The Fall of 2022, I taught a bible study at our local church that I had written; “Living Certain in an Uncertain World – An Expositional Study of 1,2,3, John.” As the time to begin teaching was drawing closer, the suggestion to teach a coed class was considered. Since 1999, I’ve only taught and encouraged women in bible studies, so Rip and I weren’t real sure how we felt about my teaching a coed class, even though there were already women teaching adult coed classes in our church week to week. The church leadership (staff) did not have an issue with women teaching men, so the class was opened to both men and women.
However, recently the LORD has been so gracious in showing both Rip and me, in the Word of God, His ordained roles for women in ministry among His church, and the God-ordained roles for men. We’re so grateful for men like John MacArthur, John Piper, RC Sproul, Mike Riccardi, Steven Lawson, Alistair Begg, Voddie Baucham, and the theologians of GotQuestions.org where the Lord has used their exposition of Scripture to help us understand and apply the Lord’s instructions.
Here’s what we discovered…
One of the designs of creation, as well as one of the primary consequences of the Fall, was the submission of women (Gen. 3:16). Paul reflected that principle explicitly when he said, “Let a woman quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet” (1 Tim. 2:11–12). Paul’s argument was not based on cultural standards, but on two historic and foundational facts: (1) “Adam … was first created, and then Eve” and (2) “it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman” (vv. 13–14). Men are to lead in love; women are to submit in love. That is God’s design.
When women usurp man’s God–ordained role, they inevitably fall into other unbiblical practices and delusions.
Women may be highly gifted teachers and leaders, but those gifts are not to be exercised over men. God has ordained order in His creation, an order that reflects His own nature and that therefore should be reflected in His church. When any part of His order is ignored or rejected, His church is weakened and He is dishonored. Just as God’s Spirit cannot be in control where there is confusion and chaos in the church, He cannot be in control where women take upon themselves roles that He has restricted to men.
Paul says, “Let the women learn,” a very affirmative statement, affirming for us the equality of spiritual privilege, the equality of spiritual rights, blessings and promises for men and women. And as Galatians 3:28 says, “In Christ there is neither male nor female.” But, in terms of role, he qualifies their learning by saying this, “In silence with all subjection,” and that defines for us the woman’s role.
Silence, you’ll remember, refers to not teaching. Subjection refers to not ruling. That is, women in the church are not to be the teachers when the church assembles. Women are not to be the teaching persons, the ruling ones. The context makes it very clear that that’s what he has in mind because verse 12 says, “I permit not a woman to teach,” and therein does he define the kind of silence he’s talking about, nor to usurp authority, and therein does he define the kind of subjection he is talking about. In the assembly of the church women are not to teach and preach, and they are not to rule. Now, there’s no doubt that that’s exactly what he is saying. Obviously in Ephesus some were seeking to do both of those things and that’s why he has to deal with this.
Let’s look at it. “Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.” 1Timothy 2:11-12. And all the verbs in that verse are present, and that means they have a sort of continuing idea. I am not allowing a woman to be engaged in teaching or to be taking authority over the man, but to be continually in silence. In other words, all of those present indicatives indicate that this is a continual commitment on the part of Paul through the Holy Spirit.
Now, let me give you a little bit of insight into some of the terms. Look at the word “permit,” it always means to allow someone to do what they desire to do. It has the inherent idea in it that someone desires to do something. And what he is saying here is: I do not permit women to teach or usurp authority. And by the choice of words he is saying, in effect, even though they desire to do that. And that was the problem in that church and it’s still the problem today because there are women even today who desire to teach and preach in the church and to take authority. Women have always desired to rule. We go back to Genesis chapter 3 verses 15 and 16, and you remember that the part of the curse that God brought upon man and woman in the Fall was that woman would desire to control man, and he would have to rule over her. And therein is the conflict of the sexes born out of the Fall. Woman would desire to seek control. The word for her desire there is a word used only one other time in the Pentateuch and that’s in Genesis 4:7, and in its use there we understand that it means clearly to take control because there it talks about Satan taking control.
