Women in Church Office
John Calvin on
I Timothy 2:15: "Whatever hypocrites or wise men of the
world may think, God is better pleased with a woman who considers
the condition God has assigned to her as a calling and submits to
it, not refusing to bear the distaste of (cooking) food, the
illness, the difficulty, or rather the fearful anguish associated
with childbirth or anything else that is her duty—God is better
pleased with her than if she were to make some great display of
heroic virtues and refuse to accept the vocation given her by God."
John Chrysostom: "A woman undertakes no
small share of the whole administration, being the keeper of the
house. And without her not even political affairs could be properly
conducted. For if their domestic concerns were in a state of
confusion and disorder, those who are engaged in public affairs
would be kept at home, and political business would be ill managed.
So that neither in those matters, as neither in spiritual, is she
I Timothy 2:11-12, 15: "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 ...
Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue
in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety."
WOMEN IN CHURCH OFFICE
To say that the subject of this pamphlet is a live
issue in the church world of our day is to state the obvious. Certainly
the role of the woman is a much discussed issue in the
world at large, and especially in modern American society. We live in
the day of women's liberation, women's rights, and the feminist
movement. Women are clamouring for equality with men and are seeking
fulfilment not in the home and not in raising a family, but in the
profession, and careers traditionally occupied by men. The women's
movement has become highly organized, a political force to be reckoned
with. An organization like NOW (National Organization for Women) is
devoted to political action and the spreading of propaganda on behalf of
the women's rights movement. All across our country organizations
traditionally open only to men, from high school soccer teams to the
Jaycees, are being pressured to admit women.
It is not surprising, therefore, that there is also a
parallel movement in the churches pushing for the admittance of women
into the special office the offices of minister, elder, and deacon. The
general assemblies and synods of the churches have been very busy with
this question in the last few years, and from the looks of things will
continue to be occupied with the issue for some time to come. The
journals and church magazines carry many articles, both pro and con, on
the question. Several books have been written on the subject. Women are
enrolling in increasing numbers in the seminaries. And many churches,
some with and some without the approval of the broader assemblies, are
actively ordaining women into the offices.
In this pamphlet we want to consider this question of
women in church office. At the outset, we want to clear up a common
misconception and misrepresentation. Often the two sides on this issue
are divided into those who are "for" women and those who are "against"
women. The position "for" women means that women can do anything men can
do, may hold any office that men may hold. All possible distinctions are
to be erased. The position "against" women means that women are not
allowed to do all that men do, are not allowed to hold every office that
men hold, and are called to be in submission to the man in the home and
in the church.
At best this is a serious misconception; at worst it
is a deliberate and malicious misrepresentation. It is our conviction
that the Bible does not allow the woman to hold every office that the
man holds and that the woman is called to be in submission to the man in
home and in the church. But this is not a position "against" women, but
a position "for" women, really the only position "for" the women. The
Bible is "for" women, that is, the Bible has the woman's own best
interests in view and prescribes what is best for the woman herself.
Exactly because the church is motivated by the good of the women
themselves, the church must be committed to adhere to the Bible's
teaching on the question of women in office.
The Biblical Position on this Question
The Bible prescribes a large and important place for
women in God's Church.
This is plain, first of all, from Jesus' relationship
with several women. Jesus was interested in and took the time to
minister to the needs of women, and not once did Jesus treat women in a
demeaning way or regard them as inferior. He cast seven devils out of
Mary Magdalene. He preached the gospel to the Samaritan woman at Jacob's
well. He defended and forgave the woman taken in adultery. He raised the
son of the widow of Nain, and freed the daughter of the Syro-Phoenician
woman from a devil. Several women were especially close to Jesus and
enjoyed a warm, personal relationship with the Saviour. The most
prominent of these were Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus; and
Mary Magdalene. The women were strikingly, the last to leave the scene
of Jesus' crucifixion and were the first ones to whom the gospel of the
resurrection was preached. The Saviour, however, called none of these
women to be one of His 12 disciples, nor later sent any of them out as
one of the apostles.
