them, and wanted them to have His gift too. They waited expectantly. So now when you read the next chapter when the Holy Spirit falls, whom is it falling on? (Acts 2:1-4). All of them! Well who was there? The men and the women of Ch 1. And Peter even attests to this when he stands up and gives his first sermon. He quotes out of Joel 2:28-29. What does he say?
Act 2:16-18 Now, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ’In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.’
The Lord is pouring out His Spirit to do the works of ministry on who? Men and women, slaves and free, young and old. Here Peter points to what’s happening by referencing and confirming Joel’s prophecy. The women just as much as the men were filled and speaking in different languages glorifying Jesus, telling His story.
Even Paul himself said,
Gal 3:26-29 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with 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.
In the book of Romans Ch 16 Paul gives a greeting that identifies prominent women in various areas of ministry. Let’s take a closer look. Rom 16
- Phoebe: called a deacon by Paul. (V1-2). Notice that Paul called Phoebe a deacon, some translations say servant. The word in the Greek is “diakonos” (Strong’s concordance G1249) and is a neuter noun. This means it can be used both for male and female. Paul uses it here showing that this is Phoebe’s position. It is the same word Paul used to describe the qualifications of what a deacon (Strong’s concordance G1249) is supposed to be in 1Tim 3:8-13. Paul is the one defining what a deacon should be in 1 Tim 3:8-13 and generally states from a males position and yet calls a woman a deacon. He is either contradicting himself here or stating that this is something that both sexes can be as the qualifications expected can cross over for a man or women.
- Priscilla and Aquila: Rom 16: 3-4 Major contributors to the Ministry (Acts 18, Rom 16, 2Tim 4, 1Cor 16). 5 out of the 7 times they are mentioned Priscilla is named first. Not usual for a woman to be greeted before a man in that culture unless she is of special importance. They were also known as great teachers of the Word and were sent out to correct false teaching more then once.
- Junia: Rom 16:7. This is a feminine name. Notice what Paul says about her being outstanding among the apostles. Now you can’t be among them unless you’re counted as one of them. Paul also notes that she was in Jesus before even he was.
In this chapter Paul names women in prominent places of ministry, both leaders in local churches and as a part of apostolic ministry. Paul himself says that these people, men and women, are vital components in the spreading of the Kingdom of God. This puts some light on what Paul accepts and acknowledges about women in leadership in the Church, which is important since it is Paul that is often quoted as not allowing women to be in places of authority.
With all this in mind then we need to re examine some contested Scriptures that people use to argue the point that Paul does not allow women to be in leadership. We must remember to lean on the whole counsel of God to establish what we believe. The first Scripture that is used to support this idea is 1Corinthians 14.
1Cr 14:33-35 For God is not a God of disorder but of peace—as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people. Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.
People tend to use this to say that Paul says women should not speak in church. That is correct but in what context is it referring to is the real question? If it is as some tend to say that this scripture proves that women can’t teach or participate in the meeting then Paul is contradicting himself! Paul states just a few chapters before that it’s ok for women to pray or give prophesy as long as their head is covered.
1Cr 11:5 But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is the same as having her head shaved.
So can they speak or not? I don’t think Paul by the literal leading of the Holy Spirit to write this letter is saying that they can’t at all. God doesn’t contradict Himself. So then maybe we need to look a little deeper to what this might mean.
Looking at 1Cor 14 notice what it says in verse 35.
1Cr 14:35. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.
Just by reading this in its context it seems that the women were asking questions during the church service. So Paul then states this in response to that problem. We need to remember that women were not able to go to school and be taught. They had to learn at home from their parents, usually the mother. We have historical documents in Ephesus for example that show the lists of names of those attending schools at the college level and there are no names of females among them. This was the cultural norm for women all around the Roman Empire. So when people are getting saved and coming to church they’d typically sit the women on one side of the room and the men on the other side. While the message is being given the men would have had a far better understanding then the women and so it seems by the way Paul wrote, because the women were most likely calling out to the husband “Hey what did that mean?” So Paul is addressing that issue. He’s saying keep your questions till you get home. He is not saying don’t talk at all during church because if he did then we’d see the major contradiction to 1 Cor 11.
As you can see this portion of the epistle Paul’s is dealing with a cultural problem in this church and so Paul had to rectify the problem. Also knowing that letters to churches tended to be passed around for instruction and sound doctrine Paul was trying to set a presiding Church culture on how to act appropriately at church. We also see this when he addresses the hair issue, dressing modestly, and eating issues in his earlier part of the same letter 1 Cor 11. Now these issues helped to shape conduct in Church and that was the point. It was not to keep women silent but to instruct men and women how to behave in a way that shows they were all set apart for Christ.
