Biblical Roles of Men & Women in the Church, Part 2

By Todd Kinde. Read Part 1.

Feminine Activity in the Community of the Redeemed

The New Testament delineates various activities done by certain women. Anna the prophetess gave thanks to God and spoke of Christ (Lk 2:38). Mary sat at Jesus’ feet receiving instruction (Lk 10:39). The Samaritan woman discussed theology with Jesus an 4:7ff.). Women including Mary the mother of Jesus were full members of the community of believers and devoting themselves to prayer (Acts 1:14). Tabitha organized a benevolent ministry to the needy (Acts 9:36). Lydia hosted a church plant (Acts 16:14, 40). The four daughters of Philip prophesied (Acts 28:9). Priscilla alongside her husband expounded the faith to Apollos (Acts 18:26), is called a coworker who risked her neck for Paul (Ro 16:4, 5), and hosted a church in her home (1Co 16:19). Phoebe is commended as a servant, a deaconess of the church (Ro 16:1). Mary, Tryphena, Tryphosa, and Persis worked hard in and for the church (Ro 16:6, 12). The mother of Rufus cared for Paul like a mother to him (Ro 16:13). Euodia and Syntyche labored side by side with Paul as fellow workers in the gospel ministry (Php 4:2, 3). Nympha hosted a church in her home (Col 4:15). Lois and Eunice discipled Timothy in the faith (2Ti 1:5; 3:14-15).

Instructions for Women in the Church

In addition to the examples from narrative portions of the New Testament, the didactic passages provide several instructions for women in the church. Women are to learn receiving instruction of the Word (1Ti 2:11), pray and prophecy under a covering of authority (1Co 11:5, 13), care for the widows (1Ti 5:16), instruct the younger women (Ti 2:3-5), be modest, reverent, and godly (1Ti 2:9-10; Ti 2:3-5; 1Ti 3:11; cf. 1Pt 3:1-6), be faithful to their husbands and sexually pure (1Ti 5:9).

The Epistles give two negative passages regarding the role of women in the church. The first prohibition is that a woman is to be silent in the church gathering (1Co 14:34-35). The context is the practice of prophecy. Women were participants in the giving of prayers and prophecies (1Co 11:5). The prophet is in control of his or her utterance and is to be silent when another person is ready to speak (1Co 14:30-31). The same term “silent” is used in the same verb form of the tongue speaker (v. 28), the prophet (v. 30), and the woman (v. 34). The instruction for the tongue speaker and the prophet to be silent is not taken absolutely, so that they might never speak. The imperative is for an orderly exchange of speakers. Reasonably, the same contingency applies to the woman in this setting. The instruction likely means that while the woman prophesies, she is not to publicly evaluate or interpret the prophecies. Such would be the role of the teacher who has authority over the prophets. That role is reserved for the men who serve as pastors or elders (1Ti 2:12).1 For the church that is cessationist regarding the practice of sign gifts such as prophecy, this text is not directly applicable.

The second prohibition is that a woman is not to teach a man nor have authority over a man (1Ti 2:12). This passage is treated in another article in this issue of the journal. For our concern, the instruction appears to be a limitation on the person admitted to serve in the capacity of the pastor-teacher (cf. Eph 4:11) or elder (1Ti 3:1ff.). The prohibition does not appear to preclude a woman from giving any kind of reflection or direction. We should note that the same limitation would be applied to other men not ordained as elders. Not all men are permitted to teach other men or to have authority over other men. Additionally, our definitions and job descriptions for pastor-teachers and elders need be scrutinized for elements that are traditional or cultural rather than purely biblical. Much of the expectations of the pastor or elder include things that are designated for the diaconate or other gifted members and not specifically to the pastoral or elder offices.

Instructions for Men in the Church

The New Testament also presents several specific instructions for men in the church. These instructions bear some overlap with the sphere of the family. We are reminded that the family serves as a model for life together in the church.’ We are, indeed, the family and household of God.

Men are to pray without anger or quarreling (1Ti 2:8; cf. 1Co 11:4); not be harsh with their wives or exasperating to their kids (Col 3:19, 21), be dignified, self-controlled, and loving (Ti 2:2, 6), treat their wives as precious (1Pt 3:7), be faithful to their wives and sexually pure (1Ti 3:2, 12), manage their households well (1Ti 3:4, 5, 12), respect older men as fathers, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, and widows with honor (1Ti 5:13), instruct their wives and children (1Co 14:35; Eph 6:4).