This same large place is accorded
women in the early church. There were several women among
the 120 disciples in the upper room when the Holy Spirit was
poured out on the Day of Pentecost. We read often of the
women of the church in the record of Acts. Several women
served both the apostles and the people of God. There was
Dorcas, or Tabitha, who was raised from the dead by Peter,
concerning whom we read that she "was full of good works and
9:36). The first convert of the Apostle Paul at Philippi
was Lydia, the seller of purple. Paul remembered the
unfeigned faith of young Timothy, which dwelt first in his
grand-mother Lois and in his mother Eunice. From these godly
women, Timothy had first learned the Scriptures (II
Tim. 1:1-5). Priscilla, along with her husband Aquila,
was of great help to the Apostle Paul in his missionary
One certainly cannot accuse the apostles of
mistreating women, or of ignoring women, or of allowing women no place
in the life or the church. They honoured the women and spoke highly of
them. They valued their services and encouraged and commended them
highly. But the apostles did not ordain women into the offices of
minister, elder, or deacon. These women assisted the apostles, cared for
the poor, instructed the younger women, kept their homes and reared
their children in the fear of God, but they did not preach, they did not
sit in the elders' bench, and they did not serve in the office of
This important and large place which the Scriptures
give to women is in keeping with the Scripture's teaching on the
equality of the woman with the man. The Scripture's teaching that the
woman is to be in submission to the man and that the woman is "the
weaker vessel," does not take away from a certain equality of man and
This indicates that the whole question of women in
office is not a question of the woman's equality with man. Equality and
difference of role are not mutually exclusive. In fact they are two
aspects of Scripture's teaching on this issue.
There is a certain biblical equality of the woman
with the man. The creation already brings this out: both man and woman
are created in God's image (Gen.
1:27); and God's command to exercise dominion over the creation
comes to both the man and the woman, according to
Genesis 1:28. The fact is that in the very passages in the New
Testament which teach the headship of the man over the woman there
always appears a statement about their equality and mutual dependence.
The Scriptures are very concerned to guard against the headship of the
man being interpreted to justify a harsh, tyrannical, domineering rule
of the man over the woman. So we read in
I Corinthians 11:11-12: "Nevertheless neither is the man without the
woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord. For as the woman
is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of
God." The man is out of the woman, depends upon the woman, is called to
live all his life through the woman. In
I Peter 3:7, the Apostle exhorts, "Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with
them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the
weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that
your prayers be not hindered." Men and women are "fellow heirs" of God's
grace and of eternal life.
The Scriptures teach that men and women are equally
involved in ruin. Men and women stand equally in need of salvation.
Jesus Christ is the Saviour alike of women and men. Men and women alike
possess the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ, and therefore equally share in
the office of believer, the office of prophet, priest and king. As Joel
had prophesied, the Spirit was poured out not only upon Israel's sons,
but also upon her daughters (Joel
The Biblical Prohibition of Women in Office
Although all of this is true, the Bible forbids women
to occupy the special offices in the church. Any fair and honest
treatment of the biblical material will yield no other conclusion, as
the church up until recent times has maintained. What is that biblical
First of all, the history of the Old Testament
reveals very clearly already God's will that the leadership and offices
in His church be entrusted to men. The leadership roles in the Old
Testament were consistently assigned by God to men. Noah was called by
God to build the ark and lead the church out of the old world and into
the new world after the Flood. It was the Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac,
Jacob, and Jacob's twelve sons who led the church in the period after
the Flood. It was the man Moses who was called by God to deliver Israel
out of Egypt and lead them to the Promised Land. And it was Joshua who
was appointed by God actually to bring the children of Israel into the
land of Canaan.
In the Old Testament God assigned the office of the
priesthood to Aaron and to the male members of his family, and not one
woman was ever called to the priesthood. There were also elders
throughout the Old Testament and right into the New Testament, but there
is no mention ever made of a woman's being among the elders of any city
in Old Testament Israel. Neither did a woman ever occupy the throne in
Israel, except the godless usurper Athaliah, who was eventually killed
by order of the God-fearing priest Jehoiada.
