Rock Your Role

Rock Your Role: Jill in the Pulpit (1 Timothy 2:11-12)

Rock Your Role is a series examining the “go to” and hot button Scriptures that relate to and help us understand our role as women in the church. Don’t forget to prayerfully consider our three key questions
as you read.

Jill Pulpit

Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.
1 Timothy 2:11-12

I’ve never met a Christian woman, who, upon reading these verses for the first time joyfully embraced them without the slightest hint of balking, surprise or, “Wait, what?”. I have no doubt that such women are out there, somewhere, it’s just that I’ve never met one of them.

For 21st century American Christian women, these are hard verses. Whether you’re old enough to remember bra burnings and hard line feminists like Gloria Steinem and Jane Fonda or you were born into a world replete with female engineers, construction workers, and urologists, you’ve probably been inundated with the “anything boys can do, girls can do better” message since the doctor announced, “It’s a girl!”

And that’s exactly why this passage seems to us like a cold bucket of water. It’s what we bring to the table, our presuppositions, that make these verses feel like a big, fat, arbitrary “no” from a God who just wants to spoil our plans, when everything else in the world says “yes” to whatever we might aspire to.

I’ve struggled with God’s instruction in these verses, trying to stretch it, Silly Putty style, into what I wanted it to mean, so that I could do what I wanted to do and still be “covered” biblically. And, ladies, let me tell you something- that is a sinful, wicked, self-seeking, and self-centered way of approaching this or any other Scripture. An approach from which I have had to repent many, many times.

Looking for loopholes and exceptions and trying to see how close to the line of sin we can get without actually putting a toe over is a characteristic of a carnal mind, not a mind set on pleasing God. Godly women don’t look for ways to get around Scripture. Godly women look for ways to obey Scripture. It’s God’s desire that we flee as far away from sin as we possibly can, and, instead, “pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace.” He wants us to love, embrace, and obey His word, not rebel against it, even in our hearts, even in the name of “ministry” or “serving God.” So let’s keep that in mind as we take a look at this passage.

Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LordBehold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry. 1 Samuel 15:22-23a

As always, we must examine every biblical passage in context, which means we need to start off by understanding a little background about the book and its author, and by reading the whole chapter.

First Timothy (along with 2 Timothy and Titus) is one of the pastoral epistles. It was written by Paul to young pastor Timothy as sort of a job description and operations manual for pastors, elders, and the church. So right off the bat, an important point we often miss about 1 Timothy is that it was written to a man, Timothy, a pastor, who would use this letter to train his elders (also men) and, subsequently, his congregation. That doesn’t mean that 1 Timothy doesn’t apply to women, or shouldn’t be studied by women, or that women aren’t required to obey 1 Timothy. It just means that when we open the letter of 1 Timothy, we need to understand that we, as women, are reading somebody else’s mail. Mail that pertains to us, yes, but mail that’s addressed to Timothy, and by extension, to pastors and elders today. That will help us better understand the tone and perspective of the passage.

The focal verse of this chapter is verse 4

God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

Everything else Paul talks about in chapter 2 revolves around the idea that God wants to save people. He wants the church to pray for people, including governmental officials so that they will be saved. Paul was appointed a preacher and apostle so that people might be saved. Men shouldn’t detract from the gospel by quarreling or anger so that people can be saved. Women’s attire should not distract from the preaching of the gospel, and their good works should point people to the gospel so that people can be saved.

And, finally – an exhortation to men – Timothy and the elders are to allow women to be taught the gospel so that they might be saved. See that word “let” right there at the beginning of verse 11? Timothy and the elders have the responsibility to step up and make sure women are allowed to come into the church and be taught the gospel. That’s something we take for granted now, but in a time when women were routinely regarded with the same value and intelligence as a stick of furniture or the family cow, this was huge. This just reinforces what we learned from Galatians 3:28: everybody is welcome at God’s table. There are no second class citizens in God’s kingdom. God wants to save women, too. We modern women rarely appreciate how precious this concept would have been to first century women hungry to know and be known by God. And the men were to make sure it happened.

But, as Jesus said, “to whom much was given, of [her] much will be required.” The men had the responsibility to make sure women were taught God’s word so they could be saved and grow spiritually, but the women had the responsibility to listen, learn, and conduct themselves in a way that would not hinder others (or even themselves) from learning and hearing the gospel.

Paul goes on to explain in verse 12 what he means by “quietly with all submissiveness”: Women are not to teach men or exercise authority over them. In the first century church, this would have been relatively easy to understand, since church services were fairly simple and didn’t include programs, parachurch organizations, Christian conferences, etc. But in our day, perhaps a little more explanation would be helpful.

