Can Women Be Pastors? (Guest Post)
Updated: Jan 18, 2020
*This post is written by my wise husband. He actually wrote it as a paper for school, which explains why it’s so long. My first post on this topic received very negative feedback and that motivated my husband to respond specifically to the arguments that were presented. By posting this, I am not trying to add fuel to fire; instead, my goal is to show biblically what the correct stance should be on women leading in the Church.*
There has been an ongoing attack against the church for many years now. The question that is debated is, are women allowed to be pastors? This question has received a lot of attention ever since the women’s liberation movement started unfolding more in our society. There are many women and men inside and outside the church jumping on board with this movement, not understanding the consequences of it. This movements tells women that they have been enslaved for too long and that it is time to break free. That they have been treated worse than men in society. That the roles that have been set upon them are wrong and demeaning and because of that many of these women advocate for a reversal of roles. There are churches that have begun to adopt this philosophy by electing women as their pastors and co-pastors. This movement is very popular in society but is a direct attack from Satan who is trying to disrupt the work that God is doing. Satan knows that if he can distort the family, then he can distort the Gospel. It is a direct attack on the roles that God has ordained for men and women. This movement is an attack on the sufficiency of Scripture by its attack on the ordained roles of the church.
The roles that God ordained for man and woman are not something new or something that the society has set upon women. The roles of man and woman were defined by God all the way back to creation. The Bible says, “But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man” (Genesis 2:20-23). Here in the beginning, God created a woman to be the helper of man. It was always intended that the man would lead his wife and that the woman would be in submission to her husband. Paul alluded to this truth deeper in other New Testament passages such as, “But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God” (1 Corinthians 11:3) and “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, His body, and is Himself its Savior” (Ephesians 5:22-24). Here are clear indications of what God’s original intent for man and woman was. It was set forth by God in the garden between Adam and Eve and explained in more detail by Paul in the New Testament. This makes it clear that this women’s movement that is taking place in the society is not a work of some enlightened person who is seeing scripture more clearly, but that it is a definite attack from Satan himself.
The truth about the roles of man and woman not only apply to marriage but also to the roles of the church. Scripture makes it clear that marriage is a picture of the Gospel; that is why Paul, after speaking on how marriage was to function, ended that section in Ephesians 5:32 saying, “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” Also, in one of his pastoral letters to Timothy he made it clear, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve” (1 Timothy 2:12). Paul lists here the reasons of why he did not permit a woman to exercise the office of overseer. It was very simply stated: Adam was created first. He was the leader and the head of the household. The woman was created to be the helper and created to be in submission to the man. The question is, how does all of this fit in the subject of why women cannot be pastors? Well, for a woman to be a pastor she has to step out of the role that she has been given by God which involves her stepping out of the role of submission. Any person who teaches the word of God puts themselves in authority over the listeners; by a woman doing so she is deviating from the fact that she was created to be a helper of the man. A woman was not created to lead. She was not created for that role. Actually, scripture records for us what happened when Eve decided to reverse roles and take the man’s position. Genesis 3:6 says, “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.” What we see recorded is the reversal of roles taking place for the first time. Eve had taken charge and Adam had given it to her. Paul records in 1 Timothy 2:13, “... Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.” It was Eve stepping out of her God-given role that led to her deception. It was when she chose to lead and not submit herself to her husband that ultimately brought sin into the world.
A sermon by Dr. John MacArthur sums it up greatly: “We talk about the Fall of Adam, and rightly so because in Romans chapter 5 that is the way Paul refers to it, as in Adam all died, and so forth. We talk about the fall of Adam because Adam, his name represents generic man, if you will. His name represents the race. He is the head of the race and he did fall. But we have to keep in mind that he didn’t fall first. First, the woman fell and her fall confirms what verse 13 said, that woman needs a head. She needs a strengthener, because when she got out from under the strength of Adam and tried to operate independently in conflict with the enemy, she was what? Deceived. And the intent of what the Word is saying here is that woman needs protection, that she has a certain vulnerability. She was designed with the need for a head. She was designed with the need for a leader. She was designed with the need for a protector and a savior.” These roles were not set forth to diminish or make women feel less important than men. That is not true at all, and if you read and study Scripture you will truly see how highly God values women.
The attack on the roles of men and women come simply from the consequences of the fall. Genesis 3:16 says, “To the woman he said, ‘Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.’” God was declaring to Eve that because of her decision to disobey, women would have this inherent desire to rule over their husbands even though they were not created for that purpose. That’s why there is an attack on the headship of the man. That is why there is an uprising of women’s liberation and that is why there is a desire to see women leading our churches in the pastoral position. It was the desire of Eve to leave the protection of her husband that led to her deception. What the church is experiencing today is the reversal role of the sexes. It was woman assuming the role of leadership and man handing it over to her that has led to the attack on the roles in the church. Paul’s address to Timothy about women assuming authority was not invented by Paul but was rooted in the created order of man and woman.
