Christian women, Complementarianism, Rock Your Role

Throwback Thursday ~ Rock Your Role: All Things Being Equal (Galatians 3:28)

Originally published August 21, 2015

Being a church lady can be really confusing at times, am I right? There are so many questions and Scriptures to sort through and figure out. We want to serve the body of Christ in a godly way, but sometimes it’s hard to know how to go about that.

Rock Your Role is a new series I’m starting today that will examine all of the “go to” Scriptures that help us understand our role as women in the church. Some of these passages are – let’s just be honest – tough. Tough to understand. Tough to accept.

As we tackle tough passages like these, it’s important to ask ourselves a few equally tough questions, search our hearts, and answer honestly. Before reading each article in the Rock Your Role series, I’d like to ask you to prayerfully consider these questions:

1. Do I really believe God’s word has the final say when it comes to what I (and the church) should believe and do?

2. If so, am I truly willing to “put my money where my mouth is” and back up that belief with action and obedience, even if I don’t initially like or fully understand a certain biblical concept or command?

3. Is this passage a tough one for me because it challenges my preconceived notions and opinions? Am I willing to put my ideas aside and hear what God’s word has to say so I can obey it?

Ready to dive in? Let’s get started with…

equal gal 3 28

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.
Galatians 3:28

For those of you who have been around the blog for a while, you might be surprised that I’m kicking things off with this verse. I’m about as complementarian as they come, and Galatians 3:28 is the rallying cry for egalitarians. But this verse is foundational to our understanding of the role of women in the church because it tells us who we are in Christ.

Before we zero in on verse 28, though, let’s zoom out and look at the book of Galatians as a whole. Galatians was written by Paul to the churches at Galatia to combat the false doctrine of the Judaizers- those who taught that the Gentiles must first become Jews (be circumcised and follow the Mosaic law) before they could become Christians. The Galatians were being seduced by this teaching, allowing it into their churches, and many were being drawn away from the truth of the gospel. Paul wrote to straighten them out and remind them – and us – that we are justified (saved and made right with God) through repentance and faith in Christ, not by keeping the law.

Galatians 3 is a perfect showcase for Paul’s theme of justification by faith. Take a moment and read the whole chapter now.

Paul reminds the Galatians that they were saved by faith, not works of the law, just like Abraham was. Paul explains that the law came with a curse attached for those who disobeyed it, but that Christ redeemed us from that curse. In fact, the whole purpose of the law was to teach us we can’t keep it and push us to faith in Christ as our only hope for salvation.

Wait a second. What’s all this talk about the law and faith and salvation and stuff? Isn’t this passage about women being equal to men and that they can serve in any capacity or office in the church that men can?

Um…no. No, it’s not. And that’s where the wheels fall off of the egalitarian argument. The entirety of Galatians chapter three is about salvation by faith instead of works. It says nothing about women serving in the same roles in the church as men. Nada. Zip. Zero.

It tells us something better. Something far more precious to the women of that time – and to us – than we realize. Let’s look at verse 28 in its immediate context:

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 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.

Do you see that? We’re no longer under the guardianship of the law. Anyone can come to Christ in repentance and faith- Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female, all are welcome. The ground is level at the foot of the cross. No one is more important than anybody else. We are all equally saved, equally loved, equally forgiven of our sin, equally precious in God’s eyes. In a time when women were considered less important, less valuable, less intelligent, less everything than men, this would have been joyous news, indeed. It should be to us, as well.

But equality in salvation does not translate to equality in church roles. A king and a pauper might have worshiped side by side in the Galatian church, but when it came to the role of giving, the church would not have expected the same offering from the pauper as from the king. This didn’t make the king more important than the pauper, it just gave him a different area of responsibility because of who he was. Likewise, men and women are equally saved and forgiven in God’s eyes, but still fulfill different roles in the body of Christ because of who they are.

Let me illustrate this another way. My husband and I have 6 children. Each and every one of us are all equally Lesleys even though I married into the family and the rest of them were born into the family. No family member is more loved or important than another. However, we all have different roles, which come with different blessings and responsibilities. My 12 year old might not be able to drive the car, but he doesn’t have to work eight hours a day and pay bills, either. I no longer have to do homework (thank you, Lord!), but I do have to do housework. Our family would not operate in a healthy way if I tried to take on my son’s role or my husband tried to take on my role.

It’s the same way in the church. God loves, forgives, and saves each one of us equally. But he also loves us each individually. And it’s because of that individual love that He gives each of us unique roles to fill in the church so that it will operate in a healthy way. As we’ll see throughout this series, the role of women in the church is precious and vital to the well being of the body of Christ. So is the role of men. They are both equally important, yet God has specially gifted women to fulfill the roles He has designed for us just as He has specially gifted men to fulfill the roles He has designed for them.