This male leadership of the church continued into the
early New Testament. The Lord Jesus called 12 men, not 6 men and 6
women, to be His disciples. Peter, led by the Spirit, called the 120
Acts 1:21 to choose one "of these men which have companied
with us" to take the place of Judas Iscariot. The Spirit led the church,
according to the first part of
Acts 6, to appoint seven men of good report to be the first to
occupy the office of deacon. The Jerusalem council, recorded in
Acts 15, was an all-male church council, and the decision of the
council was to appoint "leading men" to go with Paul and Barnabas to
Antioch to inform the church there of the council's decisions.
That the New Testament Scriptures teach that men
shall occupy the special offices is plain from the passages which speak
of the qualifications of office-bearers,
I Timothy 3 and
Titus 1. These passages speak very clearly of men, not women, as
elders and deacons in the church. Among the qualifications listed is
that the office-bearers must be the husband of one wife, and these
passages expressly do not say the wife of one husband. There simply was
no question in the mind of the apostle or in the mind of the early
church as to God's will that men should be the ministers, elders, and
Besides this, there are especially two passages of
the New Testament that expressly forbid women to occupy the offices.
I Corinthians 14:34-35 is the first of these passages: "Let your
women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to
speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the
law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at
home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church."
Really, this passage is so utterly plain that its
explanation ought to be obvious to anyone who is able to read the
English language. The apostle calls the women to keep silence in the
church. That doesn't mean that women may not talk inside a church
building. That women are not allowed to speak means that they are not
allowed to speak in the sense of preach or teach in God's church. The
official ministering of the Word of God, which is, by the way, the work
not simply of the minister but of all the office-bearers, elders and
deacons too, that is forbidden to women.
The second passage is
I Timothy 2:11-12: "Let the woman learn in silence with all
subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, not to usurp authority
over the man, but to be in silence." The apostle is speaking in this
passage of the public worship services of the church. According to
I Timothy 3:15. the first epistle to Timothy concerns proper
behaviour in the house of God, the church of God. Proper behaviour for
women in God's house, now, is that they NOT teach. For a woman to teach
is improper behaviour. Again—in the church. The women are not forbidden
absolutely to teach. They may and they must, teach their children at
home. They may stand the place of the parent in the Christian school and
teach the covenant children. They must teach in the sense of speak and
witness to all those with whom they come into contact day by day. They
may teach Sunday School and teach one another in the Bible study
societies of the church. In
Titus 2:4-5 Paul calls the older women to teach the younger women to
be good wives and mothers. But they may not teach in the church. The
woman is forbidden to occupy the pulpit and to preach.
More than this, Paul forbids them "to usurp authority
over the man." The woman may not occupy the office of ruling elder. A
woman who does this is a "usurper," that is, she acts on her own
authority, not on the authority of God.
Rather, the woman is to learn in silence. She IS to
learn; she is to grow in her knowledge and understanding of God's Word.
But she is to do this in silence. That doesn't mean without talking.
Literally, the Apostle says "in quietness", that is, tending to her own
affairs and in her own God-given place, not intruding into affairs which
God has assigned to the men of the church.
She is to do this "with all subjection." Subjection
is obedience. "All" subjection is total obedience.
The ground or reason for the Apostle's teaching here
is two-fold. First of all, as in
I Corinthians 11, the Apostle appeals to creation: "For Adam was
first formed, then Eve" (v. 13). God created Adam first, and then He
made Eve. And not only was Adam made by God before the woman, but the
woman was made out of and for the man. In
I Corinthians 11:8-9 the Apostle says, "For the man is not for the
woman; but the woman for the man."
And secondly, Adam was not deceived but the woman
being deceived was found in the transgression (v. 14). Now that doesn't
mean that Adam didn't sin and didn't fall. We know better. Adam,
however, was not deceived in the way in which the woman was deceived.
The woman was deceived first, and the woman was utterly and thoroughly
deceived. She took the lead in the fall; she was the one who talked to
the serpent, was deceived by the serpent's temptation, and she became
the occasion for Adam to fall. Her usurping to herself authority that
had not been given to her played a crucial role in the original fall of
the race. As a consequence: she shall not teach, nor usurp authority
over the man, but be in silence.
