Skip to main content

Women and Church Leadership (1 Timothy 2:8-5)

Pastor of Iglesia Conexiones, a baptist church in Jessup, MD. B.A. in Bible, B.S. English Ed., M.S. in Educational Leadership.

Women Can't Be Church Leaders?

In previous messages/articles, I taught that it is necessary to interpret the Bible carefully. I also taught that God create the woman to be equal with the man in regards to nature and value, but to complement him in regards to attributes and role in society. I have also taught that Eve is not a symbol of feminine gullibility, but of human faith.

In this article, I am going to discuss why the 1 Timothy 2:8-15 does not belittle women even though it teaches that women may not lead the church.

1 Timothy 2:8-15, ESV

8 I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; 9 likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, 10 but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works. 11 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 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; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15 Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.

St. Paul vs. Women

Given the sensitivity of the modern world, and the primitive style with which Paul writes (a similar style that is similar to the style of the other biblical writers), it is easy for us to misinterpret this passage and conclude that Paul did not want women to teach in the church because he thought women are inferior to men. After all, he doesn’t only say that the man was created first, but hat the woman was created second; and he doesn’t only say that the woman was deceived, but he also says that the man was not deceived. When we look at these statements, we think think that Paul is obviously saying that women cannot be leaders in the church because they are inferior to men.

Nevertheless, the Apostle was not arguing that women are inferior to men: instead, he was giving Timothy two Bible verses that support Pau's view that leadership in the church must be male: (1) by creating the man first, God showed that the men (not women) should lead; (2) the woman's disobedience shows that disobedience to God's order doesn't only affect women, but also men—just as Adam and Eve, the church will suffer serious consequences for failing to obey Gof's order.

So, we have options on how to interpret what Paul says about Eve in 1 Timothy 2:13— either Paul was arguing that women are gullible and inferior (which I do NOT believe is the case), or Paul was simply giving Timothy doctrinal points that are the basis of his instruction to him regarding male leadership (I bleieve this is the correct view).

I beieve that, when we take in consideration the concise and cryptic style of the biblical authors, the revelation that God had already given in Genesis about women, and the righteous and loving character of God, we must consider that Paul is consistent with what the Spirit of God had already revealed—that women are equal in value ot men—and that Paul was only citing the Genesis passages to back up his instructions to Timothy.

Where Church Leadership Belongs

Now, the instructions that Paul gives to Timothy, are they demeaning to women? The answer, I believe, is no.

First, we have established that the Bible, since Genesis, teaches us to value women as equal to men. Paul, as a follower of the God of the Bible and of our Lord Jesus Christ, would not have contradicted this.

But, what does this passage tell us? To understand this passage, we need to interpret the instructions that Pual gives for the women in their own context.

First, Paul says that women should not to teach; second, Paul also says that women should keep siclence. Let’s talk about these instructions

Scroll to Continue

To teach, in the context of this passage, implies exercising authority. Paul isn’t talking about a woman speaking in public, asking questions, facilitating a group discussion, or eve explaining a passage of the Bible—Paul is talking about woman overseeing and leading the church. We know this because immediately after the passage (after 1 Timothy 2:8-15) Paul begins to talk—without any transition—about the offices of the bishop and the deacons in the church.

Paul’s point is that the church must not follow a woman's leadership, but a man's leadership since this is the ideal order that God revealed back in Genesis.

Now, a person without knowledge of God or of the Bible, would say that such instruction belittles the woman. But in biblical thought, that is not so. A woman is worth befgore God just as much as men are, but everything has an order.

Look, for example, at 1 Corinthians 11:3. There, we learn that the head of Christ (who is equal to God) is God Himself! And Christ (who became a man) is the head of men. And men are the head of women, even though the woman is bone of his bones and flesh of his flesh. God is a God of order—and, from a biblical point of view, order does not contradict value.

Why Should Women Be Silent?

But if the woman cannot be a leader in the church, what can she do? Paul tells us that the woman must learn in silence, keep silence, and be in subjection.

We must understand these ideas in their own context. The silence is not an absolute silence, but a relative silence. Paul is not saying that the woman cannot talk at all, that she cannot socialize, ask questions, participate in the church service, or even share God's word. We know this because in other biblical passages written by Paul, we are told that the woman can pray and even prophesy in the church (1 Corinthians 11:15). Even in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, where Paul instructs the woman not to ask questions in the church, but to keep silence, the silence of which Paul writes is relative to teaching with authority.

Paul is saying (both in 1 Timothy and 1 Corinthians) that women must not debate their male leaders in the church, but be subject to their instruction, since God gave the first commandment to the man, Adam, not to the woman, Eve. We know this because in both epistles Paul is giving instructions in response to the lack of unity in the churches (you can see this lack of unity in 1 Corinthians 1:11 and 1 Timothy 1:3-4).

So the point that Paul makes is not that women are inferior to men, but that women in the church must follow God’s original design, in which a man is the leader of the church and the shepherd of God's sheep. Neither is the point that women have no role in the service and ministry of the church, but that they have to respect and give place to male leadership.

The Scope of 1 Timothy 2:8-15

What ,then, have we said? We have said that leadership in the church musrt be masculine, not feminine; and that women, although they are equal in value to the man and deserve the same rights as any other human being, must give place to male leadership in the church because that is God's order.

Now then, 1 Timothy 2:8-15 does not only talk abut the topic of women and church leadeship, but it also talks about other topics, such as the conduct of women and the salvation of women. Moreover, 1 Timothy 2:8-15 does not discuss the role that women should play in the church. Therefore, I will endeavor to adress these topis in futgure posts.

Sample Prayer

I now invite you to pray with me:

Our Father, we recognize that, we being limited beings and sinners, we do not understand your wonderful plan and the blessings that obedience to your word brings into our lives. But in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ, we praise your wisdom, we receive your insgtruction, and we submit... and we hope in you, for your Spirit, through your grace, to help us and guide us in this. Amen.

Can Women Be Pastors or Deacons?

© 2020 Marcelo Carcach

Related Articles