Ladies, you have a Savior who loves and values you as a woman, and your role in the church is no less important than any man’s just because it’s different from his role. There are no second class citizens in God’s kingdom.

Christian women, Complementarianism, Rock Your Role

Throwback Thursday ~ Are Female Bloggers Violating Scripture by “Teaching” Men?

Originally published October 23, 2015female bloggers

“You say that women shouldn’t teach men (1 Timothy 2:12),
but what about men who read your book or blog?
Aren’t you teaching them?”

Complementarian women bloggers and authors are frequently asked this question. Often it’s asked by dissenters looking for a “gotcha” moment. Other times it’s a genuine concern for Christian women who want to write but still be in obedience to God’s word as it speaks to the role of women. But, whatever the motivation for asking, it’s a great question that needs to be answered.

It is true that God has ordained different roles for Christian men and women. Both roles are needed and important, but different. Part of the role for women is outlined in 1 Timothy 2:11-14. Women are not to preach to or teach men in the gathering of the church or hold other positions of authority over men in the church. (If you’d like to read more about the Bible passages pertaining to women’s roles in the church, check out my Rock Your Role series.) But notice that key phrase “in the church.” The context of all of the passages dealing with women refraining from teaching men refers to the teaching of God’s word in the gathering of the body of believers.

That’s not the same thing as blogging in the public square. Yet, most of the godly women I know who blog still seek to be obedient to the spirit of the command even if the letter doesn’t technically apply. I admire their character and their faithfulness to God’s word, so I asked each of them how they would answer this often-asked question. Here’s what they said:

Erin Benzinger of Do Not Be Surprised and Equipping Eve

Equipping Eve-05“A semi-formal ministry such as a blog, book, or podcast must be approached with the biblical mindset of seeking to teach and equip fellow women as per Titus 2. At the same time, a woman blogger cannot know who is reading her blog. Nor can an author control who reads her book, or a podcaster supervise who hits “play.” Might the woman see it as necessary to make clear that she is, in fact, a woman and that her ministry is directed toward fellow sisters in Christ? Of course, this seems a logical and simple safeguard and is in fact my own approach.” (I had to edit Erin’s fantastic comment for length, but you can read it in its entirety in the comments section of the original article.)

Pamela Couvrette of Guarding the Deposit

“As a woman blogger, my intention is to write to women, however, I cannot control who reads my blog posts. I was concerned for a while about teaching to men, however, after a conversation with a few trusted Christians, my concerns were alleviated. The point was made that I was not teaching in an official church capacity; if I am offering the Word of God to show men their error, I am not claiming to be over them in authority, but instead, beside them as a sister in Christ. Additionally, if women are not supposed to teach men anything, how far does this mandate reach into our everyday lives?”

DebbieLynne Kespert of The Ouspoken Tulip

“In honor of Christ, I want to avoid teaching men through this blog without avoiding my responsibility to substantiate my assertions (or, when necessary, recant them) with Scripture. Sometimes, I may cross the line, in which case I’ll eagerly repent. If I had a way to guarantee an all-female readership, believe me, I’d be teaching a lot more boldly! Alas, I can’t control who reads this blog. I will, to the best of my ability, state my beliefs with appeals to Scripture, and will provide links to in-depth teaching by respected men.” (This is an excerpt from a great article at DebbieLynne’s blog.)

Christine Pack formerly of Sola Sisters

“My bottom line is that (1) I’m not expositing scripture, and (2) the book of Jude (about contending for truth and doctrinal purity) was written to all believers, not just men.”

Elizabeth Prata of The End Time

11695005_969809886414876_853379219293858257_n“As for women writing books, blogging, discipling, or speaking of theological things in the public square, I follow Philip’s daughters, (Acts 21:9), Eunice and Lois, (2 Timothy 1:5), Lydia, (Acts 16:14),  Dorcas (Acts 9:36) and other women who restrict their ministry to women, submit to the men in their lives, but unashamedly proclaim the glories of this wonderful Jesus whom we share and whom the dying world needs to know.” (This is an excerpt from an excellent article Elizabeth wrote at her own blog. In it, she links to several great resources.)

Beth Seifert formerly of the Naomi’s Table Radio Show/Podcast

“In the forum that we were in with Naomi’s Table, it was made clear that this was intended for women not men. Could I stop a man from listening on the radio? No. But, especially when teaching anything that directly related to men (i.e. husbands love your wives…) I put so many disclaimers around anything I said, pointing any men listening back to Scripture, re-stating that I was not trying to teach them, that they should not be using me as their teacher, etc. At the end of the day, I couldn’t stop them from downloading the studies or notes, but there was no ‘muddiness’ about who I was teaching.” Beth also has her own blog, Daily Dose of Truth.

