Can women be pastors?

I have been asked about this issue and my thoughts on it many times, at times I have declined to answer to avoid conflict, the person asking was looking for a fight and I will not engage in an argument for argument’s sake, debate yes, but not argue. Other times I have given my thoughts and not everyone agreed with me, and that is okay. In the last 5 or so years my stand has changed on this issue, it was changed slowly over time from being honest with how I read, and ultimately interpret the bible, even if it goes against what I feel. The bible is not about how I feel, its about what God has revealed in His infallible and inerrant word. In all things we need to biblical, ever thing we do must be based in His word, even when it cuts across our cultural climate, our feelings, or what we hold to be true. We also must remember to use the bible correctly, not to take passages of scripture out of their context to make t5hem say what we want them to say. 2 Timothy 3:16 clearly states in this matter that All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.’ Let this verse be our rule of thumb in ever issue, even the ones that are difficult.

This is a very controversial issue, but one that needs to be asked and answered. We cannot answer this question by using the rule of culture or our feelings however, we must go to the source of all truth His word. Many of us will have different opinions on this but we are still His children and need to agree to disagree with love in issues that we differ over. So, what does His word say on this issue? There care 2 main passages that speak on this issue. The first one we will look at is 1 Timothy 3:1-7 ‘The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.’

Chapter 3 starts off with the fact that if anyone aspires to the office of oversee, he desires something noble. But wait what does that have to do with a pastor? That is a good question, the word that is used in our English translation is either ‘overseer’ as in the ESV, NET, and NIV, others use the word ‘elder’ such as the ISV, or the ERV. But what is the original Greek word? The Greek word here is episkopos (episkspsv), this word literal means an officer, superintendent, someone in charge (of the church).  We can then conclude that an elder is someone who is ‘in charge’, or takes care of a church, that is the role of a pastor. A pastor looks after the spiritual welfare of those they are entrusted with.

But this does not tackle the issue of gender, we still ask can a woman be a pastor? The word episkopos doesn’t give us any hint of gender. But if we look at the rest of the text in 1 Timothy, it gives us an answer.  Verse 2 states ‘the husband of one wife’, who is a husband? A husband is the male person in a marriage. The rest of 1 Timothy uses masculine term ‘he’ this was not done because of the culture. But was done intentionally. It is inline with what God had created, first man, and then from man came woman. Scripture tells us plainly that the man is to be the head of the wife, the wife, while equal fulfills a different role, but the role of headship is that of the man. Genesis 3:16 To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”. Right in the beginning God has said that the man is to be the head, not the woman.

Further in this text it states that ‘He must manage his own household well’ this asserts that the head of the house was a ‘he’ a man. The husband and father of the house.

There is another text to consider when dealing with this issue, it is Titus 1:5-9, This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you— if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. Paul is giving instruction to Titus to appoint elders in the churches on the island of Crete. Again, if we look at verse 6 it says the same thing as 1 timothy 2, Paul tells Titus that they must be ‘the husband of one wife’ and the masculine term ‘he’ is again used. All this is keeping with the creation order.

Ephesians 5:23 shows us this For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Saviour.The husband is to be the head, to be the one in charge. This is not just true of the home, but in all aspects. This is not the right to abuse or repress woman, they are equal with the men, but fulfill a different role. This is also echoed in 1 Corinthians 11:3 ‘But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.’ And also, verse 8 ‘For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.’  A little later on in Ephesians it says the husbands that ‘Husbands, love your wives.’, (Verse 25), and again in verse 28 it says, ‘In the same way husbands should love their wives.’ It is clear that husbands as the head are commanded to love their wives.

No where in the bible does it say that a woman can be an elder/ pastor, that role of spiritual headship over a church, it says in 1 Timothy 2:12-13 ‘I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve’ Here Paul tells us that a woman is not to teach or exercise authority over a man, why? Because Adam was created first. While this may be unpalatable to some, God has ordained this. Someone has to be the head, Christ is the head of the church, and Christ has ordained it that men will be the ones that are in ‘charge’ of the church. I have heard others use Galatians 3:28 to say that woman can be elders/pastors, I used to use this passage too, but that is pulling it out of context. First lets look at this verse, it says There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.’ Now lets take a look at the passages before and after and see what it is talking about, Galatians 3:23-29 ‘Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave[g] nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.’ This section of scripture is talking about coming to faith in Christ. Before only the Jews were Gods chosen people, but because of Christ the doorway is open for all people to come to Christ regardless of race, position, or gender. Christ died for all. This is not about people being in any place of leadership, it about the door open for all to be saved. To use this verse in the affirmation of woman pastors is to mishandle His word. I have heard other say, ‘she was called by God to be a pastor.’ She may have heard a voice, but when that voice goes against the word of God it should be rejected.

Now to be clear and honest, I am not saying that woman cannot hold positions in the church, we have here at LWCC female deacons, and this is in line with Scripture, the word deacon can also be translated as that of servant. A deacon is a servant in the church who helps with the practical running of ministry. I am also not saying that some woman pastors are ‘evil deceivers’ (this can be true regardless of gender), some have some good and Godly things to say, but there are in sin, no matter how good their content maybe, the position of elder/pastor is the only position not open for women within the church.

This post may cause people to not like my position, but I believe my position is one that is honest with the bible. Its okay for us to disagree, but not okay for us to fight one another, in all things we should seek to live peacefully with one another, keep the unity of the body. If you believe that women can be pastors, that’s not a position that will damn you to hell, its not a salvation issue. It is however an issue of are we willing to be led by His word, even if we disagree with it.

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