What is the Role of Men and Women, and Teaching in the Churches?

MT Writings - MusicaTheologica.com

John Carter – February 6, 2016 – Writings
What is the Role of Men and Women, and Teaching in the Churches?

The Role of Men and Women and Teaching – MusicaTheologica
The Role of Men and Women and Teaching – MusicaTheologica DISCUSSION HANDOUT


What is the role of men and women, and teaching in the Churches? The heart of this question stems from two controversial verses found in the New Testament of the Bible. These two verse are 1 Timothy 2:12 and 1 Corinthians 14:34-35.

“But I do not allow a female to teach nor to control a man, but to be in quietness[1].”

1 Timothy 2:12 Musica Theologica Bible Translation

“As in all the gatherings of the holy ones, the females in the meetings- let them be silent. For they are not allowed to speak, but let them subject[2] themselves; just as the law[3] says.”

1 Corinthians 14:34-35 Musica Theologica Bible Translation

This paper is an explanation of what I understand to be the correct biblical teaching on these passages. Specifically the doctrine of women and teaching in the local and global church. So, to best organize my thoughts I will first define the terms used in the question and then answer the question. I believe it is necessary to clearly articulate the definition to the terms used so that my answer will be understood in the appropriate context.

Q: What is a Church?

A: A gathering of people with a common purpose. Or a gathering of Christians who regularly gather together with the express intent to exalt Jesus Christ.

Defining what a church is may seem an odd place to start but the implications of this doctrine are primarily of importance within the church. And if for no other reason Paul in 1 Corinthians expressly notes that this is a church issue. Which is why we need to understand that broadly a church is a gathering of people. But a ‘Christian Church’ is a gathering of Christians, or holy ones as Paul says. I would go so far as to say that within the context of this paper a Christian church would specifically be a gathering of Christians who regularly gather with the express intent to exalt Jesus Christ.

Also, although there are many local churches there is only one universal Church. So, although churches are geographically, culturally and time bound, the universal Church is unrestrained by geography, culture, and time. As already stated a church could refer to a non-Christian gathering, but in this paper the term church will have a Christian gathering in mind. A lower case ‘c’ will imply a local church while a capital ‘C’ will refer to the universal Church and Bride of Christ.

Q: Biblically speaking, what is meant by Teaching?

Because we are concerned with the role of teaching it would be prudent to define what teaching is. Although teaching is a larger pedagogical task then just Biblical teaching we could define teaching as an unpacking and explaining of ideas and concepts. That is why a distinction should be made that all Christian teaching is rooted in and routed by the Gospel message. Below are three characteristics of biblical teaching. Following these characteristics I will make a brief argument for the distinction between teaching and preaching.

A: A Command of Christ and Responsibility of every believer.

Matthew 28:20 records when Jesus commanded his disciples to teach future disciples his commands. Therefore, obedience to Christ requires all Christians to teach in some form. Later, Paul writes in Titus 2 that all older believers have a responsibility to teacher the younger believers. There are no exceptions. All are required to teach what they know. This is fundamental to the Christian life. However, there are those with a gifting to teach.

A: A Gift from the Holy Spirit.

Teaching, as a gift from the Holy Spirit, is available to both men and women. We see this when Romans 12:7 explicitly identifies teaching as a gift. And the Bible is full of examples of Godly men and women who were gifted to teach. So to limit the gift of teaching to men would be inconsistent within the biblical context. And secondarily Church history has proven that there are very capable and gifted women to teach in all areas of life, even the Bible.

A: An Authoritative Leadership Role.

In Ephesians 4:11 certain teachers are appointed to a role of authoritative leadership within the church. Although there are various views on whether or not the pastor and teacher of verse 11 are the same or distinct roles, it is still clear that certain teachers have a unique role of leadership. That is why conflict develops when one considers that both genders are gifted to teach. Because if both men and women are gifted to teach and certain gifted teachers are leaders, then what prevents a female teacher from becoming a leader within the Church? Or, if both men and women are commanded to teach and some of each are gifted to teach should we then assume that the application of teaching would be the same for both genders? To affirm this conclusion would be a logical fallacy[4]. This means it is possible to affirm a female teacher without necessarily affirming her in a leadership role.

So when we consider what teaching is we must account for the command for all believers to teach. At the same time we must also be able to identify when someone is not only a teacher but is also a leader with the leadership role of teacher.