And so, we conclude that that word means that a woman desires to take control, to master. It’s an Arabic root word, and man then has to fight to keep his mastery and therein lies the battle of the sexes that has caused so much marital conflict through the centuries.
Even in the church, it is true there are women who are discontent with their God-given role and they seek to reach a place of prominence in teaching and taking authority over the man. But Paul says I do not permit them to do that, even though that is their desire.
There is no limiting this and some have tried. I heard a message this summer by a man who wanted us to believe that this was only related to Ephesus and nowhere else. I don’t know how and why you can conclude that. Teaching and usurping authority are in contrast to silence and subjection. Rather than a woman being the teacher and the ruler, she is to be in silence and subjection. There’s no way that you can come up with anything else and do any justice to the intent of the text. So, women in the church then are not to be at any position where men are subordinate to them. And I say again please, it doesn’t mean women can’t pray, can’t teach children or other women, can’t speak out for God. It doesn’t mean they can’t ask questions in a proper environment where questions are invited. It does mean in the public gathering of the church these things are set down as God’s standard.
Do you remember Acts 18 where Aquila and Priscilla instructed Apollos? There was a time and a place where women are to be instructing others and there may even be a time and a place where a woman and her husband could instruct another man, even a man who was a preacher, but it wouldn’t be in the public gathering and service of the church.
Somebody says, “Well, do women have spiritual gifts?” What you have just seen here doesn’t mean we’re saying, “Well, women have no gift of teaching or women have no gift of speaking for the Lord, they have no verbal gifts at all. They have no leadership gifts.” That’s absurd. Of course they do. And the Lord who bestows those gifts offers them ample opportunity to use those gifts without violating His standard design for their role in the church. It is not necessary that because a woman has the gift of teaching she has to appear in the public assembling of the church to teach. It is not necessary that because she has gifts in the area of leadership that she has to lead the church.
The thought that woman is somehow wronged when she is limited to her own God-ordained sphere as a woman, and when her claim to be a man, and do a man’s work in the church is not admitted is absolutely irrational. There’s plenty of room for her to exercise her gifts to the very fullest by God’s intent.
Elisabeth Elliot, who most of us know as a marvelous instrument of God in the expansion of the Kingdom, the wonderful wife of the martyred Jim Elliot. After the massacre of her husband and the several other missionaries in Ecuador, she was the only biblically trained person left who could speak the Auca language, the only one left. But so convinced was Elizabeth Elliot in her heart that she could not violate the Word of God that she took one of the Auca men and weekly taught that man a sermon so that he could preach it in the church on the Lord’s day. Much like Aquila and Priscilla, she would not step up to preach (or teach) when the church assembled together, but she did not mind instructing the preacher privately.
Now, I want to add to this that this in no way abuses women, but this is a tender and sympathetic understanding of the role and intent of a woman. Let not a woman enter into the sphere of activity for which God has never designed her. She is planned for a different role.
Frankly, if you want to know the truth, subordination and subjection is the condition of the greatest peace and the greatest happiness, the greatest contentment, the greatest safety, and the greatest protection because somebody else is doing all the caring for you. So, don’t live under the illusion that you can really know a great experience in life if you could just get on top of the pile and control everything. I say to women who would seek to do that, stay where you are under the loving care and nurture, nourishment, strength and protection of your husband, and of the leaders of the church and that’s a much happier place to be. The burden is much lighter.
Subjection, my dear friends, is not a punishment, it is a privilege.