Sunny Shell of Abandoned to Christ

“Since [my blog is] on the internet, I’m not purposefully putting myself in any way as authority over men. If I had a blog that was just for men and I was doing the same thing, that would be sinful. But whether or not men read my blog and glean something from it, that is between them and God as many women have wisdom that helps men and women (cf. Priscilla and Aquila)… there is a difference between having a generic blog (like mine) and one that is purposed to reach both men and women in a teaching manner.” (Read Sunny’s awesome article on women’s roles here.)

Lori Williams of Falsified Ministries

falsified book coverFrom the Falsified Ministries web site: “Vince is the leader of this ministry and Lori serves in a supportive role helping with the administrative aspects of organization of materials, responding to women who email the ministry, supportive research, working resource tables/booths and any other help-mate role that Vince needs in fulfilling other aspects of the ministry. Lori will never be speaking in front of a group that consists of a mixed audience of both male and females. We choose to obey the Biblical command in1 Timothy 2:12…Since the verse refers to a corporate setting of the church in any assembly, we always want to adhere to that.” (Like Beth, Lori is also a former Bible study teacher at Naomi’s Table.)

 

As you can see, all of these women are keenly aware of their biblical role and strive to obey Scripture by setting up various reasonable safeguards and parameters for their blogs, ministries, and podcasts, most of which are aimed specifically at women. I believe they all do an excellent job of adhering to the spirit of 1 Timothy 2:12.

I have, however, seen blogs by other Christian women which I believe cross the line and actually violate this passage, even though the woman was blogging rather than teaching in the church setting. This article, written in the wake of the Ashley Madison scandal, is the most clear cut example I’ve run across. As you can see, the article, by a pastor’s wife, is written directly to men in a corrective, instructive, rebuking, warning, and even threatening tone. It certainly does not exemplify the “gentle, quiet spirit, which, in God’s sight is very precious,” and, at the very least, is most unbecoming of a pastor’s wife and a woman who bears the name of Christ. This is a great example of what not to do for female bloggers who desire to be obedient to Scripture.

Christian men should also desire to be obedient to 1 Timothy 2:12 by not seeking out female bloggers for biblical instruction for themselves. I mentioned that sometimes people inquiring about the biblical appropriateness of women bloggers do so for a “gotcha” effect. Sometimes men with ulterior motives of “nailing” complementarianism visit my blog, claim to have learned something, and then turn around and attack me as a hypocrite for “teaching” them. This is akin to a man listening at the door of a women’s Sunday school class, then bursting in and saying, “Aha! You taught a man.” To those men, I would ask a simple question- If a female blogger puts a fence around her blog and you jump over it and trespass on her property, how is she the one at fault?

And me? Like my godly sisters featured above, I have also set up parameters for both my blog and my book to do everything I can to place myself under the umbrella of 1 Timothy 2:12. My book (when it was in print) was always labeled and marketed as a women’s Bible study. If you’ll take a look at the “Welcome” tab at the top of this page, you’ll see I explicitly say that this blog is for Christian women and that I’m a complementarian. When I address the readers of this blog and my Facebook page, I nearly always address them as “ladies,” both because this is a blog for women and also to remind the handful of men who follow me that they are not my audience; they are, in a sense, “eavesdropping.”

While I welcome male readers, I do not want men seeking me out for biblical instruction for themselves. All of my readers should look to the doctrinally sound teaching of their pastors and elders for biblical instruction. For women, my blog should only be a leisure time supplement to their sermons and classes at church.

 

Being a godly female blogger can be a tightrope walk. All of us have fallen off from time to time, and in those cases we ask that you extend us grace and forgiveness, knowing that we didn’t do it intentionally or rebelliously. Praise God for the “net” of God’s mercy and cleansing that catches us and puts us right back up on that tightrope so we can encourage and build up the lovely Christian ladies in our audience. You mean so much to each of us. We love you and want you to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. That’s why we do what we do.

Christian women, Complementarianism, Rock Your Role

Throwback Thursday ~ Rock Your Role: Oh No She Di-int! Priscilla Didn’t Preach, Deborah Didn’t Dominate, and Esther Wasn’t an Egalitarian

Originally published November 13, 2015

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.

she di int

How can you say women aren’t to preach to, teach, or hold authority over men in the church? What about Deborah, Esther, Huldah, Phoebe, Priscilla, and the women at Jesus’ tomb? Didn’t they all preach to men, teach them, or hold authority over them?

That’s one of the arguments often put forth by people who reject what God’s word plainly says about the biblical role of women in the church. And the short answer is very simple: Yes and no, and so what?