Teaching includes any situation in the gathering of the body of Christ in which women would be giving instruction to men in the Scriptures and/or on spiritual matters (which, in a biblical church gathering, would necessarily include Scripture), whether in an official position of teacher (pastor, teaching elder, Sunday School/Bible study teacher, or other leadership position) or any other situation requiring exhorting, teaching, or explaining of the Scriptures.

Exercising authority includes any official position (pastor, pastoral positions, certain committee positions, elder, teacher, director, or other leadership position) or other situation which places a woman in charge of, over, or responsible for men or places men in a role subordinate to a woman.

But why? Why would God reserve the positions of teaching and authority over male or mixed groups to men? He gives two reasons in verses 13-14. God’s design for male headship, and Eve’s deception and sin.

For Adam was formed first, then Eve– Starting with Creation (not the Fall), God began laying out the pattern of male headship in the foundational institutions of His kingdom: Creation, the family, and the church. Man was created first, woman second. Man was given authority over Creation, woman was specifically created for him, to be his helper. We also see male headship in the family. God requires husbands to take the primary leadership role and wives to submit to and respect their husbands.

And, finally, we see God’s design for male headship in the church, not only in overt passages like 1 Timothy 2 and 1 Corinthians 14, the description of qualifications for pastors and elders, and the precedent of male leadership in the Old Testament temple, but also in the beautiful picture of Christ, the bridegroom, as head of the church, His bride, who lovingly submits to Him. Starting with the very first man and woman, before sin entered the world, God initiated a pattern of male leadership.

And Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor– Here, Paul reminds us that, when Eve listened to the serpent, she stepped out from under her husband’s oversight, was deceived, and sinned. Eve’s sin reminds us that she not only was deceived into rebelling against God’s command about eating the fruit, but she also broke His design for male headship in marriage. In establishing male leadership in the church, God is recalling, reflecting, and restoring His pattern of male headship that started in the Garden.

But I’ve been taught that 1 Timothy 2:12 only applied to the particular time and culture in which it was written.

No, that’s not the case. We’ve just seen that clearly spelled out in verses 13-14. God explains exactly why He’s delegating the teaching of men, and authority over men, to men. There’s nothing in these two verses that even hint that this command is temporary or restricted to the women in the first century Ephesian church. The first reason was the Creative order – Adam was formed first, then Eve. The second reason is that Eve was deceived. Both of those reasons are universal (applying to all women and churches everywhere regardless of era or culture). It makes no sense that these two reasons related to Eve would apply only to first century Ephesus any more than it would make sense for them to apply only to tenth century Damascus or seventeenth century Paris.

Next, again, we examine the context of 1 Timothy 2. There are all sorts of instructions to the church in that chapter. Was the instruction to pray for governmental leaders (1-2) limited to the first century Ephesian church? Were only the men of the first century Ephesian church to pray without quarreling (8)? Was modesty (9-10) only required of women in the first century Ephesian church? Then why pick out this one instruction in verse 12 and claim it was limited to that time and culture?

Finally, look at the overall general pattern of male headship and leadership in Scripture. First human created? A man. The Patriarchs? As the word implies – all men. Priests, Levites, Scribes? Men. Heads of the twelve tribes of Israel? Men. Major and minor prophets? Men. All kings of Israel and Judah? Men. Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, and Davidic Covenants? All established between God and men. Authors of Scripture? Men. The forerunner of Christ? John the Baptist – a man. Messiah? A man. All of the apostles? Men. All of the pastors, elders, and deacons of churches in the New Testament? Men. Founder and head of the church? Christ – a man. Leader and head of the family? Men. Now which fits better with this pattern, women preaching to, teaching, and exercising authority over men in the church, or women not preaching to, teaching, and exercising authority over men in the church?

But what about women in the Bible who served in leadership roles like Deborah, Esther, or Priscilla? Doesn’t that mean it’s OK for women to preach, teach men, and exercise authority over men in the church?

No it doesn’t. The Bible does not contradict itself because its author, the Holy Spirit, doesn’t contradict Himself. If you’d like to read more about how Deborah, Esther, Priscilla and other women of the Bible were actually acting in obedience to God’s role for women, please read my article Rock Your Role: Oh No She Di-int! Priscilla Didn’t Preach, Deborah Didn’t Dominate, and Esther Wasn’t an Egalitarian.