In fact, let’s go further into verse 12, for a woman to try to take that rule is to usurp authority over the man. And here you have a very interesting word for usurp authority, authente, yes, that word is used only here in the whole New Testament and it indicates, I believe, as it is properly translated a person desiring to usurp authority. A recent study of that verb conducted by Dr. George Knight in “New Testament Studies” concludes that the common use of that outside the Bible, when you don’t have a lot of uses of a word in the Bible; you go outside to find out how it was used. The common use of that word indicates, and I quote, “to have authority over.” And that’s really all it means. Now, the reason that is important is: women who want to eliminate this verse and there are women who want to, women pastors, women teachers, and women elders would like to get rid of this verse. So what they will say is it means this: I permit not a woman to teach nor to take abusive authority. In other words, it’s okay for her to teach and have authority if it isn’t abusive. But a careful study of that word means, leads us to understand that it means to take authority period. It has nothing to do with abusive authority. In fact, if he was talking about abusive authority he wouldn’t be just talking about women; he’d also be talking about what? Men, because it would be just as much a sin for them as for women.
So, the idea here is parallel to teaching. He is saying I want a woman to learn in silence with all subjection. Now, her silence is the silence of not being the teacher and her subjection is the subjection of not being the authority. She is not to have authority. She is not to be a teacher. ~
**All the above is from the archived sermons from Dr. John MacArthur Gracetoyou.org
GotQuestions.org scholars also add:
The Word of God proclaims, “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent” (1 Timothy 2:11–12). In the church, God assigns different roles to men and women. This is a result of the way mankind was created and the way in which sin entered the world (1 Timothy 2:13–14). God, through the apostle Paul, restricts women from serving in roles of teaching and/or having spiritual authority over men. This precludes women from serving as pastors over men, since pastoring definitely includes preaching, teaching publicly, and exercising spiritual authority. At first glance, these passages seem to issue a universal command that women are never allowed to speak in the church, for any reason. In both cases, a closer examination of the context is necessary.
The whole of 1 Timothy 2:11–14, quoted only partially above, is this: “A woman a 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. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.” Note that Paul specifies the subjects of teaching and assuming authority.
A woman is to “be quiet” in that she does not teach men in the church, and she shows her submission to authority by learning. Therefore, in 1 Timothy 2:11-12, women are prohibited from teaching and exercising authority over men.
There are many objections to this view of women in pastoral ministry. A common one is that Paul restricts women from teaching because in the first century, women were typically uneducated. However, 1 Timothy 2:11–14 nowhere mentions educational status. If education were a qualification for ministry, then the majority of Jesus’ disciples would not have been qualified.
A second common objection is that Paul only restricted the women of Ephesus from teaching men (1 Timothy was written to Timothy, the pastor of the church in Ephesus). Ephesus was known for its temple to Artemis, and women were the authorities in that branch of paganism—therefore, the theory goes, Paul was only reacting against the female-led customs of the Ephesian idolaters, and the church needed to be different. However, the book of 1 Timothy nowhere mentions Artemis, nor does Paul mention the standard practice of Artemis worshipers as a reason for the restrictions in 1 Timothy 2:11–12.
A third objection is that Paul is only referring to husbands and wives, not men and women in general. The Greek words for “woman” and “man” in 1 Timothy 2 could refer to husbands and wives; however, the basic meaning of the words is broader than that. Further, the same Greek words are used in verses 8–10. Are only husbands to lift up holy hands in prayer without anger and disputing (verse 8)? Are only wives to dress modestly, have good deeds, and worship God (verses 9–10)? Of course not. Verses 8–10 clearly refer to all men and women, not just husbands and wives. There is nothing in the context that would indicate a narrowing to husbands and wives in verses 11–14.
Yet, another objection to this interpretation of women in pastoral ministry references women in positions of leadership in the Bible, specifically Miriam, Deborah, and Huldah in the Old Testament. It is true that these women were chosen by God for special service to Him and that they stand as models of faith, courage, and, yes, leadership. However, the authority of women in the Old Testament is not relevant to the issue of pastors in the church. The New Testament Epistles present a new paradigm for God’s people—the church, the body of Christ—and that paradigm involves an authority structure unique to the church, not for the nation of Israel or any other Old Testament entity.
