Women Elders?

stormsArticle: Dr. Sam Storms (original source I disagree. I believe the NT portrays for us a virtually air-tight case for governance by a plurality of Elders. However, it is important to realize that even if this is not the case we can still determine whether or not women should be appointed to positions of senior governmental authority.

When seeking to determine whether women should be elevated to a certain office in the local church, one should be less concerned with the title (whether “Elder” or “Bishop” or “Deacon” or “Pastor”) and more with the actual functional authority that each church/denomination invests in that position (which isn’t to say that being careful in our use of biblical terms is unimportant).

So today we will examine 10 things you should know about whether or not women should be Elders in the local church.

(1) We should first take note of the consistent portrayal in the NT of local churches being governed or led by Elders. Among these many texts we would include Acts 11:29-30; Acts 14:23; Acts 15:1-6; Acts 15:22-23; Acts 16:4; Acts 20:17; Acts 21:17-18; 1 Timothy 4:14; 1 Timothy 5:17; 1 Timothy 5:19; Titus 1:5; James 5:14; 1 Peter 5:1; and 1 Peter 5:5. I don’t find any indication that a local church was to be governed by a single elder or pastor. The consistent NT witness is that each church was under the oversight of a plurality of elders/bishops.

(2) The English word “elder” is the translation of the Greek presbuteros, from which we get “Presbyter” and “Presbyterian”. Our English word “bishop” comes from the Greek episkopos, from which we get the word “Episcopal” and “Episcopalian”. “Elder” and “Bishop” are interchangeable in the New Testament. What I mean is that they are two different words that describe the same office or authoritative function. “Elder” focuses on the dignity and gravity of the person who serves while “Bishop” focuses on the practical function of the office (literally, one who exercises oversight).

Why do I believe they are interchangeable? First, according to Acts 20:17 Paul called for the elders of the church to come to him. But later in v. 28, in referring to these same elders, he says that God has made them overseers (ESV) or bishops in the church. Second, Paul left Titus in Crete to appoint elders in every town (Titus 1:5). When Paul then turns to list the qualifications for this office he says, “For an overseer (i.e., bishop or episkopon) . . . must be above approach,” etc. Clearly these two terms refer to the same office.

Third, “in 1 Timothy 3:1 Paul says, ‘If any one aspires to the office of bishop/overseer, he desires a noble task.’ Then he gives the qualifications for the overseer/bishop in verses 2-7. Unlike the deacons, the overseer must be ‘able to teach’ (v. 2), and in v. 5 he is said to be one whose management of his own household fits him to care for God’s church. These two functions are ascribed to elders in the fifth chapter of this same book (1 Timothy 5:17) – teaching and governing. So it is very likely that in Paul’s mind the bishops/overseers of 1 Timothy 3:1-7 are the same as the elders of 5:17” (John Piper).

Fourth, 1 Timothy 3:1-13 clearly indicates that there are two primary offices in the NT: Elder and Deacon. Yet in Philippians 1:1 Paul directs his epistle “to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers (episkopoi) and deacons.” Since Paul’s practice was to appoint elders in every church (Acts 14:23) it seems reasonable that the overseers/bishops in Philippians 1:1 is a reference to the elders in that city.

The Greek word (poimen) translated “pastor” is used only once in the NT in Ephesians 4:11. The related verb form (poimaino) has the meaning “to shepherd” or “to feed” with the idea of nurturing and sustaining the flock of God. When I put together Ephesians 4:11, 1 Timothy 3:2, Titus 1:9, Acts 20:28, and 1 Peter 5:1-2, it would appear reasonable to conclude that all elders exercised pastoral responsibilities.

My conclusion is that the local church is to be governed by a plurality of individuals who are described in the New Testament as elders, insofar as they hold an office of great dignity and importance (perhaps even with an allusion to age or at least spiritual maturity), or bishops, insofar as they exercise oversight of the body of Christ, or pastors, insofar as they spiritually feed, care for, and exercise guardianship over the flock of God.