Q: What is the difference between Teaching and Preaching

A: Preaching is always Gospel specific teaching within the broad category of teaching.[5]

Preaching is the specific and clear explanation of the Gospel message with an implied or stated call to respond to the Gospel message.[6] Specifically, the call is that the hearer would repentant of their sins and turn to Jesus of Nazareth in believing faith. There is an overlap between preaching and teaching because preaching is a specific type of teaching.

A: All are called to preach and teach.

While we previously discussed the command for all to teach (Romans 12:7) Romans 10:14-17 makes clear the necessity for all to preach the gospel. Another passage echoing this imperative for all to preach is found in 2 Timothy 4:2.

A: Some are gifted to preach and/or gifted to teach.

Also in light of the previous comments on those gifted to teach we must account for 1 Timothy 2:7 and 2 Timothy 1:11 where Paul was appointed to teach and preach. Ephesians 4:11 again emphasizes this point of giftedness. Although all are called to preach and teach, there are some who are gifted to do one or both of these better. And in light of the command for all to teach and preach it would be wise to avoid raising the role of the modern pastor and teacher (or preacher) to a place in which he does not belong. Meaning, pastors, teachers, and even evangelist may preach and teach well but that does not absolve the rest of the Church from their responsibility to regularly preach and teach as well.

I find it necessary to articulate a clear, but connected, distinction between preaching and teaching. This is because in the current American context many have poorly articulated the connectedness. Which then results in a misunderstanding of what it means to be a ‘preacher’ or ‘teacher’. Which then results in is a misunderstanding in roles within the Church. Specifically when it comes to the roles of men and women within the Church.

Q: What is the leadership roles of Men and Women in the Church?

This brings us to our final set of definitions before answering the initial question. Up to this point the argument could be made that yes men and women are equal in all areas related to teaching. But in defining the roles of men and women according to the Bible we will see that that there is an explicit and intrinsic distinction made between men and women. Inside and even outside the Church.

A: Men reflect Christ.

Both man and woman were created to display the image of God.[7] And in Christ there is no distinction in value between man and woman.[8] However that does not dissolve the created order of leadership and authority. Paul states in 1 Timothy 2:13-14 that man was created first and that woman was deceived. This seems to be a clear indication that order of creation has a significant value in authority. Pointing out that woman was the one deceived seems to indicate that a woman exercising authority over a man will have disastrous results. This is why God clearly articulates the authority structure in Genesis 3:16.

However, this authority is not one of harshness or dominance. Rather it is one of love and submission to God as explained in Ephesians 5:22—33. In this passage the following truths are stated: Men (Husbands) are like Christ, three times the husband is told to love his wife, the Man is the servant head, the man is to love and care for his wife like he loves and cares for himself, and to sacrifice for his wife. In all of this, the authority and responsibility that the man has, the woman is never diminished in value. Rather, she is properly elevated to equal in value as the man.

A: Women reflect the Church.

Genesis 2:18 and 20 clearly shows that woman was created to help man. Not slavishly but willingly and with beauty and honor. Which is why Eve gained the name and position of mother of all living in Genesis 3:20. Knowing this is important to understand when looking at the command for a woman (wife) to submit to her husband in Ephesians 5:22-33. Submission and respect for her husband is not a suggestion but a command. Not because she is less than her husband but because she is equal in worth. How can the head lead joyfully when there is a thorn in his side?

The role of the woman is to reflect the Bride of Jesus Christ. To throw off the protection and love of her husband would be literally just as foolish as the church throwing off the love and protection of Jesus Christ. Which is what brings us to the first question asked.

Q: What is the Role of Men and Women, and Teaching in the Church?

A: Although both Men and Women are called to preach and teach it is men who are specifically called to the task of leading the Church and the Family in the leadership role of Teacher.

Based on the definitions above and in light of 1 Timothy 2:12, I believe it is biblically appropriate to distinguish between the roles of men and women. I believe this can be, and should be, done without diminishing or effacing the intrinsic value of man or woman. Therefore, although women can and should teach it is biblically appropriate for women to submit to the authority and teaching of men. Further, men should not sit under the authoritative teaching of another woman. 1 Timothy 2:12 should not be interpreted as a culturally bound text but a kingdom of God distinctive.

Since woman can and should teach the context of teaching in 1 Timothy 2:12 should be interpreted in light of the verb ‘control’. This verb does not speak to an authority of governance like found in Mathew 7:29 or Mark 1:22. Rather this word ‘control’ speaks to domineering control. Other uses of this word might include speaking about someone “who with his own hand kills either others or himself.”[9] It is doubtful that anybody would find this a beautiful picture of authority for either a man or a woman.