But maybe a longer answer would be better.

First of all, there’s a proper way and an improper way to understand Scripture. We want to make sure we understand Scripture the proper way. When we look to Scripture to find out how we should behave – what we should do and not do – we do not look first, or primarily, at the biographies of people in the Bible and what they did or didn’t do, and model ourselves after them.

Broadly speaking, there are two main types of Scripture: descriptive and prescriptive. Descriptive passages describe something that happened: Noah built an ark. Esther became queen. Paul got shipwrecked. These passages simply tell us what happened to somebody. Prescriptive passages are commands or statements to obey. Don’t lie. Share the gospel. Forgive others.

If we wanted to know how to have a godly marriage, for example, we would look at passages like Ephesians 5:22-33, 1 Corinthians 7, and Exodus 20:14,17. These are all passages that clearly tell us what to do and what not to do in order to have a godly marriage.

What we would not do is look at David’s and Solomon’s lives and conclude that polygamy is God’s design for marriage. We would not read about Hosea and assume that God wants Christian men to marry prostitutes. We would not read the story of the woman at the well and think that being married five times and then shacking up with number six is OK with Jesus.

And when looking for instruction about the role of women in the church, we look to clear, prescriptive passages which tell us what to do and what not to do, not descriptive passages about various women in the Bible.

Descriptive passages may support, but never trump, the clear instruction of prescriptive passages.

But just for funzies, let’s take a quick look at these ladies so often trotted out in defense of Christian women disobeying Scripture. (If you’re unclear as to what God’s word says about women’s role in the church, you might want to check out this article and this article before reading further.)

Deborah, Huldah, and Esther:

The very first thing we need to remember about these ladies is that they were under the old (Mosaic) covenant of the Old Testament, not the new (grace) covenant of the New Testament. There are a lot of things about the old covenant that no longer apply to Christians in the New Testament because Christ fulfilled the law of the old covenant (Bacon and poly-cotton blends, anyone?). Likewise, there are things about the new covenant that did not apply under the old covenant (The church? Evangelism? Nowhere to be found in the Old Testament), or for which there are no reasonable precedents in the Old Testament because the church is a new covenant institution.

None of these women were pastors. None taught men the Scriptures in the church (or even temple) setting. None assumed authority over men in the church (or even the temple).

Deborah was a judge. She decided disputes between Israelites and discussed with Barak battle instructions that God had already revealed to him. When Barak refused to stand up and fight like a man, God used Deborah, a woman, to show him that another woman, Jael, would get the glory for killing Sisera. In a patriarchal society a woman in leadership and a female war hero would not have been seen by men or women as a positive thing, but rather as shaming men who were too cowardly to step up, lead, and protect their women and children.

Huldah was a prophetess. She was sent for during the reign of Josiah when the temple was being repaired and the priests hadn’t even been able to find the book of the law for years. Again, what does it say about the spiritual condition of the most important men in the country – the king and the high priest – when they, in a highly patriarchal society, have to humble themselves and seek out a woman to tell them what God says? Huldah repeated to them what God had told her, and that was it. Since we now have God’s written word and He no longer speaks through direct revelation this way, there is no parallel between Huldah and New Testament women preaching, teaching, and exercising authority.

Esther, under threat of death, couldn’t even talk to her own husband without his permission, so I’m not really sure why people seem to think she exercised any authority over men. In fact, the writer of the book of Esther several times makes a point of saying how obedient she was to Mordecai. Esther wasn’t a spiritual leader, she was a queen. The word “God” isn’t even mentioned in her book, and she certainly didn’t instruct anybody in the Scriptures. Esther is probably one of the weakest examples you could come up with as support for women preaching, teaching, or exercising authority in the church.

The Women at Jesus’ Tomb, Priscilla, and Phoebe

The women at Jesus’ tomb were sort of Old Testament-ish, too, if you think about it. The church didn’t yet exist when they saw Jesus resurrected and ran back to tell the disciples about it. Still, this was not preaching, teaching, or holding authority over the disciples even in a non-church setting. This was a) giving eyewitness testimony of what they had seen and b) carrying a message from Jesus to the disciples. There was no commentary or instruction from the women to the disciples, just a report on what they had seen and a message of where Jesus and the disciples would meet up. And, really, don’t people usually see “messenger boys” (or girls) as subservient to the people they’re carrying messages between?

Priscilla (or Prisca) might be the best known Christian woman in the church era of the New Testament. When people try to use her as an argument for female preachers, teachers, and authority, they usually go to Acts 18:26 which says that she and her husband took Apollos aside and fully explained the gospel to him. This was a private meeting among the three of them, likely in their home over a meal or other casual circumstances, not preaching or teaching in the church. Additionally, the Bible makes absolutely no mention of how much, if any, of the actual “explaining” Priscilla did. It’s quite possible she just sat by as Aquila did the majority of the explaining and contributed only here and there or when Aquila forgot something.