An Examination of Certain Arguments for Ordination
In spite of this clear teaching of Scripture which
forbids women to occupy church office, the proponents of women in office
put forward several arguments to overthrow this teaching of Scripture
and to support their position that the church must open up the offices
to women. We ought to examine the outstanding arguments of those
who are seeking the ordination of women.
There is first of all, the argument that appeals to
certain women in the Old Testament who occupied the office of prophet.
The Old Testament does speak of three prophetesses: Miriam, Moses'
sister; Deborah, who was both a prophet and a judge; and Hulda. Three
things are worthy of note, however. First, these are the only recorded
exceptions in the whole of the Old Testament to the obvious general rule
that men were to occupy the offices. Secondly, in two of three cases,
those of Deborah and Hulda, the spiritual condition of Israel was very
low. They were raised up by God in times of great apostasy. Thee reason
God raised them up and set them in the office of prophet was simply that
there were no men in Israel fit to hold the office. And thirdly, it was
by direct, special revelation that God called these women to office.
They were prophets, that is, those to whom God gave direct, immediate
revelation. We could accept women in office if this were still so today.
But God does no longer give special revelations. The conclusion is
obvious: There can be no women office-bearers.
Secondly, the argument is put forward that the
woman's general submission to the man and specifically her submission in
the church which takes the form of her not serving in the offices, is an
aspect of the curse and is based solely on the consequences of sin and
the fall. Appeal is made to
Genesis 3:16, "Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy
sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children and
thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee." These
were the words of curse that God pronounced against the woman on account
of the fall. The next verses record God's curse over the man, that the
ground would be cursed for his sake and that from now on he would have
to work in the sweat of his face.
This argument runs something like this. As originally
created by God, Adam and Eve stood in perfect equality. The fall into
sin destroyed that equality, so that now the woman was placed in
subjection to the man as part of God's judgment over her. Part of the
work of Christ is to redeem the woman from this aspect of sin and the
curse. In keeping with this work of Christ, the church ought to exert
herself to elevate the position of the woman, restore her to her
original equality, and make it possible for her to serve more completely
and fully in the church. Just as we try to alleviate the effects of sin
by anaesthesia and pain-relievers for child-birth, and air-conditioned
tractors for work, so we should attempt to alleviate the headship of man
based solely on the fall and sin.
Notice, that this argument rests on two basic
presuppositions. Number one, there was no headship of man over woman
before the fall, in the perfect creation order. And number two, the rule
of the man over the woman is part of the curse, something therefore
inherently evil, a consequence of sin.
Two points must be made in response to this argument.
First, we agree with the permissibility of attempting to relieve the
effects of the fall into sin. Nothing wrong with that in itself. But we
do that, not by removing the realities themselves that are mentioned in
Genesis 3: childbirth, work, and the submission of the woman to the
man. Those realities themselves were not the curse pronounced over the
man and woman by God. But we do that by alleviating that which corrupts
these realities. In the case of the man's rule over the woman, the
Apostles do that in the New Testament by exhorting husbands to love and
honour, nourish and cherish their wives, and not be bitter against them.
Secondly, our response to this argument is that
Scripture itself never calls women to be subject to men in marriage or
in the church because of the effects of sin and the fall. Consistently,
the New Testament Scriptures appeal to the creation order, the pre-fall
arrangement of things as establishing the principle of the woman's
submission. The fact is that it is God's creation order, as evidenced in
Genesis 1 and 2, that is the solid basis for the New Testament
prohibition of women exercising authority in the offices of the church
or in marriage and the home. That's
I Corinthians 11:8-9;
I Timothy 2:13; and
A third argument for women in church office is the
constant appeal to
Galatians 3:28. In their use of this passage those advocating women
in office remind us of a dog who has only one bark. The text reads:
"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there
is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus." Let it
be said, that this text has absolutely nothing to do with the question
of women in church office. This is not the subject of the passage or of
the context. And an appeal to this passage is entirely beside the point.