Women becoming pastors is an attack on the sufficiency of scripture. Women who are taking the positions of pastorate are doing so by advocating that the words of Paul to Timothy do not apply to the church as a whole, but that Pauls words only applied to the churches back then because of cultural and educational issues. They believe that since there was a lack of education for women and since the culture wasn’t as accepting of women back then, Paul thought it was best that they kept from leading; but a close examination of the text in 1 Timothy shows that this is not a cultural or educational issue at all. In his address to Timothy about women leading in the pastoral role, he didn’t use an educational or cultural issue to defend his point. He referred Timothy back to the inherent reason: Eve sinned first (1 Timothy 2:13). Not only that, when he addresses the qualifications of the overseer, Paul uses the masculine words “he or his” over eleven times (1 Timothy 3:1-7). Another major point that Paul makes is found in 1 Timothy 3:14-15: “I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.” In closing the section this way about church roles, he sets forth that this was not a cultural or educational issue but that this was how one ought to act while in the church. Paul was also making it clear to Timothy that this was not an opinion but a command set forth by God since the beginning of creation. As the scripture makes clear, when a woman deliberately takes over the pastorate she is in direct disobedience to the Lord because to disobey God’s word is to disobey God Himself. Is His word a suggestion or a command? Is His word an opinion or the actual words spoken by the Holy Spirit? When a person looks at texts such as the ones found in 1 Timothy and justifies it as an opinion or an educational or cultural issue, then what would stop them from justifying other hard texts the same way just to suit their own desires?
This movement is a strategic attack from Satan and he is using the same phrase that he used on Eve in the garden, “Did God really say?” To draw many away from the truth and hinder the Gospel message. His purpose is always to attempt to disrupt anything that God is doing. Even though women are not to hold the pastorate position, this does not mean that they are less important than men. It just means that they are called to other noble roles in the church that men are not called to. The main noble task that they are given is the opportunity to be able to raise a godly seed: “Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if she continues in faith and love and holiness, with self-control” (1 Timothy 2:15).
John MacArthur, in a sermon on 1 Timothy 2:15, sums it up best: “Now, what is he saying? All women are saved through childbearing. Well, in what way? What kind of a general statement is that? What kind of saved do you mean here? Well not saved from sin, but listen to this: the word saved can mean delivered, or it can mean saved from things other than sin. What we have to understand here is that all women are delivered. Now, listen carefully. All women are delivered from the stigma of having caused the Fall of the race by childbearing. In other words, women led in the Fall, but by the wonderful grace of God they are released from the stigma of that through childbearing. What’s the point? Listen carefully. They may have caused the race to fall by stepping out of their God-intended design, but they also are given the priority responsibility of raising a godly seed. You understand that? That’s the balance. Not soul salvation, not spiritual birth, but women are delivered from being left in a second-class permanently stigmatized situation for the violation of the garden. They are delivered from being thought of as permanently weak, and deceivable, and insubordinate. Can you imagine what it would be like if men had babies, and all women ever contributed to the human race was the Fall? The balance of it: women led the race into sin, but bless God; God has given them the privilege of leading the race out of sin to godliness. You say, “How so?” Mark it down, because in the raising of a godly seed it is the godliness and the virtue of the mother that has the greatest impact on the young life in the next generation. Is that not so? Theirs is the challenge to raise a godly seed. God has designed this to give woman back her dignity. She is saved from the stigma of the Fall, and her path to dignity, and usefulness, and her great contribution comes in accepting what God said that you will bear children. Motherhood then is woman’s appointed role in general. Now, obviously God doesn’t want all women to be mothers; some of them He doesn’t even want to be married. First Corinthians 7, some have the gift of singleness. Some He allows to be barren for His own purposes. But as a general rule, just like marriage is generally the grace of life, as Peter calls it, so motherhood is that which reverses the stigma of woman and allows them to provide for society the rearing of a godly seed, which in a real sense reverses the curse for which she was so responsible. The pain of childbearing was the punishment for her sin, but the result of bearing the child is the deliverance from the stigma of that sin. Marvelous how God has worked that out. The pain she goes through reminds her of her sin; the result reminds her of God’s restoring grace and puts her back in the place where she makes a positive contribution to the godliness of the next generation. She may have caused a generation to plunge into sin, but she can, by being a mother who raises godly children, bring a generation to God. What Paul is saying by the Holy Spirit is that a woman must accept her God-given role, and that role is not to give outward overt leadership to the church, but to raise a godly seed, and that’s why he says she’ll be saved in childbearing, but only if, look at it, she continues in faith, and love, and holiness, and self-control. If she is godly, she can raise that godly seed. And you know, to me it’s so sad and tragic that women want to whine over an unfulfilled life because they can’t act like men. And they have the unique privilege of raising a godly generation of children who are nursed at their very breast and who bear an intimate relationship with them that no father can know, and thus do they restore dignity to that fallenness to which they contributed, and thus do they become all that God intended them to be. They are delivered from the results of sin, and able to maintain a positive influence in society, and in the church by accepting the role as a mother who raises godly children. That’s why it says even when younger widows lose their husbands, verse 14 of 1 Timothy 5, “I will therefore that the younger women marry and bear children and rule the house.” That’s their calling. The highest ideal of Christian womanhood is here, and this is how the church is to work, beloved.” Works Cited: MacArthur, John F. Sermon Library. God’s High Calling for Women Part 4. Accessed 14 May 2019. https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/54-17/gods-high-calling-for-women-part-4 Crossway Publishing, (2001), The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton, IL: Crossway.