Friday, February 17, 2006

Women Allowed to Teach or Not?

There have been several instances where people (both Christian and non-Christian) have used a certain passage of Scripture written by Paul in 1 Timothy 2:9-15 in order to compel me into silence (or to discourage me) from teaching about God's Word here at my blog and my message board. I thought it appropriate to post a Scripturally-based answer as to why they should not hold to such criticisms and misconceptions.

A few years ago, I was involved in an in-depth Bible study of 1st and 2nd Timothy. Here are some of my notes on the issue of women teaching in the church:

To understand the verses in 1 Timothy 2:9-15, we must understand the situation in which Paul and Timothy worked. In first-century Jewish culture, women were not allowed to study. When Paul said that women should learn in quietness and full submission, he was offering them an amazing new opportunity.

[Note: We see how some religions still don't even allow women to learn nor enter into a place of worship with men!]

Paul did not want the Ephesian women to teach because they didn't yet have enough knowledge or experience. The Ephesian church had a particular problem with false teachers. Evidently the women were especially susceptible to the false teachings (2 Timothy 3:1-9), because they did not yet have enough Biblical knowledge to discern the truth. In addition, some of the women were apparently flaunting their newfound Christian freedom by wearing inappropriate clothing (2:9).

Paul was telling Timothy not to put anyone (in this case, women) into a position of leadership who were not yet mature in the faith (see 5:22). The same principle applies to churches today. (See the expansion of this thought in 3:6).

Some interpret this passage to mean that women should never teach in the assembled church; however, commentators often use additional Scripture to point out that Paul did not forbid women from ever teaching.

Paul's commended co-worker, Priscilla, taught Apollos, the great preacher (Acts 18:24-26). In addition, Paul frequently mentioned other women who held positions of responsibility in the church. Phoebe worked in the church (Romans 16:1), Mary, Tryphena, and Tryphosa were the Lord's workers (Romans 16:6, 12), as were Euodia and Syntyche (Philippians 4:2).

Paul was very likely prohibiting the Ephesian women, not all women, from teaching.

In Paul's reference to women being silent, the word 'silent' expresses an attitude of quietness and composure. (A different Greek word is usually used to convey "complete silence.")

In addition, Paul himself acknowledges that women publicly prayed and prophesied (1 Corinthians 11:5). Apparently, however, the women in the Ephesian church were abusing their newly acquired Christian freedom.

Because these women were new converts, they did not yet have the necessary experience, knowledge, or Christian maturity to teach those who already had extensive Scriptural education.

Verses 2:13 & 14 help us to realize the further context of the passage.

In previous letters Paul had discussed male/female roles in marriage (Ephesians 5:21-33; Colossians 3:18, 19). Here he talks about male/female roles within the church.

Some scholars see these verses about Adam and Eve as an illustration of what was happening in the Ephesian church. Just as Eve had been deceived in the Garden of Eden, so the women in the church were being deceived by false teachers. And just as Adam was the first human created by God, so the men in the church in Ephesus should be the first to speak and teach, because they had more training.

This view, then, stresses that Paul's teaching here

Other scholars, however, contend that the roles Paul points out are God's design for his created order - God established these roles to maintain harmony in both the family and the church.

In light of the fact that Paul did allow certain trained women to teach, it makes more sense (IMHO) to agree with the view that Paul's teaching within the verses of 1 Timothy 2:9-15 was not a universal statement, but should be applied towards churches that had (or currently have) similar problems with new or baby Christian women being deceived by false teaching.

1 Timothy 3:6 mentions that new believers should become secure and strong in the faith before taking leadership roles in the church. Obviously, new faith needs time to mature. New believers should have a place of service, but they should not be put into leadership positions until they are firmly grounded in their faith, with a solid Christian life-style and a knowledge of the Word of God.

Eighteen years ago, when I re-dedicated my life to Christ and began to diligently study the Scriptures, I studied for over three years before I began to share what I was learning from God's Word. Fifteen years later, I still diligently study the Scriptures, but I now consider myself equipped to share what I have learned.

No one ever knows it all. Only God does. Studying the Bible for many years often makes one realize that "we will never completely arrive" in our Biblical education! In fact, the more I study the more I realize how much more there is to learn!

But what the Lord has provided for me thus far is enough to share the gospel with others.

I may not have every answer. No one does. But I have found that what I have learned through Knowing the Person of Jesus Christ (and the gospel preaching mission that he has assigned to every believer) needs to be shared with those who have not heard and/or still do not believe.

The study, prayer, application and the sharing of God's Word is sufficient for confidence in steadfast faith through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

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