When God first revealed His plan for me—ministry—I felt a flood of emotions, ranging from sheer surprise and excitement to sheer confusion. Feelings and thoughts of Me (with my past)? Really? Will I have my own church? flooded me.
Now, by this time, I was familiar with 1 Timothy 2:11-14, which is where a lot of the confusion stemmed from. How would I be a teacher in ministry if I wasn’t permitted to speak or exercise authority in the church?
Also by this time, I’d familiarized myself with several different women teachers, who preached to both women and men (I no longer listen to or read anything from these women, by the way, as they were in error about other things as well). Their “reasoning” for being able to carry out that task (of preaching to men), in spite of what the Bible says, was that:
1.) Paul’s teaching was for “that time period only” (although we see clearly [well, I now see clearly] in Scripture, even in our given verses, that God has set an order);
2.) Women were “unlearned” during that time (something I later learned to be very false—all women weren’t unlearned in that area [Ephesus] during that time); and
3.) Because the women were “unlearned,” they were teaching false doctrine, which is what led Paul to say those things (however, as the ESV Study Bible notes, the only false teachers Paul highlights in Ephesus are men).
I even heard one really off the wall comment some years back about the subject, from a “self-professed” prophetess. She stated, “Those were Paul’s words, not God’s.” (Like really?)
Those opinions, well, minus that last really crazy one, had my mind confused, and I was going through a mental game of tug-of-war.
I know that the Bible is God’s words breathed out by Him (not man). But, how was I to interpret these things (of 1 Timothy 2)? How was I to reconcile it all? Hadn’t God called me to teach, to lead? I wrestled with that text for years, as well as those opinions (by God’s grace!). Then finally, about two years ago, God clarified it for me, through a biblically sound and seasoned women’s teacher.
And finally, my soul rested—women’s ministry was the call.
I know that there are other Christian women out there like me. They’ve received the call to ministry, but have interpreted it wrongly, according to what they’ve heard from unsound/false teachers, or to what they’ve seen (and are seeing) in today’s churches. This is why it is good for us—upon receiving any call or assignment—to not run so fast (unless that’s mandated), but to allow God’s total plan to unfold. Because when we rush out ahead of God, we will always find ourselves intertwined in wrong, disorderly practices.
Sisters, God has established an order for His church; and no matter who advocates going against it, we who profess to truly follow Him must follow Him wholeheartedly. We must study—wrestle with even—the texts that we don’t understand. And God, in His faithfulness, will make them plain for us, in due time.
The Truth About 1 Timothy 2:11-14
To begin, let’s spell out these verses in full; then we will expound on them. They read: “Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 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; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.”
First off, we notice, when we study these verses carefully, that these instructions are giving the proper order for how church services, in general, are to be conducted (refer back to verses 8-10 also). According to the ESV Study Bible, Paul is here saying, “Women are not permitted to publicly teach Scriptures and/or Christian doctrine to men in church, and women are not permitted to exercise authority over men in the church” (emphasis added). The author also notes that the reference for both “teaching” and “exercising authority” here is within the context of the assembled church.
The author goes on to expel another untruth we hear from women who preach to men, in order to justify themselves. It’s the untruth that women can teach men, but aren’t to “authoritatively” teach them. However, the author rightly states regarding this opinion, “The presence of the word or between “to teach” and “to exercise authority” indicates that two different activities are in view, not a single activity of ‘authoritative teaching’.”
Sisters, women aren’t to teach or to exercise authority over men in the church at all, in any capacity. Therefore, if women cannot teach or exercise authority over men, women cannot serve in the pastorate. Pastoral duties call for both teaching and exercising authority. (First Timothy 3:1-7 shows us clearly who the pastoral role [and title] belongs to and the characteristics he should display.)
That said, let us seek to follow God’s Word, not our own agendas. In many cases, we may feel (as I’ve heard it said) that we could do a better job than some men, in leading and teaching the church; nevertheless, this is not about us or our (prideful) feelings; it’s about God and His established order. So if we profess to follow Him, we must actually follow Him, regardless of how it feels to our flesh.
In closing, if you are a Christian woman who has been preaching to men or exercising authority over them, I urge you to speedily confess your fault to God and repent, because until you do, you will not be in right standing with Him.
**These verses do not refer to women leading in positions of the world (e.g., businesses, government), but only in the established church of God. They also do not exclude women from teaching other women or children.