The subject of
Galatians 3:28 is salvation, and the enjoyment of salvation through
the gift of faith in Jesus Christ. The point of the Apostle is that
salvation and faith are not confined to one limited sector of the human
race. The New Testament church of Jesus Christ is a catholic, or
universal church. Salvation is enjoyed not only by Jews, but also
Greeks; not only by free men, but also slaves not only by white men, but
also black, red, and yellow men; not only by men (males), but also women
(females). As far as the gift of salvation is concerned, it is the same
as with the need for salvation: there is no difference between men and
Another argument for women in office, one of the most
commonly heard arguments, is that not to ordain women into the offices
wastes the gifts of women. If the church does not accede to the
ordination of women, the church is guilty of squandering its resources
and wasting women's gifts.
This argument is ridiculous, and amounts only to an
appeal for women in office. At issue is not the question whether or not
women have gifts, or whether they ought to use their gifts, or whether
the church ought to be diligent to employ the gifts of the women. But
the issue concerns WHERE those gifts are to be employed. The same Holy
Spirit who bestows gifts upon the members of the church is also the
author of Scripture, also the Scriptures that forbid women to occupy
office. Are we to suppose that the Holy Spirit would contradict Himself?
What About the Office of Deacon?
Although some agree that women may not be ordained to
the office of minister or elder, they are willing to concede that there
may be women deacons in the church. They argue, first, that a deacon
would not have to teach or rule. And secondly, they appeal in support of
their contention to two passages of Scripture which, to their mind speak
of women in the office of deacon:
Romans 16:1 and
I Timothy 5:9 and following.
The view that women could easily be ordained as
deacons because they would not have to teach or rule is mistaken. For
the deacons too teach and have authority over the members of the church.
Sharing in the office of Christ, they too, along with ministers and
elders share in Christ's authority. To occupy an office, in the nature
OT the case, is to occupy a position of authority. That's why a
requirement for the deacons, as well as for the elders in
I Timothy 3, is that they are "ruling their children and their own
houses well." That requirement arises out of the fact that they must
share in the rule of the church. And the fact of the matter is that in
the course of their work the deacons must give some instruction and
teaching officially and on behalf of the church of Jesus Christ. They do
not simply write out checks and pay the bills.
The appeal to
I Timothy 5:9ff. fails to prove the permissibility of women deacons.
For, first the apostle deliberately does not refer to the women
mentioned here as "deacons" or "deaconesses", but simply as "women".
Second, that which makes it impossible to appeal to this passage in
support of the ordination of women into the office of deacon is that the
apostle requires that these women be widows and that they be widows of
at least sixty years of age. Those who appeal to this passage want the
offices opened up to ALL women.
Nor does the appeal to
Romans 16:1, the example of Phebe, prove the permissibility of women
deacons. The passage reads in the King James Version as follows: I
commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church
which is at Cenchrea." The argument from this passage rests on the fact
that the word translated "servant" may also be translated "deacon'' or
"deaconess". This is the translation offered by both the Revised
Standard Version and Phillips.
There is no question about it that "deaconess" is a
proper translation of the word "servant" that is used here. The
question, however is whether it is a proper translation in this
particular passage. Or are the translators of the King James Version
correct when they translate "servant"?
It should be noted that this word "servant" occurs in
the New Testament in many different connections. It refers to servants,
both male and female, in households; to servants of kings; to servants
who are called to be obedient to their masters, to servants of God who
occupy positions of government in the state. Besides, the word occurs in
a host of passages where it MUST be translated "servant", and where it
would be impossible and make sense to translate it by "deacon" or
"deaconess". You can check this yourself by referring to a good
concordance. The point is that one cannot conclude simply on the basis
of the term itself, that Phebe was a deacon in the church. And in the
light of the rest of the New Testament, she could not have been. She was
a godly woman who served her fellow believers in the church at Cenchrea,
and who was highly commended by the Apostle, but she was NOT a deacon.
The Underlying Issue in the Debate over Women in
That brings us to the final argument of those who are
advocating women in church office. At the same time, with this argument
the underlying issue in connection with the debate over women in office
is brought clearly to the foreground.