Phoebe is mentioned once in the New Testament, in Romans 16:1-2. Paul commends her to the church at Rome and asks them to help her out because she has been a good servant of the church at Cenchreae. That the word “servant” can also be translated as “deaconess” in no way indicates that Phoebe (or Priscilla or any of the other women mentioned in Romans 16) preached to or taught men or exercised authority over men, despite the fact that male deacons today might do such things. The Greek word diakonos simply means “servant.” Acts 6:1-6 gives us a glimpse at some of the services the early deacons likely provided- “waiting tables” and meeting the physical needs of the believers. The apostles even drew a distinction between their preaching of the word and the need for others to minister to the material needs of the people.

And one more thing about Priscilla, Phoebe, and the other women of Romans 16: Who – under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit – wrote the book of Romans? Paul. Who – under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit – wrote 1 Timothy 2:11-15? Paul. Would the Holy Spirit have led Paul in Romans 16 to praise women who were rebelling against His word in 1 Timothy 2? Have you ever known God, anywhere in Scripture, to praise people who unrepentantly break His word? Would it make any sense, logically, for Paul to praise in Romans 16 women who were habitually and rebelliously disobeying his instructions in 1 Timothy 2?

God does not contradict Himself. God’s word does not contradict itself. If He gives us an explicit command, biographical details of a Bible character’s life do not override that command, and we are to obey it.

While there are numerous, important ways God wants Christian women to serve Him in the church, the Bible is clear that we are not to preach to or teach men or exercise authority over men in the assembly of believers. We are to follow in the footsteps of godly women like Esther, Priscilla, and all the others by humbly submitting to His word and obeying it.


Additional Resources:

Bad Examples of Women Pastors (But Great Examples of Godly Women) by Gabe Hughes

Rock Your Role

Rock Your Role: A Head of the Times- Head Coverings for Christian Women? (1 Corinthians 11:1-16)

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.

head coverings

Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven… Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a wife to pray to God with her head uncovered?
1 Corinthians 11: 4-5, 13

In this series, we’ve been examining the biblical passages that define and give shape to our role as godly women in the church. We’ve taken a look at the different roles God has laid out for men and women in the church and the passages of Scripture people commonly like to twist to argue against the clear teaching of God’s word about those roles.

But aside from a very small minority of folks, no one is arguing that Christian women need to wear some sort of head covering in church or while praying. Most of us seem to instinctively know that the first half of 1 Corinthians 11 is not a command that is binding on 21st century American women. So why even bring up this passage in this series?

Because much like the tiresome “Leviticus also prohibits eating shellfish and wearing garments of mixed fibers!” argument repeatedly trotted out by those offended when Christians rightly call homosexuality a sin, 1 Corinthians 11 is used by feminists, egalitarians, and others as a “gotcha” passage against Christians who rightly uphold the biblical roles of men and women in the church. “If you believe women shouldn’t preach, teach men, or hold authority over men in the church,” they say, “then why don’t you wear a head covering? See? You’re a hypocrite! You pick and choose which Scriptures you’ll obey!”

What they (and often we) don’t realize – because this passage takes some digging and study – is that women who obey Scripture’s parameters for biblical womanhood (submitting to their husbands, following God’s role for women in the church, etc.) are “wearing a head covering.”

First Timothy 2:11-15, the most commonly cited biblical prohibition against women teaching or exercising authority over men in the church, works hand in glove with 1 Corinthians 11:1-16. Both passages deal with male and female roles and authority in the church. But, whereas, in 1 Timothy God gives only universally applicable, unchanging reasons for His instruction that women are not to teach or exercise authority over men in the church (the creative order {verse 13}, and the deception of Eve {verse 14}), in 1 Corinthians, He gives both universal reasons (3, 8-9, 11-12) and transient, man-made, cultural customs (head coverings and hair length) as an additional illustration of the principle He is teaching.

First Corinthians is something of a “policy and procedure manual” for the church. Through Paul’s letter, the Holy Spirit is instructing the church at Corinth, and, subsequently, us, on everything from orderliness in the worship service, to love, lawsuits, marriage, idolatry, and other issues of importance. Chapter 11 fits right in with the flow of instruction. God decided the church needed to be taught about authority and gender roles and inspired Paul to pen this section.