Having surveyed a significant portion of the New Testament regarding men and women in the church, the unity of men and women in the creation order and in their redemptive union in Christ is overtly positive and glorious. Similarly, the diversity of men and women in the church is equally positive and glorious. Our relationship with one another as men and women in the gathering of the church manifests what it means to be created in the image of God and recreated in the image of Christ.

Thoughts on Application in the Church

Occasionally, I am required to lead the song service of our worship gathering. I am not trained musically and do not have the skills to direct the singing using the metered hand and arm gestures. I can carry a tune, but I rely on the instrumentation to lead the music. In most cases, when I am in the song directing role, the main instrument is the piano or organ played by a woman. In a practical sense, I am following the lead of a woman in the worship service.

I do not believe that this is a wrongful application. The instrumentalist comes to my side to help by complementing me in the role. Further, I am still the worship leader whether I am directing the song service or following the direction of another while I’m singing in the front row with the rest of the congregation. By virtue of my office and my presence, not necessarily my activity, I remain the primary worship leader.

Since the New Testament encourages women to pray and prophecy in the corporate worship gathering, perhaps our churches might also encourage the spiritually qualified women to participate in public prayer, testimony, and music ministries. In our services, we may have up to nine planned prayers some of which, though not all, may be appropriate for a feminine voice. As the Scriptures record the words and thoughts of women, our churches might also give at least these passages a feminine voice when they are read publicly.

Contemplating the biblical material regarding man and woman in the corporate life and ministry of the local church, the activities of unordained men and women are complementary and principally equitable. The primary limitation for a woman in the church ministry is the role of pastor-teacher or elder, the same as that limitation for unordained men.

Whatever the application or assignment, we must bear in mind and heart the role we have as man and woman bearing the image of God and manifesting the fullness of the measure of the stature of Christ (Eph 4:13). Man and woman represent Christ in the ecclesiastical experience each representing a different aspect of our Lord. Our ministries of worship, fellowship, discipleship, and stewardship should reflect the positive and glorious truth of our Triune God.

Reposted with permission from the September-October 2021 issue of Voice magazine, © IFCA, all rights reserved.

Notes

1 Kevin DeYoung, Men and Women in the Church: A Short, Biblical, Practical Introduction (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2021), 61. Bruce Winter, “1 Corinthians,” in New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, ed. D. A. Carson et al., 4th ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), 1182.

2 David W. Jones and Andreas J. Köstenberger, God, Marriage, and Family: Rebuilding the Biblical Foundation (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010), 253.


Todd Kinde (PhD, University of Chester) has served as Teaching Pastor with Grace Bible Church in Grandville, MI since 2001. Todd is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society, the Society of Biblical Literature, serves as a board member with the Independent Bible Mission, and as president of the IFCA International Michigan Regional.

944 reads

There is 1 Comment

T Howard's picture

Todd Kinde wrote:

Instructions for Women in the Church

In addition to the examples from narrative portions of the New Testament, the didactic passages provide several instructions for women in the church. Women are to learn receiving instruction of the Word (1Ti 2:11), pray and prophecy under a covering of authority (1Co 11:5, 13), care for the widows (1Ti 5:16), instruct the younger women (Ti 2:3-5), be modest, reverent, and godly (1Ti 2:9-10; Ti 2:3-5; 1Ti 3:11; cf. 1Pt 3:1-6), be faithful to their husbands and sexually pure (1Ti 5:9).

I find it interesting that Paul not only told Titus that older women should teach younger women in Titus 2, but he also provided Titus the content of their teaching.

Titus 2:3-5 wrote:
Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.

Todd's statements above exclude two very important elements in Paul's didactic passages about women: they should work at home and submit to their own husband.

Further, Todd's statements above also make it appear that men who were not elders of the church were also instructed to keep quiet in the church and to not exercise authority over other men. I'm not sure where this understanding comes from because it's not found in the text.

Help keep SI’s server humming. A few bucks makes a difference.