What is that underlying issue? The Bible in plain
language forbids women to teach or rule in the church. One simply cannot
find support for women office-bearers in Scripture. What do they do then
who advocate women in office? They deny that these Scriptures apply in
our time and to our culture. Surely, Paul in
I Corinthians 14 and
I Timothy 2 was forbidding women to hold office. But the Apostle's
teaching there is to be understood in the light of his Jewish training,
and in the light of early New Testament culture. We must understand, we
are told, that Scripture is time-bound and culturally conditioned. What
the Apostle wrote applied to his times and his culture, but it doesn't
apply anymore in our times and in our culture. The underlying issue,
therefore, is Scripture and the church's confession of the inspiration,
infallibility, and authority of Holy Scripture.
Others see this as the issue, too. In a fine article
in Christianity Today magazine (9 April, 1976) on the question of
women in office, George W. Knight III states,
But I am distressed that some who have written on
the subject [i.e., of women in office] seem to be abandoning the
inerrancy of Scripture and the authority of its teaching. Even some
who claim to be evangelical Christians, to submit to the authority
of God and his Word, seem willing to appeal to the passages in
Scripture that support their position and to minimize other passages
or declare them to be either wrong or only culturally relative and
not normative, even when these passages themselves claim to be
normative and not culturally relative.
This is exactly what Paul K. Jewett does in his book
The Ordination Of Women (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1980). Jewett
is professor of systematic theology at Fuller Theological Seminary in
California. In his book, Jewett is bold to assert that Paul's teaching
is simply a reflection of an erroneous rabbinical view. He is bold to
assert that Paul's understanding of Genesis I and 2 is wrong. He is bold
to assert that Paul's teaching is simply conditioned by the culture in
which he lived, and need not be followed anymore today.
In a recent editorial in The Banner,
editor Andrew Kuvvenhoven came down for basically this same position.
There is no doubt in my mind that Paul was
prescribing a restricted role to women in the service of worship
when he wrote
I Corinthians 14:34 and
I Timothy 2:12. However, the reasons for the restrictions were
local, cultural, and therefore temporal. Paul could appeal to what
was in his day a common moral judgment: a woman speaking in church
looked "bad," "shameful" (I
Cor. 14:35). But when such an appeal can no longer be made, the
special apostolic prescription is also removed (23 January, 1984).
Our response to this argument is simple: We deny it!
It is false and wrong, and is a fatal concession of the doctrine of Holy
Scripture. If this argument is allowed to stand in the church, the
church has lost everything. The issue is not women in office. That's
just an aside, a little aside. The issue is the infallibility and
consequent authority of Holy Scripture. The position for women in office
is only one more attack, among so many others today, against Holy
Scripture itself. In the end, if the position that Scripture is
culturally conditioned and time-bound is allowed to stand, it will be
possible to set aside every doctrine and every commandment of the
This assertion that the Apostle's teaching is
conditioned by the culture and times in which he lived stands directly
over against the Apostle's own assertion that what he taught is the will
of God, an assertion which the Apostle makes in the very passages in
which he prohibits the women to occupy the offices of the church. In
I Timothy 2, the Apostle asserts that the prohibition of women in
office is based on God's will expressed already in the creation order.
Already in verse 7 of the chapter he had expressly said, concerning the
instruction that he was about to give, "I speak the truth in Christ, and
lie not." In
I Corinthians 14:34, the Apostle states that his instruction has its
foundation in the Law, in the will of God revealed already in the Old
Testament Law: "Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is
not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under
obedience, as also saith the law." The Apostle insists on exactly the
opposite of what men are saying today, that his teaching was grounded in
the abiding will of God revealed in the Law.
I ask you, do you suppose for one minute that the
Lord Jesus would allow himself to he pressured by the cultural situation
of His day? Did He ever cave in to the prejudices and wrongs of the
culture of His day? Are we really to suppose that the One Who forgave
adulterers, ate with publicans and sinners, who was not afraid to point
out the errors and hypocrisy of the religious leaders of His day, was
actually afraid of offending the culture of His day? Was this the reason
why He didn't appoint any women disciples? To ask these questions is to
One wonders! One really wonders about this cultural
question! Who really are the products of their culture: Jesus? The
Apostles? Or those today who are pushing for the ordination of women?