(3) There are several reasons why I believe that this ruling or governmental office is restricted to men. First, I appeal to the NT two-fold description of the function of elders. (a) They are those who govern or rule the church (1 Tim. 3:4-5; 5:17; Acts 20:28; 1 Pet. 5:2; 1 Thess. 5:12; Heb. 13:17). (b) They are those who are primarily responsible for teaching the body of Christ (Eph. 4:11 [assuming the words “pastor” and “teacher” refer to one function or office of “pastor-teacher”; the best grammatical analysis would indicate this is true]; 1 Tim. 3:2; 5:17; Titus 1:9). Since I believe that Paul in 1 Timothy 2:11-15 restricted teaching and exercising authority to men, it follows that the office of Elder or Bishop is restricted to men.

(4) A second reason looks to the qualifications for the office of Elder that are found in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. An Elder must be “the husband of one wife” (1 Tim. 3:2 and Titus 1:6; need I say more?). Note also that an elder “must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?” (1 Tim. 3:4-5).

(5) There is no reference anywhere in the New Testament to a female elder. You may wish to object by pointing out that this is an argument from silence. Yes, it is. But it is a deafening silence, especially when taken in conjunction with the two previous points. The bottom line is that we simply have no biblical precedent for female elders nor anything in the text that describes their nature, function, and qualifications that would lead us to believe that this could ever be a possibility.

I agree that women can serve as deacons (1 Tim. 3:8-13; Rom. 16:1-2; although this is disputed by others), that they can assist and support, as “co-workers”, someone such as the apostle Paul (Phil. 4:2-3), that they can evangelize, and that they can possess and exercise in biblically appropriate ways every spiritual gift (except that of “apostle,” although I’m not persuaded “apostleship” is a spiritual gift). I believe that women can serve and minister in virtually every capacity aside from what I have called “senior governmental authority”.

(6) Some egalitarians have argued that since Euodia and Syntyche (Phil. 4:2-3) were “co-workers” with Paul, women were in positions of leadership and should thus be considered as viable candidates for the office of Elder. But the Greek word sunergos (“co-worker” or “fellow-worker”) is used of numerous individuals (e.g., Rom. 16:9; Phil. 2:25; Col. 4:10-11; Philemon 24; etc.), as well as anyone who supports traveling missionaries (3 John 8). But this in no way implies that such people exercised ruling authority in the local church. Whereas all Elders would certainly qualify as “co-workers,” not all “co-workers” would qualify as Elders. Their “work” in support of the gospel, whether as those who provide financial aid, or those who evangelize, or those who intercede in prayer, or those who serve in any number of capacities, does not in and of itself indicate they were invested with governmental authority or were even qualified to serve in such a capacity (cf. Rom. 16:1-2). Continue reading

When it comes to women teaching men, how far is too far?

questionmarkredstandingDr. Sam Storms introduces the following article on his blog with these words: “This article by Mary Kassian is one of the best treatments of this thorny question as I’ve ever read. I encourage you to study it closely and in its entirety. It is a model of careful and judicious reasoning in an effort to answer questions not explicitly addressed in Scripture.”

Women Teaching Men — How Far Is Too Far? by Mary A. Kassian (original source but not fifteen? Lip kiss but not French kiss? How far is too far?
Well, the Bible doesn’t exactly specify.

Trying to put together a list of rules about permitted behaviors would be both misleading and ridiculous. But we’re not left without a rudder. The Bible does provide a clear boundary. Sexual intercourse prior to marriage crosses the line.

God reveals for us the principle of purity, gives a clear this-goes-over-the-line boundary, and to help us figure out the rest, provides us with the gift of his indwelling Spirit in the community of the saints. And thankfully when we mess up, he stands ready to extend his lavish and costly forgiveness and grace.

Asking the Right Question

Pre-marital sexual intercourse crosses the line. But let me ask you this: Can a couple physically honor the boundary and still violate the principle of purity? Of course they can.
So a woman who only considers the boundary and asks, “How far is too far?” is really asking the wrong question. A better question would be, “Do I love what God loves?” “Do I treasure what he treasures?” “Does what I do with my body indicate that I treasure purity?” And, “How can I best honor Christ in how I physically interact with my boyfriend?”

By now you may be muttering, “I thought she was going to talk about women teaching men in the church.”

I am. But I think the question of how I — as a woman with a spiritual gift of teaching — ought to honor male headship in the church has many similarities with the question of how a young woman ought to honor the principle of purity. In the former situation as well as the latter, God hasn’t given us a detailed how-far-is-too-far list. He’s given us a broad principle, a clear this-goes-over-the-line boundary, and the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit to help us figure out the rest in the wisdom of community.

