A Current Point of Controversy
Over the last few weeks, the internet has raged with controversy over Saddleback church being kicked out of the Southern Baptist Convention. The issue primarily concerns that of whether or not women should be ordained to the work of pastoral ministry. I try to be selective as to what issues I address here on the blog considering that no one person can deal with every single subject. That being said, it is my firm belief that this point directly comes down to the sufficiency of God’s unchanging Word to guide His church authoritatively. God created both men and women to glorify His holy name. They are equal in terms of their value before Him, equally made in the image of God, and if they are redeemed, then they are equally saved by the blood of Christ. In his good plan, He has ordained men and women with two different roles in life to the praise of His glory. To say otherwise is to deny the explicit teaching of the Word of God.
One of the major influencing publications on young people within broadly “evangelical” circles is Relevant Magazine. Back in 2019, they published a piece contending for women to lead, teach, and preach in the local church. Given the situation with Saddleback has arisen, they decided to run the piece again. They acknowledge a broader cultural movement on the subject of women’s roles while also pointing out that not everyone agrees with the current direction. Then, they list five reasons supporting their particular position. I want to dive into some of the main points of the piece and theologically examine them together!
Women in The Bible
Specifically, one of the tenets that the author in the article hinges their view on is the belief that women are gifted in the New Testament citing that, “Nowhere in the New Testament are the Spirit’s gifts gender-specific.”1 There is no doubt that women are gifted over the course of the Scripture and used those gifts for God’s glory. Esther was chosen by God to save the Jews (see the book of Esther). Priscilla faithfully served with Aquilla (Acts 18). The Hebrew midwives showed great courage in saving the Hebrew children (Exodus 1:15-22). Older women are instructed by Paul to teach and train younger women (Titus 2:3-4). God certainly gifts women to serve in numerous ways.
Our calling as believers is to use the gifts of God in a biblical function as defined by Him. It is possible for someone to use a gift or talent that they have in a way that is displeasing to the Lord. You can perform great acts of sacrifice, yet if you do not have love, then it is nothing (1 Corinthians 13:3). A woman can very well have a gift of teaching/training others. It is possible for her to use that gift in either a God-honoring way or in a rebellious manner. I am a pastor, if I use my gift of teaching the Word of God so as to exalt myself, then I am in sin because the purpose of preaching is to point to Christ making much of Him. If a woman uses her gift of teaching to preach the Word of God or to believe she can be a pastor, then she is in sin because 1 Timothy 2:12 says:
“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.” -1 Timothy 2:12-14
God is not only the One who gifts individuals, He is also the One who defines how we are called to use those gifts. For a woman to use her gift of teaching in a pastoral office, function, or capacity preaching/teaching to men is unbiblical. Using it to teach other women, however, is biblically commendable and honoring to the Lord. Relevant Magazine fails to understand in their piece that God both gives spiritual gifts and defines how they are to be used. They also cite examples without appropriate biblical understanding. For example, they make the claim that the woman Junia was named by Paul as an apostle. The only time she is mentioned in the Bible is in Romans 16:7 which says:
“Greet Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners. They are well known to the apostles, and they were in Christ before me.” -Romans 16:7
The passage does not say that Junia was an apostle, but rather her ministry was well-known to them. Asserting she was an apostle is frankly inserting something into the text which is not there (I am not saying whether this was or was not intentionally done). Incorrect interpretations like this one lead to erroneous conclusions on doctrinal subjects. I do not find the reality that God gifts both men and women a compelling basis to argue for women pastors because to do so is against the explicitly clear teaching of Scripture. It also ignores the fact that we are to use our gifts in the capacity that God commands.
Another primary line of argumentation in the piece published by Relevant regards churches “needing” female voices in pastoral leadership. The article says:
“It’s no surprise that men and women are different—each having different experiences and different needs. Because of this, we need a diversity of voices in leadership who can guide and pastor men and women and speak to their particular situations. Diversity in leadership is tantamount to authentic discipleship and foundational for healthy relationships and growth within a community of people.”
So, my question on this point, did Jesus fail to apply wisdom when He selected His most intimate group of twelve disciples to be all men? Perhaps He also failed whenever He appointed twelve men to be Apostles in His church? I think the testimony of Christ’s own example in terms of His selection for His most intimate group of leadership is enough to debunk this position. However, the article goes on further stating:
“When making important decisions in the Church, female perspectives are necessary to speak into issues that men cannot relate to and don’t have firsthand experience in. No one knows the needs of women better than women. Shouldn’t leadership in the Church reflect the diversity of its members?”
This statement is grossly untrue. For there is One who knows the needs of both men and women better than each gender knows them. His name is Jesus Christ and He is the Creator of all. Our Lord is the head of the church. He is the Lamb who has purchased every single man and woman who has come to faith in Him. As the head, He appointed men alone to the position of pastoral leadership. Because He is the One in whom all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are found (Colossians 2:3) we can trust that He knows what is best for both men and women. He has appointed the position of elder to men, while certainly calling on women to train up the younger women as well. To assert the need for “diversity of voices in leadership” to “pastor” the church as an argument for female pastors is to undermine the sufficiency of Christ’s wisdom found in His Word.
Why This Matters?
I have written this article and dealt with a couple of the main points from the Relevant piece not because I personally have a desire for online fist-fighting. Rather, the amount of traction that “women pastors” are getting within what is known as broadly “evangelical circles” is disconcerting to me. When a publication like Relevant advocates for this view (which is unsurprising to me), they are targeting a large portion of young individuals. My goal in writing this piece is not to discourage women from serving in their God-ordained role. I praise the Lord for faithful women who use their gifts according to His Word in submission to what He has said in the proper role. Personally, I know many such women and have been blessed by their steadfast joy in serving the Lord. Yet, my goal in writing this article, is to urge us to celebrate God’s good design. He has given men and women different roles in society, the church, and the family for His glory. We need to run to that good design for it is the only source of true wisdom for us as men and women. Seeing the beauty of what God has made and chasing after it hard is our calling. To attempt to “change” the role of a woman as defined by God is to devalue biblical femininity in all of its beauty. God has called women to both noble and grand tasks as revealed in the Scripture. Yet, their role is distinct from that of men. Calling a woman to be a man cheapens God’s design for her, just as calling a man to fulfill the role of a woman would be an attempt to undermine His plan for biblical masculinity.
My plea, let us stop playing with the ideas of the culture, may we instead walk according to the guiding light of the Word of God. The local church is beautiful, it is so wondrous of a place that it should bring tears to our eyes as we see the work of Christ amongst His people. May we never try to bring devastation to it by our refusal to submit to what the glorious Head of the church reveals. I pray that men will serve faithfully as God calls them to and that women will see biblical femininity understanding how to use their gifts well to God’s praise. Let us encourage one another, push one another, and if need be rebuke one another where we fall short. All in all, let us purely strive to be obedient to what is written. This is about the sufficiency of the Word of God for guiding His people. As for me, the breathed-out revelation of God is the sole authority. Only when we uphold it and live according to it do we bring honor to Christ. I am asking both the current and next generation of Christians to see this precious truth. Let us stake everything on Christ and His Word, that is our calling before God, including when seeing who should serve in pastoral capacities!
1 All quotes are taken from the article found at this link:
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