As chapter 11 opens, Paul commends the church at Corinth for keeping God’s word as Paul had taught them (2), but, apparently, something was out of whack with the authority structure and the way men and women were behaving in the church, because Paul immediately pivots to say,

“But I want you to understand…” (3)

In other words, “You’ve been doing pretty well in these other areas, but this area needs some improvement so I’m going to give you very clear instruction about it. Listen up.”

If you’ve ever taken a composition class, you know that persuasive or instructive writing often follows the format of presenting a thesis statement (the main point of your paper) and then supporting or proving that thesis statement with evidence, examples, or logical arguments. This is the format Paul seems to follow in this section.

Why is this important?

Because those who use this passage to argue against the biblical roles of men and women either misunderstand or ignore the main point the Holy Spirit is trying to teach in these verses.

The thesis statement of this passage of Scripture is not found in the verses mentioning head coverings and haircuts. It is found in verse 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.

In other words, the entire point of this section of Scripture is not that women should wear head coverings, the point is the biblical line of succession of authority. Head coverings, head shaving, short haircuts, and long hair are examples, illustrations, and logical arguments supporting the main point in verse 3.

God is the head of Christ, Christ is the head of man, and man is the head of his wife. And, similar to the way that Christ has a different role in the godhead than God the Father, yet is not in any way inferior to Him, women have a different role in marriage and the church than men, yet are equal to them in value, worth, and salvation. (11) Paul proceeds to explain this by using head coverings and hair lengths- commonplace marks of apparel whose function and significance would have been easily understood by his first century audience -to illustrate his point.

At that particular time, in that particular locale, among those particular people, a head covering was worn by married women to signify a) that they were married, and b) that they respected and were in submission to their husbands. For the women of the church of Corinth, it was a symbol that they understood and embraced their role as godly wives. A woman who pointedly refused to wear her head covering in church would have been making a statement akin to, “I can do what I want. I don’t have to do what my husband, my church leadership, or even God says.” (Kind of like women in the church today who argue against biblical womanhood so vehemently.) By doing so, she dishonored both her own head (herself) and the “head” of her home, her husband. Worst of all, she rejected and rebelled against the authority structure God Himself established.

In a way, refusing to wear the head covering would have been similar to a wife today who takes off her wedding ring and flings it at her husband when she’s angry or leaves her ring at home when she goes out because she’s on the prowl for another man. It’s not the mere act of removing the ring itself that is intrinsically wrong, but, rather, the symbolic statement she makes by removing it.

Head coverings are no longer a cultural norm in Western society. Christian women today do not have to wear a literal head covering, but even from the earliest Old Testament times godly women have always adorned themselves with “a symbol of authority” (10) on their heads: their humility and submission to their husbands and to Christ, in the home, in the church, and in the world.

Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening. 1 Peter 3:3-7

If you’re following in Sarah’s footsteps, striving to love Christ and obey His written word in all you do, you are already “wearing a head covering.” So the next time someone tries to use this passage of Scripture against you, asking, “Why don’t you wear a head covering?” you can confidently answer, “I do. Why don’t you?”


Additional Resources:

Here are some great resources that get into more of the specific details of this passage.

Addressing the Dressing III: Clothes and Roman Culture by Lyndon Unger

Addressing the Dressing IV: Hair and Roman Culture by Lyndon Unger

1 Corinthians 11:2-16- An Interactive Bible Study by Lyndon Unger

Does 1 Corinthians 11:4-5 mean a woman should never ever cut her hair? at CARM

Should Christian women wear head coverings? at Got Questions

It’s a Shame for a Man to Have Long Hair? by WWUTT (When We Understand the Text)

Head Coverings for Women by John MacArthur

Rock Your Role

Rock Your Role FAQs

RYR FAQs

Rock Your Role is my series examining the “go to” and hot button Scriptures that relate to and help us understand our role as women in the church. The articles have garnered a lot of great questions from readers. I’ve been extremely encouraged to hear from so many women who love the Lord and want to obey Him. So, I thought it might be handy to have all of the questions and my answers¹, in one place.

1. Is a man violating Scripture if he seeks out or voluntarily sits under the teaching or preaching of a female Bible teacher or “pastor”?

Yes. Read more about that here.


2. Is there ever a time when it’s OK for a man to be in the room while a woman is teaching the Bible to other women?

Yes. There are some biblically legitimate reasons for a man to be in the room while a woman is teaching the Bible to other women. For example, if my pastor, an elder, or even my husband wanted to sit in on a Bible study I’m teaching to make sure I’m handling God’s word correctly and not teaching false doctrine to the women of the church, I would welcome that, and it would be perfectly biblical (frankly, more pastors, elders, and husbands should do just that). Likewise, it would be fine for a husband or father to sit in temporarily and check me out for his wife or daughter. Other scenarios might include a male reporter covering me or the class (I can’t imagine why anyone would, but…) or a male videographer recording the class.