The question arises whether or not, after all, it is not the modern
advocates of women in office who have not caved in to a godless,
antichristian culture out of which the whole modern women's movement has
arisen? One wonders!
In any case, let us be clear, if the modern view wins
the day, number one, the entire doctrine of Scripture's infallibility
and authority goes out the window. And number two, the perspicuity or
clarity of Scripture is overthrown and no ordinary Christian will be
able to read and to understand the Bible anymore. He will have to trust
the experts who know all the cultural, linguistic, philosophical, and
historical considerations which influenced the writers of the Bible. As
happened in the Romish church prior to the Reformation, the Bible will
be taken out of the hands of the ordinary people and once again confined
to a hierarchy of "experts." God spare us this calamity!
Our Calling to Stand Against this Movement
The church today and the individual believer must
stand over-against the movement to ordain women into church office.
Whatever the cost, whatever sacrifice is required, whatever personal
injury is suffered, we must stand! We must maintain the scriptural
position, without compromise. Martin Luther once said to those who were
hedging in his day:
If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest
exposition every portion of the truth of God, except precisely that
little point which the world and the devil are at that moment
attacking, I am not confessing Christ. Where the battle rages, there
the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the
battle front besides is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at
This stand of the church and of the believer must be
a thorough-going and consistent stand. It must be a position that
forbids the women to occupy the offices of minister, elder, and deacon.
Besides that, the women are forbidden to teach catechism classes. The
Reformed position is that catechism instruction is as much official
teaching in the church as is the preaching of the Word on the Lord's
Day. Nor ought women to be given the right to vote at the congregational
meeting of the church. The congregational meeting is an official
gathering of the church. For a woman to vote at a congregational meeting
is for a woman to exercise some authority to enter into the government
of the church. That is prohibited. There's an old proverb out of the Far
Fast that the time to keep the camel out of your tent is when the camel
sticks his nose into your tent. You let his nose in and you may be sure
that his body will soon be following along. Reformed Churches do well to
keep their nose of this camel out of their tent.
The Positive Calling of Women
This stand of the church prohibiting women to occupy
the offices must also be a stand that carefully lays before the women
their positive calling in the church. That positive calling is
I Timothy 2:15: "Notwithstanding she shall be saved in
child-bearing, if they continue in faith arid charity and holiness with
sobriety." The hue and cry of the modern woman's movement has its source
in the neglect and despising by the women of the positive calling which
God gives them.
Scripture calls women to their proper task of
childbearing. That is the unique and glorious calling that God has given
to women in the church. Carrying out this calling they find their
fulfilment. God gives women all kinds of opportunity to teach and to
rule their children in the fear of His name. With a view to His calling
God has blessed the women with many gifts, physically, emotionally, and
spiritually, gifts which God has not given to the men. In the way of
their carrying out of this calling, God's church is born into the world
and gathered. In this way Christ came into the world, born of a woman
the Bible says, and God didn't need and God didn't use a man.
How this calling of the women needs to be emphasized
today! How women today refuse to carry out their God-given calling, by
means of birth-control, or still worse, by means of the cold-blooded
murder of abortion. What a terrible judgment of God rests upon them!
The Apostle goes so far as to say in
I Timothy 2:15, "she shall be saved in childbearing." Oh, to
be sure, the women, just like the men, are saved by the blood of Jesus
Christ. But they are saved in the way of childbearing. They are not
saved in the way of preaching, not in the way of ruling, and not in the
way of administering the mercies of Christ in the church. They are saved
in the way of childbearing.
What about those women who are past the time of
childbearing, or to whom the Lord does not grant the privilege of
hearing children? Have they no place in the church? They certainly do!
Let them be known as was Dorcas for her good works and for her
almsdeeds. Let them visit the fatherless, (the widows, the sick, and the
aged in their affliction. Let them stand in the place of the parents in
the Christian school. Let them assist the poor and be involved in all of
the ways they can be involved in helping God's church. But let them not
be ministers or elders or deacons.
This is the teaching of the Word of God. What do you
say? Say with me, "Choose you this day whom ye will serve; but as for me
and my house, we will serve the Lord" (Josh.
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