THE POSITION OF WOMEN IN THE CHURCH
Can women hold office in the church? Can women be preachers in the Christian congregation? Today on this issue as in so many, the visible church organizations listen to the world instead of the Word. Let us listen to God’s clear Word. It will give us the answers to all questions which can be answered on this side of eternity. And may our Lutheran church body cleave to that clear Word faithfully.
The Creation of Man and Woman
To best understand the relationship of man to woman it is necessary to go to the beginning when God made them on the sixth day of creation. God formed man first and then Eve, the woman. “So, the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh; and the rib which the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.” Gen. 2:21-22 Woman was made to be a helper suitable, fit for man, Adam. She was made from his rib signifying how she was to be at his side as the helper. Man was the head of the family with the woman as his helper.
After the fall into sin, God says of the man and the woman relationship, “he shall rule over you” referring to the woman. Gen. 3:16 This is the divine order from the very beginning. Man was the head of he house; he was to rule over the wife. The woman was to be subject to her husband and be a fit or suitable helper.
The Position of Man and Woman in Relation to God
Both man and woman stand condemned by the Law of God as transgressors. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God, that is both man and woman. There is none that does good, no not one, whether man or woman. All are born sinful and this causes them to turn away from God. Read Romans chapter 3. Both man and woman are sinners in need of salvation.
Jesus came to save sinners, both man and woman. Jesus is the Savior of all men and all women. He has atoned for the sins of all. Just as all are sinners, so all have had their sins atoned for on Calvary. Now God calls all everywhere to repent and believe.
While both men and women are sinners and both alike have forgiveness, yet they are still different. The man and the woman have different stations in life. No one would deny that the duty of the bearing of children is given to women, not men. There just simply are differences between the two sexes. The man we note is generally physically stronger than the woman. They are also different above all in their God-given stations in life.
Man and Woman in the Home
Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Eph. 5:21 Each one in his station in life is to be subject to the other in the way that God commands. It is God who established marriage and the home when He gave woman to man in Eden. It is God who designates how these two people are to be in the home.
“Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, His body, and is Himself its Savior. As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands.” Eph. 5:22-24 We can hardly imagine that the church should rebel against her Lord. So also wives should be obedient and not rebel against their husbands. The church listens to and obeys her Lord. Likewise the wife should her own husband. The wife may not agree with all that her husband does and says. But unless he sins and would require her to sin, she is to be obedient in everything.
“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her…Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself…” Eph. 5:25-28. As God loved the church with that very great love, so husbands are to be devoted to their wives. “…love your wives and do not be harsh with them.” Gal. 3:19 “…live considerately with you wives, bestowing honor on woman as the weaker sex…” I Pet. 3:7.From these passages, we cannot see the husband being cruel to his wife. Although he does rule over her, he is to rule in love.
To each one is given the assignment, a station in the home. “…let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” Eph.5:33
Man and Woman in the Church
As God has established the home and family, so He has established His church on earth. Just as He has directions and duties for those in the home, so He has also for those in the church.
As man is the head of the house and over his wife, so man is the head of the church. A bishop, deacon, and elder are offices in the church mentioned in the New Testament. For each of them in turn a requirement is that each be a “husband of one wife.” I Tim. 3:2,3:12, Titus l:6 It is that God in His foreknowledge knew that man would try in these last days to overturn divine order. To be a leader, preacher, authority in the church over men as well as women and children means to be head of the church. Such a head must be a man to rule over the church, just as man is head of the house.
“Let a woman learn in silence with all submissiveness. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over men; she is to keep silent…” I Tim. 2:11-12. It is commendable that women teach children and other women. But for them to teach men in church is a violation of the divine order. The authority in the church is vested in men. This principle is well established from the passages we have referred to in Timothy and Titus. If a woman were to be a preacher or pastor, who would be exercising authority over men? If women are allowed to make decisions for the congregation instead of the men, then they are exercising authority over men. If a woman conducts a Bible study or Sunday School in which men are studying, then she is exercising authority over men in the church. To be any sort of an officer over men is to exercise authority over men and that is not God’s order. If instead we are following our own ideas, then we are sinning.
At the Corinthian congregation Paul applied this principle which he expressed to Timothy. ”For God is not a God of confusion, but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silence in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as even the law says. If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church. What? Did the Word of God originate with you, or are you the only ones it has reached.” I Cor. 14:33-36 This must certainly be one of the hard sayings of Paul. What shall we say?
The principle as applied to Corinth was very stringent. The congregation was in confusion on tongues, divided with the party spirit, and with women evidently contributing to the confusion by usurping authority over men. In the public worship the men were to teach and preach. Women at Corinth as elsewhere were to learn in submissiveness, and not to argue or debate in public with the male preachers and teachers.
Can women hold office in the church as preacher or pastor? God’s Word says, No. Can women hold offices in the church where they would carry out the business of the church and rule over men? God’s Word says, No. If women are teaching other women and children that is commendable. God’s order has a purpose even if some disagree with it. God’s order is for men to rule in the church as they also are head of the house. If there are those who say that what Paul writes does not apply to us today, they must tell us why not. There were customs among the Corinthians which we do not need to hold to today, true enough. But God’s divine order in the home and the church is binding on all generations. It is the loving Savior whose Word tells us the truth. Let us listen to the Word of God and not to the ideas of sinful men in this changeable world, who have ideas which contradict and oppose our loving Lord.
Just in closing, we as Lutherans go as far as God’s Word goes and no further. For instance we do not say that women cannot be involved in business or politics and government. The Scripture does not speak on that, and so we remain silent.