But I’ve been told it’s OK for women to teach co-ed Bible classes or preach to co-ed audiences as long as they don’t hold the office of pastor and as long as they’re preaching/teaching “under the authority” of their husband and/or pastor.

No, that’s not OK with Scripture. First Timothy 3 and Titus 1 restrict the office of pastor to biblically qualified men, but, as we’ve seen in this article, 1 Timothy 2:12 prohibits women from carrying out two of the functions of pastors (preaching/teaching the Bible to men, and exercising authority over men) as well, and neither 1 Timothy 2 nor any other passage of Scripture gives husbands or pastors the authority to grant women permission to violate God’s Word. For more information on this question, see my article Fencing off the Forbidden Fruit Tree.

 

In God’s perfect plan, Janes and Jills are not to serve as pastors. They are not to preach to or teach men at Christian conferences or other gatherings of the body of Christ. They are not to teach co-ed Sunday School classes. They are not to serve in positions or places of authority over men in the church.

But even though we daughters of Eve bear the taint of her reproach in this small way all these years later, God has graciously provided us with many, many ways to redeem the name of womankind by serving Him if we “continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.” (15) One of those ways is the gospel influence mothers are able to have in their children’s lives. Think about it. Samuel had a godly mother. Timothy had a godly mother and grandmother. Jesus had a godly mother. It is no small thing to pour the gospel into your children and raise them up to be mighty men and women of God.

So, ladies, let’s stop clinging to the fence God has placed around the pulpit, bemoaning the fact that He doesn’t want us to cross it, and trying to figure out a way to sneak over, under, or around it. If we’ll just turn around and leave that fence behind us, we’ll find a wide open field of opportunities to serve God in His church, His way.

Jack-in-the-Pulpit Photo courtesy of: https://www.ourstate.com/jack-in-the-pulpit/
Jack-in-the-Pulpit
Photo courtesy of:
https://www.ourstate.com/jack-in-the-pulpit/

Additional Resources:

Ten Things You Should Know About 1 Timothy 2:11-15 and the Relationship Between Men and Women in the Local Church at The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) This is a refutation of the most common egalitarian arguments against the plain meaning of 1 Timothy 2:11-15.

Why Women Should Not Teach the Bible to Men by Josh Buice

Will the Next SBC Resurgence Include a Redefining of Complementarianism? by Tom Buck The springboard issue for this article series was the movement to elect a female president of the Southern Baptist Convention, however, it is largely an exposition of the text of 1 Timothy 2:11-15. Regardless of whether or not you’re familiar with this issue, and even if you’re not Southern Baptist, these articles are helpful and easy to understand. Part 1  Part 2  Part 3  Part 4

Only Men May be Pastors at Founders Ministries

What Does It Mean That Women Should “Remain Quiet” in Church? at Crossway

Why Asking Women to Preach Is Spiritual Abuse by Josh Buice

31 thoughts on “Rock Your Role: Jill in the Pulpit (1 Timothy 2:11-12)”

    1. It’s a tough one that has taken me years to embrace and see as beautiful instead of a blockade. I get why women struggle with it, but, you’re right, ultimately it comes down to whether we’re going to believe and obey God’s word or sit in judgment over it.

      Like

  1. I’m wondering regarding your statement about “informal situations” that involve explaining Scripture. Does that mean I can’t have a conversation with a man that involves the Bible and what I learned from it? How is it possible to even avoid that? My husband and I have conversations and he likely learns from me in the process, as I learn from him. I’m confused and wondering how that works out practically. I agree that women shouldn’t be teaching men as pastors or Sunday School teachers, but I’m not sure what you mean by informal situations. Could you clarify? Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m sorry I wasn’t clear on that. Peer level conversations between men and women are generally fine, as are things like group discussions in a co-ed Sunday School class. Now, there can be situations like a woman getting up on a soap box during a group discussion, monopolizing things, and conducting herself in an inappropriate way, but if a woman has the mindset of obeying this Scripture that’s unlikely to happen. Or if you had a situation in which a man was a new believer and he came up to you in the hall at church and started asking a bunch of questions where it was plain he really needed somebody to teach him, then maybe you could get your husband or introduce him to another godly man at the church.

      Maybe instead of “informal” I should have said “unofficial”. You’ve got your official teaching positions like pastor, Sunday School teacher, etc., and then you’ve got moments when women teach even when they aren’t acting in the capacity of teacher. For example: a female worship leader who takes a moment between songs to explain a biblical principle contained in the next song. Or a woman who gets up to make an simple announcement and digresses into all the biblical reasons why people should volunteer for her project. Or a woman who pipes up during rehearsal for the Christmas play and begins a sermonette on the Christmas story. Those aren’t official teaching positions, but they are still instructing men in the Scriptures.