Similar arguments are made using Priscilla and Phoebe in the New Testament. In Acts 18, Priscilla and Aquila are presented as faithful ministers for Christ. In verse 18, Priscilla’s name is mentioned first, suggesting to some that she was more prominent in ministry than her husband. (The detail of whose name comes first is probably inconsequential, because in verses 2 and 26 the order is reversed from that of verse 18.) Did Priscilla and her husband teach the gospel of Jesus Christ to Apollos? Yes, in their home they “explained to him the way of God more adequately” (Acts 18:26). Does the Bible ever say that Priscilla pastored a church or taught publicly or became the spiritual leader of a congregation of saints? No. As far as we know, Priscilla was not involved in ministry activity in contradiction to 1 Timothy 2:11–14.
In Romans 16:1, Phoebe is called a “deacon” (or “servant”) in the church and is highly commended by Paul. But, as with Priscilla, there is nothing in Scripture to indicate that Phoebe was a pastor or a teacher of men in the church. “Able to teach” is given as a qualification for elders, but not for deacons (1 Timothy 3:1–13; Titus 1:6–9).
The structure of 1 Timothy 2:11–14 makes the reason why women cannot be pastors perfectly clear. Verse 13 begins with “for,” giving the “cause” of Paul’s statement in verses 11–12. Why should women not teach or have authority over men? Because “Adam was created first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived” (verses 13–14). God created Adam first and then created Eve to be a “helper” for Adam. The order of creation has universal application in the family (Ephesians 5:22–33) and in the church.
The fact that Eve was deceived is also given as a reason for women not serving as pastors or having spiritual authority over men (1 Timothy 2:14). This does not mean that women are gullible or that they are all more easily deceived than men. If all women are more easily deceived, why would they be allowed to teach children (who are easily deceived) and other women (who are supposedly more easily deceived)? The text simply says that women are not to teach men or have spiritual authority over men because Eve was deceived. God has chosen to give men the primary teaching authority in the church.
Many women excel in gifts of hospitality, mercy, teaching, evangelism, and helping/serving. Much of the ministry of the local church depends on women. Women in the church are not restricted from public praying or prophesying (1 Corinthians 11:5), only from having spiritual teaching authority over men. The Bible nowhere restricts women from exercising the gifts of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12). Women, just as much as men, are called to minister to others, to demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23), and to proclaim the gospel to the lost (Matthew 28:18–20; Acts 1:8; 1 Peter 3:15).
God has ordained that only men are to serve in positions of spiritual teaching authority in the church. Complementarianism is the teaching that masculinity and femininity are ordained by God and that men and women are created to complement, or complete, each other. In the church, complementarianism follows 1 Timothy 2:11—3:7 and Titus 2:2–6 as the model. Biblically, the men in the church bear the responsibility to provide spiritual leadership and training. The women are to exercise their spiritual gifts in any way that Scripture allows—the only prohibition is “to teach or to assume authority over a man” (1 Timothy 2:12). When men and women are fulfilling their God-given roles within a church, Christ is honored. In fact, the church itself becomes what it was designed to be: a living picture of Christ’s body (1 Corinthians 12:12–27). **For more on Complementarianism, READ HERE.
This does not imply men are better teachers or that women are inferior or less intelligent. It is simply the way God designed the church to function. Men are to set the example in spiritual leadership—in their lives and through their words. Women are also to set an example in their lives, but in a different way (1 Peter 3:1-6). Women are encouraged to teach other women (Titus 2:3–5). The Bible also does not restrict women from teaching children. The only activity women are restricted from is teaching or having spiritual authority over men. This bars women from serving as pastors to men. This does not make women less important, by any means; rather, it gives them a ministry focus more in agreement with God’s design.
Another excellent article is, “When Should Women Stop Teaching Boys?”
One of the books I can highly recommend is:
The seven disciplines for a believer’s life are written so beautifully and explained with such gracious speech, that Elisabeth’s encouragement is simply pointing us to, be holy as our Lord God is holy. “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do,” 1 Peter 1:15.
Grace and Peace,