3. What about Christian women bloggers and authors? Aren’t they teaching men if men read their writings?

The short answer is no. Click here for the long answer.


4. If I’m a member of a co-ed Bible study or Sunday School class led by a man, is it “teaching” the men in the class if I ask or answer a question, make a comment, or participate in the discussion?

No, assuming that this is a Q&A type of class in which discussion is encouraged (speaking out during a lecture-style class isn’t “teaching” either, its just disruptive and rude and would fall more under the 1 Corinthians 14 principle of being quiet so people can hear the pastor or teacher).

Asking and answering questions, making brief, appropriate comments, or participating in class discussion is not teaching any more than it would be if you were in a science or math class. The teacher is the one in the position of authority. He is supposed to be knowledgeable enough about what he’s teaching to guide the discussion and affirm insightful comments or correct misinformed comments. He is also in control of class logistics (for example, when to cut off discussion and return to teaching). In summary, the teacher is in charge, not you, and you are asking questions, commenting, and discussing under the umbrella of his authority and control.

If, however, a woman goes beyond simply asking or answering a question or commenting, essentially takes over the class, and begins lecturing everybody, that would be inappropriate.


5. What if I’m in a co-ed Bible study or Sunday School class taught by a man, and either the teacher or one of the male members of the class says something that’s in error, biblically? Should I speak out?

It really depends on the situation. Ideally, if a male member of the class makes an erroneous comment, the teacher should know the Bible well enough to correct him, or, at the very least, one of the other men in the class should do so. Likewise, if the teacher says something biblically off, the best case scenario would be for one of the men in the class to correct him (if you’re married, let your husband take the lead if he is with you and able to do so). If not, there are several factors to consider before jumping in with a corrective:

a) Are you sure you heard him correctly?

b) Is it possible he made a slip of the tongue and actually meant to say the right thing?

c) Does the majority of the class understand what he meant even if he accidentally chose the wrong word (for example, accidentally saying “Elisha” when the text is clearly about Elijah)?

d) Does this need to be corrected now so others won’t believe false doctrine, or is it something that you (or your husband) could talk to him about after class (think Aquila, Priscilla, and Apollos)?

If the male teacher or class member says something incorrectly that’s unimportant, its best to just let it go. But if he says something completely unbiblical (and its not a slip of the tongue or a misunderstanding), nobody else is speaking up, and it can’t wait for a private discussion after class because it might lead others astray, then, yes, a correcting comment made gently, with a humble spirit, and backed up by Scripture is absolutely appropriate. A great way to seek or offer clarification in a way that’s not undermining or usurping the teacher is to ask a question rather than make a statement.


6. Is it OK for women to teach at Christian middle schools, high schools, or colleges?

Of course. A school, even a Christian school, is not a church. The biblical prohibition is against women teaching men the Scriptures, and applies to the gathering of the church. However, I believe it is most in keeping with the spirit of Scripture for a man to teach (co-ed) Bible classes starting around the middle school level. And, since chapel is a worship service, it should be led by a biblically qualified man.


7. What about women preaching or teaching the Bible (to Christians) at a Bible study in someone’s home, the workplace, a coffee shop, etc., at co-ed Christian conferences, campus ministries, youth ministries, or parachurch ministries? Is that OK since they’re not preaching and teaching “in the church”? 

Here, we need to remember what the definition of “church” is. The church is not a building, it is a body of born again believers gathered for the purpose of worship, prayer, the ordinances, and/or the study of God’s word. Those things can take place in a church building, a home (as with the first century churches in Acts), in a campus or office building, outdoors, in a conference center, in a sports arena, or anywhere else. So, when a body of believers comes together for these purposes, regardless of the building in which they meet, or whether you call it “church” or not, they are the church, and the biblical parameters about women teaching and holding authority over men applies.

There are occasions when it is perfectly appropriate for a woman to address a co-ed audience at a Christian conference. For example, a woman who’s a computer expert teaching a breakout session on software that can be helpful to the church, or a woman experienced in children’s ministry teaching a session on security screening procedures, background checks, etc., or possibly even a situation like a women’s ministry leader addressing a group of pastors to give them insight into the struggles particular to Christian women, false teachers popular among Christian women, or how pastors can help the women in their church. The speaker would merely be handing the pastors a tool they can take back to their churches and implement. It’s akin to a nurse handing a doctor a scalpel during surgery so he can use it to operate. The biblical prohibition is against women instructing men in the Scriptures and exercising authority over men, not sharing their expertise or disseminating information on non-biblical topics. So women should not be preaching or teaching Bible lessons to mixed audiences at conferences, but there are other types of conference teaching and leadership that are perfectly biblical.

