Can Women Be Pastors? (Timothy 5)


(READ 1 Timothy 2:9-15)  Have you ever had problems in your church that you didn’t know how to handle?  That was Timothy’s problem.  Paul wrote 1 Timothy to tell him what to do to correct the difficulties in the church in Ephesus.  He talked about men initiating leadership in prayer (2:8).  Then, he gave some guidelines for women (2:9-15).  Evidently some of the difficulties were created by women.  He begins by stating that women should dress modestly (2:9-10).

Their appearance should be neat, sensible and clean.  Their focus should be on their inner beauty, not just an outer show or appearance.  Peter says the same thing in more detail (1 Peter 3:1-6).  Perhaps some women were showing off their wealth and focusing attention on their appearance.  God’s people are to be known for modesty and humility, not for pride in their appearance.

Women aren’t just to dress modestly (2:9-10), they are also to act modestly (2:11-15).  “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” (2:11-12). 

“A woman should learn” means there must be godly men to treat her and teach her the same way Jesus treated and taught women: with respect and kindness.  Women are equal to men as a person, they are just under men in duty and responsibility.  An employer is not a better person than his employees, but he has a function that is above theirs.  That is true of men and women.

Paul says women should learn in “quietness.”  He does not use the Greek word for “silence,” because he is not saying they can’t talk.  He is referring to controlled speech.  She must recognize that in God’s order men are responsible for taking charge of the church and family.  She must not interfere with her husband or pastor fulfilling his leadership role in her life.   Paul repeats this command in 2:12: “she must be quiet.”

To further help Timothy control the unruly women in the Ephesus house-churches he says they must be in “full submission” (2:11).  When a woman trusts in God and submits to Him, she submits to His order of authority as well.  The Bible does not say all women are to submit to all men, it only says wives are to submit to their own husbands (Ephesians 5:22-33; 1 Peter 3:1) and women to their church leaders (1 Timothy 2:11-12).  That doesn’t mean women can’t lead women or children, share their testimony, pray, sing or do similar functions in church.  It is only positions of authority over men that are denied them.  The Bible is full of outstanding women who served in this way: Miriam, Deborah, Esther, Mary, Martha, Phoebe, Anna, Abigail, etc.

Paul specifically says women aren’t to be telling men what God wants them to do.  They can make suggestions, offer wisdom and opinions and share their thoughts and feelings.  Any husband or church leader would be foolish to not listen what a godly woman has to offer.  Women often have insight and perspective that men lack.  A woman cannot have the final say, overruling what male leaders think God wants.  Woman can and should serve in many capacities in a church, but not as the primary pastor/leader.

I know of fine women who pastor, often because there is no man to step up and take the responsibility.  That was the case when Deborah was the only one willing to lead Israel because Barak didn’t want to lead (Judges 4:6-10).  We can assume she was under her husband’s headship even when leading Israel (Judges 4:4).  I would never judge a woman who feels God is calling her to a ministry, that is between her and God.  But we can evaluate her actions by the Word of God and Paul makes it clear a woman is not to lead men.

After making such a strong statement, Paul supports it from Scripture (2:13-15).  He doesn’t that men are to be the leaders in the church (and family) to restrict women, but to benefit them by allowing them to function in the role for which they were created.  Women are natural care-givers and can experience a great amount of compassion and love.  Sometimes they think they are doing what is best when it is really against what God wants, as was the case of Eve giving the fruit to Adam (Genesis 3).

Paul points out that Adam was the one responsible for the sin in Eden.  He knew better and sinned willingly while Eve thought she was doing what was right (2:14).  When godly men stand and fulfill their role as leaders in a loving way, following the example of Jesus, it is much easier for women to trust and submit to them as they do to Jesus.  There will always be some women who want to usurp more authority than God has given them, but the majority are glad to follow godly men who lead with gentleness and compassion.  Instead of focusing on how to restrict women, the church should focus on training and equipping men to initiate Christ-like leadership.  That’s what Paul was telling Timothy to do and that’s what is needed today as well.

MEN: Do you treat the women in your life the way Jesus treated the women in His life?  What do you need to do to be more Christ-like in your dealings with women?

WOMEN: Do you show honor and respect to the men who have authority over you, trusting them as you trust Jesus?  When you submit to Jesus, you are trusting Him to lead through your husband and church leaders, even if you disagree with them.  If you can’t trust them, you can trust Jesus.


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