Loving What God Loves

God wants us to honor his divine design by honoring the principle of male headship in our homes and church families. The church is God’s family and household (1 Timothy 3:15, Hebrews 3:6, Galatians 6:10). Continue reading

Martyn Lloyd-Jones on “Women Preachers”

“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. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.”

– 1 Timothy 2:11-15

lloyd_jones_1Lloyd-Jones:

In many ways the root trouble, even among good Evangelicals, is our failure to heed the plain teachings of Scripture. We accept what Scripture teaches as far as our doctrine is concerned; but when it comes to practice, we very often fail to take the Scriptures as our only guide. When we come to the practical side we employ human tests instead of Scriptural ones. In stead of taking the plain teachings of the Bible, we argue with it. ‘Ah yes’, we say, ‘since the Scriptures were written times have changed’.

Dare I give an obvious illustration? Take the question of women preaching, and being ordained to the full ministry. The apostle Paul, in writing to Timothy (1 Tim 2:11-15), prohibits it directly. He says quite specifically that he does not allow a women to teach or preach. ‘Ah yes’, we say, as we read that letter, ‘He was only thinking of his own age and time; but you know times have changed since then, and we must not be bound. Paul was thinking of certain semi-civilized people in Corinth and places like that’. But the Scripture does not say that. It says, ‘Let the women learn in silence with all subjection, but I suffer not a woman to teach nor usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence’. ‘Ah, but that was only temporary legislation’, we say. Paul puts it like this: ‘For Adam was first formed, the Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding, she shall be saved in child bearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety’.

Paul does not say that it was only for the time being; he takes it right back to the Fall and shows that it is an abiding principle. It is something that is true, therefore, of the age in which we live. But thus you see, we argue with Scripture. Instead of taking its plain teaching, we say that times have changed-when it suits our thesis we say it is no longer relevant’. . . .If you want to avoid terrible disillusionment at the day of judgment, face Scripture as it is. Do not argue with it, do not try to manipulate it, do not twist; face it, receive it and submit to it whatever the cost.

Jones, David Martyn. Studies in the Sermon on the Mount. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1959.

1 Timothy 2:12

DanielWallace1 Timothy 2:12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. 13 For Adam was first formed, then Eve. (KJV)

Transcript (excerpt) of a lecture by Dr. Dan Wallace, “From the KJV to the RV”:

“In 1 Timothy 2:12, Paul gives his instructions to Timothy, and in the King James he says essentially, ‘I do not permit a woman to usurp authority over a man.’ Now usurp means to take that authority on for oneself illegitimately or to steal it if you will.

Every once in a while we have some women preachers who come to the Seminary – its a rare opportunity, but when they come in they get behind a pulpit and they say, ‘I am not usurping anyone’s authority here today to speak to you. This authority has been granted to me by the Chaplain.’

Well, when they say that, their view is based on the wording of the King James Version of 1 Timothy 2:12, but its not based on the meaning of the Greek text.

Now the King James translators got that from Erasmus’ Latin text because the Greek word that is used there is used very rarely in all of Greek literature. And so, they did not know exactly what it meant. So they consulted Erasmus’ Latin text. You recall all of Erasmus’ Greek editions had Latin on one side and Greek on the other, and he had changed Jerome’s Latin Vulgate here incorrectly. The Latin word he used was ‘usurpare’ and consequently, the King James translators, put in ‘usurp.’

Almost all modern translations render it correctly as “exercise authority.'”

**1 Timothy 2:12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve… (ESV)

**1 Timothy 2:12 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… (NASB)

Interview with Dr. John Piper (from Australia)

Here’s a 12-minute interview on women’s ministry with Pastor John Piper from the Women’s Katoomba Convention in Australia, where he is asked the following questions:

Time markers:

00:23 — How long have you been a Christian?

1:41 — Why are you still a Christian at 65 years old?

3:03 — What are the obstacles you see to living a worthy life?

5:39 — What advice would you give to women about a worthy life?

8:36 — On the ministry of mothers.

9:34 — What do you benefit so much from Christian biography?

John Piper interviewed for Women’s Katoomba Convention from kcc on Vimeo.