      That’s pretty much what I had in mind. Hope that brings a little more clarity. :0)

      Like

      1. Hi. I’ve recently been convicted in my heart about this issue. It certainly places a woman outside the mainstream not only of society, but also of most churches and fellow believers, which makes it so difficult.
        I would appreciate some clarification on your response here. Am I correct in assuming that the aforementioned female worship leader, the announcing woman, and the female choir member are behaving unbiblically? Actually, I’m leaning towards wondering about female worship leaders. Any thoughts?
        Finally, I’m definitely alone in my church body on this issue, including my husband. In fact, I’m not certain there is even a church in the area that would agree with this position. How would you suggest I respond?

        Like

      2. Am I correct in assuming that the aforementioned female worship leader, the announcing woman, and the female choir member are behaving unbiblically?

        Yes, in my comment above I was giving examples of women who don’t hold the official title of pastor or teacher but are in violation of 1 Timothy 2:12 because they’ve taken it upon themselves to veer off into preaching to people in the heat of the moment.

        My article Rock Your Role FAQs will answer your questions about female ministers of music and many others.

        If you’re attending a “church” that has a female pastor (in which case, it’s not a church) or a longstanding history of women in unbiblical positions of teaching and leadership, you can try to talk to whoever is in charge about it and explain what the Scriptures say, but I doubt you’ll make any headway. You may want to consider looking for a new church. Try the “Searching for a new church?” tab at the top of this page for help.

        Like

  2. What do you mean by “committee positions”?
    At the church I used to go to, a woman was in charge of children’s ministries. Although most of the teachers were women, occasionally a man would come and teach with his wife. Would this be considered unbiblical?

    Like

    1. “What do you mean by “committee positions”?”

      For example- at a church my husband (he’s a minister of music) was previously on staff at, a woman was the head of the personnel committee. She took this to mean (or it was written in the church by-laws this way, I’m not sure which) that she was the direct supervisor of both the pastor and my husband. There were many occasions when she told my husband what to do, berated him for not doing what she thought he ought to do, and evaluated his “job performance”. This is just one example of a woman having inappropriate authority over a man in a non-teaching situation.

      “At the church I used to go to, a woman was in charge of children’s ministries. Although most of the teachers were women, occasionally a man would come and teach with his wife. Would this be considered unbiblical?”

      This is why elders (who are by definition, male) should be heading up all major ministry divisions in the church, so that things like this do not become an issue. Without more details, it’s hard for me to say whether this particular situation was/is unbiblical, but it certainly has the potential to be.

      Like

  3. So another question on this as it seems that even within the complementarian camp there are varying views on this. My understanding of this 1 Timothy passage is that women are not to teach or have authority over men in the context of the church (the household of God, as Paul tells Timothy later in chapter 3 the reason for his writing is to know how to behave in the household of God).
    What about women writing books and blogs? I know with my Solid Food Ministries blog that I’m teaching the Bible with my Monday Meat posts, at least I think it’s teaching. Maybe it’s just sharing what I see and learn in the passage. The blog isn’t specifically geared towards women. I’m hoping at some point to write a book with the material from the blog. I don’t view this as being unscriptural since it’s not within a church setting and I don’t see it as having authority over men. But am I wrong to think this? I’m not sure how it’s possible with the Internet to avoid having men read my blog. Plus if I end up publishing a book, how do I keep men from reading it? Thank you for your input on this matter!

    Like

  4. Not that I don’t agree with the headship as it is important so we don’t get washed in relativism. However, isn’t there even a time when you are not to obey the commands of the world?

    Blind submission to authority is wrong and not biblical in any sense. As a helper, I believe we are required to speak up when the men are going astray.

    Consider women that are in a relationship with an obviously non-Christian male or even worse, in a relationship with a ‘Christian’ that is into emergent churches, spiritual reformation, etc. Should the woman stay silent or just submit?

    I think while preaching submission to man that preaching the balance of following Christ first is necessary. It is like preaching grace without forgiveness and repentance of sins. It may have truth, but it can be twisted without that balance.

    Like

    1. Hi Sally-

      Thanks so much for your kind questions. Maybe I wasn’t very clear when I was talking about male headship. I’m sorry about that. Let me attempt to clarify. I would never suggest that “blind submission to authority” is right or biblical, and I’m sorry if this article gave you that impression. Certainly there may be instances in which “we must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).