The word ‘quietness’ in 2 Timothy 2:12 is not implying a strict silence. Rather, it is the same kind of quietness that is called for in 2 Thessalonians 3:12. Meaning that the Christian community needs to simmer down and focus on the task at hand. And that task is the effective, clear, and proper communication of Biblical doctrine. But to further clarify the kind of quietness that is proper for the women within the Church, we need to consider Paul’s instruction to the Churches found in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35.

Here Paul clearly expects a silence from women which is connected with their responsibility to submit to the proper authority of the men within the Church. Further Paul shows that this is directly to how we are to properly interpret and apply Genesis 3:16. Female submissiveness to male authority is not culturally bound but Gospel anchored.

However it must be noted that this passage in 1 Corinthians is found within a larger pericope talking about how the local churches are to behave when they come together. And in this same pericope Paul makes it clear that women personally participated in the vocalization of the prayers and prophecies.[10] And this means that before we eliminate women from uttering a single word we must consider that this section (1 Corinthians 11:2-14:40) seems to offer multiple opportunities for a woman to verbally participate in the encouraging of the brothers and sisters of Christ. So when we, the church, are trying to be faithful to conform to the biblical role of men and women we must not neglect the truth that “in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman.” [11]

Q: Why does this matter?

A: The content and thrust of 1 Timothy 2:12 and 1 Corinthians 14:33-34 is about subjecting oneself to the authority of another.

Despite the accusations of feminism and the claims of male chauvinism, these passages are not an issue of learning from a woman. It is clear that a man learning from a woman is not sinful or wrong. This is an issue of displaying the structure of authority and leadership within the Christian home and the Christian Church. Man was not created for woman– instead woman was created for man.[12] This is an exact picture of the Gospel reality that Jesus was not created for the Church– instead the Church was created for Christ. Just like the picture that man is the glory of His Head (God) and woman is the Glory of her head (Man).[13] That is why men are held accountable for how they or do not lead.

Just as Adam was held accountable for Eve’s actions[14] so too will men be held accountable for those who there are to supposed to be leading– whether or not they are actually leading. Husband and fathers will be held accountable for how they did or did not lead the home. Elders will be held accountable for how they did or did not lead the Church.[15]

Finally, if the Church is to display the Gospel then it is nothing less than disorienting to see a woman leading a man. Just like it would be disorienting for the Church to try to lead Jesus. The old saying that “the man may be the head but the wife is the neck and can turn that head where ever she wishes” is in direct contradiction with the Gospel reality that woman is to submit to the leadership of man. She is not to try to passively lead. For man and woman to properly display the glory for which they were designed they must both act in accordance to the purpose for which they were made.

I truly believe that the position explained here is an accurate explanation of the biblical doctrine(s) relating to women teaching and exercising control over a man. It is not my goal to be contentious.[16] But instead it is my goal to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ.[17]

Post Script – Further questions

Q: What makes an individual a man?

A: Biologically speaking I would say that to be a man an individual would need (1) to have been born male and (2) to be of legal age. In America this would make any male 14 years old or older a man, because at 14 an individual could be tried as an adult or could seek emancipation from his parents. I would us the same criteria for a woman.

Q: Can women be deacons?

A: I believe that if a local church has a clear and biblical distinction between elders (as being servant leaders) and deacons (as being appointed servants) then yes a woman can be a deacon. But if there is confusion between these two roles then I would argue that a woman should not be appointed as a deacon in that context.

If anyone sees a deacon as having authoritative leadership then it would be natural to exclude women from the role of deacon. However, it is my understanding that although deacons may at times lead, they are still not entrusted with an authoritative leadership role. For the sake of unity, I would also say that women serving as deacons is a tertiary issue and should never become an issue that disrupts unity within the local or global Church.


[1] 2 Thessalonians 3:12

[2] 1 Corinthians 14:32; 15:27; Ephesians 5:22; 1 Timothy 2:11; 3:4; Titus 2:5

[3] Genesis 3:16

[4] Association Fallacy

[5] Teaching Definition: how we effectively communicate information

[6] Romans 10:14-17

[7] Genesis 1:27

[8] Galatians 3:28; Joel 2:29

[9] Thayer’s Greek Lexicon

[10] 1 Corinthians 11:5

[11] 1 Corinthians 11:11

[12] 1 Corinthians 11:8-9

[13] 1 Corinthians 11:7

[14] Genesis 3:17

[15] James 3:1; 1 Peter 5:1-4

[16] 1 Corinthians 11:16

[17] Romans 8:29; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Philippians 3:12-16