Women (A Second Response)


(A Second Response)

Cameron Rhoads (July 9, 2000) did not like my response to his earlier letter on the place of women in public Christian work. He believes that there should be nearly unrestricted public involvement, including authority over the man, whereas I believe Scripture teaches a limited and private participation of Christian women. He plainly holds to a radical egalitarian or feminist position, which has become popular in our day, and thinks that God has eliminated the gender-role distinctions that have prevailed for many centuries.

The Christian must base all of these considerations on the Word of God. Let me briefly review his faulty arguments, using the Bible—which interested readers can check for themselves.

Cameron admits that the twelve apostles were all males but says some of the seventy sent out by Jesus may have included women (Luke 10:1). This is pure speculation, with no Biblical evidence. While it is true that women were “disciples” of the Lord (Luke 8:2-3), they were not “apostles” in the sense of authoritative position.

Second, Junia (Romans 16:7) may be understood as an “apostle” in the sense of “one sent on a mission” rather than viewing this as an authoritative position on a par with Peter and Paul (we would say “missionary”; the Greek term often has this meaning—2 Cor. 8:23; Phil. 2:25).

Third, both 1 Timothy 3:2 and Titus 1:6 state that overseers (bishops), shepherds (pastors), or elders must be the husband of one wife (not wife of one husband). The Greek for “husband” here is “andra,” from “aner” (males), and not “anthropos” (generic). Further, 1 Timothy 3:12 specifies that deacons must also be the husband of one wife. It is true that neither Paul nor Timothy could have filled this position (they were unmarried men). They were evangelists and apostles (Paul in a primary sense and Timothy in a secondary sense), which required much travel, and wives would have been a burden in such circumstances (1 Cor. 7:32-35). Furthermore, 1 Timothy 3:11 does not use the Greek term for the female “deaconess,” thus we cannot use this as evidence for a woman’s authority, as Cameron does. Let us allow Paul himself to name the conditions for the position of the male overseers and deacons.

Fourth, Romans 16:1-2 simply refers to Phoebe as a “servant of the church.” Leading translations (NASB, NIV, TEV, KJV, NKJV) render this as “servant” or “serve” rather than “deaconess” (although the NRSV and JB do have “deaconess”). It need not denote an office in the sense of an authoritative position. One can “serve” without being in a position of leadership over men—and many women admirably serve the Lord in this capacity.

Finally, Rhoads suggests that women may participate in any of the “spiritual gifts” in the church. It is true that women are given gifts by the Lord. But would God give a gift to a woman and then forbid her to use it? Women are forbidden to have authority over the man (1 Tim. 2:11; 1 Cor. 11:3), to teach over a man (1 Tim. 2:12), or even to speak publicly in the church (1 Cor. 14:33-36). Paul says that this is not merely a cultural matter but is “the Lord’s commandment” (1 Cor. 14:37) and based on facts true since the creation of man and woman (1 Tim. 2:13-15; 1 Cor. 11:3, 8-10). This shows why we must have a proper and Scriptural view of the women’s role in Christian work as well as society at large!

The women’s role generally does not rest on cultural context, geographical location, or temporal considerations. It rests on the timeless will of God. God allows women to freely engage in many vital works of Christian service. But He has the divine right to place clear limitations on their position and work.

Richard Hollerman
Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

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