      Regarding husbands who aren’t saved or are into false doctrine– it’s a very good question that I may deal with in another article, but that issue is beyond the scope of this particular article. First Timothy 2:11ff is not talking about marriage relationships, it is talking about the role of women in the church. Those are two separate issues, and we need to be sure we’re not conflating the two. Certainly, a woman married to an unbeliever or a husband who is dabbling in false doctrine should share the gospel with her husband, but the proper Scriptures to apply to situations like that would be 1 Peter 3:1-2 and 1 Corinthians 7:12-16, not 1 Timothy 2:11ff.

      I’m not sure if I’m understanding your last paragraph correctly, but certainly, Christ’s preeminence in our lives is of utmost importance, and when women are properly submitted to Him, they will be able to properly submit to the other authorities in their lives.

      “Isn’t there even a time when you are not to obey the commands of the world?”

      Yes, I would say that at ALL times we are not to obey the commands of the world, but rather the commands of Christ.

      Hope this helps clear things up a little :0)

      Like

  5. Awesome blog! Do you have any helpful hints for aspiring writers?
    I’m planning to start my own site soon but I’m a
    little lost on everything. Would you suggest starting with a free platform like WordPress
    or go for a paid option? There are so many options out there that I’m totally confused ..
    Any recommendations? Cheers!

    Like

    1. Most people tend to trend towards WP because it has a better/more compatible platform. I started out on blogspot.com and really liked it, so that’s an option, too. I would definitely start off with a free package until you figure out what bells and whistles you want/need. You can always upgrade later.

      There’s a great book I highly recommend (even if you aren’t an author) called Social Media for Writers by Robin Houghton. There’s a lot more in the book than just social media– there’s a lot about both Blogspot and WP, too. I found it at my local library, so you might not even have to buy it. Robin also has a blog at socialmediaforwriters.co.uk.

      I would recommend startng slowly and not biting off more than you can chew. Maybe a couple of blog posts a month or one a week, depending on how much time you have. People tend to have short attention spans, so try not to make your articles too long (I’m really bad at that :0) Read other people’s blogs and think about the things you like or don’t like about those blogs. Ask your friends about their favorite blogs, and why they like them, to give you some ideas.

      Welcome to the blogosphere– hope you enjoy it! :0)

      Like

  6. Thank so much sister Michelle, GOD used your article to settle my troubled spirit today. GOD BLESS YOU!!
    Bondservant in CHRIST JESUS,
    Dixie Lee Hopper

    Like

  7. Hi, I’m not clear on headship outside the church and family. In terms of workplace and leadership positions/career choices for women who want to honor God. Can you please expound on this? Thank you very much.

    Like

  8. There is one other scripture you should have mentioned in connection with this subject. Priscilla and Aquila both helped Apollos to understand the truth better. The fact that Priscilla’s name is first shows that she was probably the main teacher. This shows that there are situations outside of a church when it is permissible for a woman to teach a man.

    Like

  9. Hello,

    Thank you for a clear biblical explanation of women’s roles in church. I currently attend a Lutheran church (ELCA) with a male pastor. However, we have a female Bishop. I am currently the worship leader and my Pastor has had me to read scripture during service (not teach, just read) and he has also asked me to help him with some of the liturgy during service . For obvious reasons I’m concerned. Should I be?
    If this isn’t biblical how do I take this to him?

    Thank you

    Jessica

    Like

    1. Hi Jessica- My guess is that the things you’re doing in the worship service either border on or actually violate Scripture. However, since I’m not thoroughly familiar with Lutheran ecclesiology, I’d like to put you in touch with someone who is and is also doctrinally sound. I would suggest contacting Pastor Chris Rosebrough who is an AALC pastor. He should be able to steer you in the right direction. You might also wish to join the Facebook group that is sort of a fan club for his podcast and ask your question there. There are lots of good, solid Lutherans in that group who can help you out until Chris has time to answer your e-mail.

      Finally, this article (#15 basically applies to reading Scripture as well as prayer, #16- leading worship) may be of some help.

      Hope this helps. :0)

      Like

  10. I cannot believe I haven’t heard of you before! As a young women with a strong desire and passion to teach, you are an amazing role model! Thank you for your diligence and obedience to the Scriptures in teaching women with such clarity and understanding. I hope to be the same kind of woman you are as I grow older!

    Like

Before commenting please see the "Welcome" tab in the blue menu bar at the top of this page. Comments are handled manually, so there will be a delay before approved comments are posted. I do not publish comments which promote false doctrine.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.