Now lets turn to one of the other major Scriptures use to say women shouldn’t teach men. As we saw in 1 Corinthians that there was a lot of instruction about dealing with cultural issues of that day that needed to be settled. Let’s read in 1Timothy.
1Ti 2:11-12 A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. (NIV)
Before we jump into this let’s get some historical prospective on the situations that Timothy found himself in and why the letter was written in the first place.
Paul was the foundational ministry that launched the church in Ephesus and it became a leading church in Asia Minor. (Acts chs 18,19,&20). He taught there for 3 years and The Lord moved very powerfully there. But he knew that there would be false teachers that would try to mislead the people after he left (Acts 20:29-31). So because of this Paul commissioned Timothy to pastor the church there until mature leaders could be raised up. It didn’t take long before those false teachers started causing problems in the church. So Paul had to write Timothy about how to deal with the false teachers and the issues they caused (1 Tim 1:3-4, 6-7). One of the things these false teachers were doing were misleading some of the women in the church (2 Tim 3:6-9). In Ephesus’ culture the whole city was given over to the goddess Artemis. The culture in this city leaned towards women having innate superiority over men because they shared the same gender with the goddess the city was associated with. So now former worshipers of Artemis are getting saved and are coming into the church there. They may have a new faith in Christ but they may also continue to have their assumptions about female superiority. As Gentiles they wouldn’t know much of the Jewish culture or the Christians call to now mutual submission and interdependence. So it seemed the cultural influence crept into the church. That still tends to happen today as well. That was the whole problem with Acts 19 when the riots were started because too many people were getting converted by Paul’s teaching. It was bad for business for the idol makers in that city. With all this as a backdrop we can easily see that the church in Ephesus was a huge mess and Timothy was sent to straighten it all out.
There are a lot of things Paul writes to Timothy about but were going to focus on the texts used about teaching.
1 Timothy 2:11-14
- Verse 11: Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. (I Timothy 2:11 NKJV)
The key word in this sentence is silence. What does that mean?
There are several Biblical Greek words that mean “the absence of sound”or “the muzzling of the voice”. But none of those words are used here. A different Greek word is used because it is for a different context. The Greek word used here is defined as such. Silence: Strong’s G2271 – hēsychia 1) quietness a) description of the life of one who stays at home doing his own work, and does not officiously meddle with the affairs of others.
This deals with the attitude of the person not what’s coming out of their mouth. It is a positional statement saying to learn submissively as a student without interjecting in an attitude of ‘it’s your right’.
Remember that we are to be mutually submissive to each other as commanded to do so (Eph 5:21). This is a new thing for the people of Ephesus who aren’t use to it. Remember these people are coming from a female dominated culture into something counter cultural and they are going to have to choose to come to terms with it and follow Christ or not. Literally the same thing is happening today in the church body as a whole in other areas so this culture clash is nothing new. So in this instance Paul is telling the women to just learn for now so that they can grow in the ways of The Lord. Let’s look at the next verse.
- V:12. “And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.” (I Timothy 2:12 NKJV)
The same Greek word for silence “hēsychia” is used here as it was just used in the verse prior. Also the words “teach” and “have authority” seem to define one action not two different actions. In other words Paul was not talking about teaching AND authority, but teaching in a way that uses a certain kind of authority. The common Greek word for authority is “exousia” but that’s not the word Paul uses in this verse. He uses an uncommon but very definitive word “authenteo” which is defined as “one who acts on his own authority”. Notice it says on someone’s OWN self imposed authority, not on the authority that was rightfully given to them. So Paul’s goal was to keep those women from using a self appointed authority that they were used to having before they were saved, and were instructed to learn in “quietness and submission”.
Remember these are brand new believers that don’t know anything about having a new life in Christ so they have to be taught. This would have been all new to them. Also if they were having false teachers among them causing issues in that church then you can see why Paul tells Timothy that he has to pull everything back until everything can be worked out correctly. Paul even goes back to the beginning of human existence to teach them from the start. Kind of like a New Christian 101 class. If Paul would have forbade women teachers or women speaking in EVERY way then he would not have even written Romans 16 acknowledging and commending women in every facet of ministry.
We know there are other people that love The Lord with all their heart and are trying their best to follow what He says in His Word that may not agree with what we believe. We love the Church as a whole, as the body of Christ and in no way wish to cause division or issue. We hope that the whole Body of Christ will be able to come together and be a light to the lost and dying world for Christ. We hope that this paper will help shed more light on some disputed text and to show that men and women, who are called according to His purposes, are able to answer the call and to go and be His Hands and Feet to a world that is in desperate need of the saving grace of Christ.