All of that being said, women who teach and speak, especially in the public eye, should give strong consideration to whether or not to speak on biblically-related topics to audiences containing men (ex: discipleship, women’s or children’s ministry, ecclesiology, etc.), even if they are not technically teaching the Bible in that particular session. For one thing, it is nearly impossible to divorce teaching biblical topics from teaching Scripture. Indeed, biblical topics should be rooted in, and saturated with Scripture in order to teach them properly. Additionally, there are so many high profile Christian celebrities who violate Scripture’s prohibition on women teaching men that women speakers should consider how much more counter-culturally impactful it could be to the church, and to setting an example for women, to refuse to teach men.

Pastor Josh Buice does a wonderful job of restricting co-ed conference teaching to male pastors and teachers, while allowing doctrinally sound women to teach women’s breakout sessions at the annual G3 Conference he founded and leads. He explains more about women teaching at conferences (and other issues related to women teaching in the church) in his excellent article Why Women Should Not Teach the Bible to Men.


8. I teach at a Christian high school. My pastor says our school is an extension of the church. Is it OK for me to give a brief devotion and prayer in home room as required by my job description?

Yes. Again, regardless of what church or denominational leaders say about a Christian school being an extension, ministry, or outreach of the church, the fact of the matter is that a Christian school is not the same entity as a church. They are two different entities with two different purposes, parameters, and audiences (I mean, your church doesn’t charge tuition, right? And your school teaches subjects other than the Bible, yes? They’re different.).

The biblical admonition pertains to the church- the body of believers gathered for worship. These students are not gathered for worship, they are gathered for school, and the majority of them are probably not even believers. Additionally, these students are not yet adults, and are under your authority as their teacher in the classroom (similar to parental authority), not as their spiritual leader in a Bible study type of situation.


9. If I’m listening to a female Bible teacher and my husband walks through the room, should I turn off the program so he isn’t “taught” by the woman I’m listening to?

No, that’s not necessary. A man who overhears a female Bible teacher you’re listening to as he’s walking through the room is no more being “taught” than someone who gets a pie in the face is “eating.” He’s likely not even paying attention to it.


10. If I’m teaching a women’s Bible study and a man comes in wanting to join the class, should I stop teaching and ask him to leave? Should I put a sign on the door that says “women only”?

If you feel that a sign on the door would be helpful, then, by all means, post a sign. Usually if you advertise (on fliers, in announcements, etc.) the class as a “women’s Bible study” ahead of time, men get the picture and don’t show up.

If a man comes to your women’s Bible study and he isn’t there for another legitimate reason (such as the ones I mentioned earlier) but has come to the class seeking to be taught the Bible for himself, it would absolutely be appropriate for a female teacher to gently say something when he comes in like, “I’m sorry, but this is a women’s only class. Maybe you were looking for Joe Blow’s class down the hall?” Be kind. These days a lot of men don’t even know it’s unbiblical for a woman to teach men.


11. What about evangelism? Can women share the gospel with men at work, among friends and family, at the store, through an outreach ministry?

Women not only can share the gospel at every opportunity, the Great Commission mandates it for every Christian. However, it is important for godly women to use caution and wisdom when interacting with men in any situation, especially one that can turn out to be very personal and emotionally intimate, as with witnessing.

My counsel would be that you’re generally OK if you’re in a public place and it’s a one time encounter (for example, witnessing to a stranger at the store). However, if we’re talking about multiple encounters – for example, a male friend or co-worker who wants to continue meeting with you over time to talk about the gospel – it might be best to meet with him a couple of times (in a public area) and then “hand him off” to your husband, pastor, elder, brother, friend, etc., for further discussion.

There are several reasons for this.

It protects your reputation. If people see you meeting with a man on an ongoing basis (especially if one or both of you are married) they can jump to the wrong conclusion, and your reputation, and Christ’s, can be sullied.

It protects your virtue. Unfortunately, some men, who have no interest in the gospel, might see your eagerness to meet with them as an opportunity to take advantage of you.

It protects both of you from temptation. A personal relationship with Christ is exactly that- personal. Discussing sin, conviction, and other matters related to salvation can lead to emotional intimacy, which can then lead to physical intimacy. You don’t want what started as a witnessing encounter to end up as sin.

When it comes to outreach ministries (for example, a meal for the homeless, followed by a group gospel presentation or Bible lesson), it’s best for a man to lead co-ed (or male only) adult groups in anything that could be construed as preaching or teaching the Bible. Not because this is in the church setting and the situation falls directly under the parameters of 1 Timothy 2:12, but because…

…there are a lot of highly visible female preachers (Joyce Meyer, Paula White, Gloria Copeland, Christine Caine, etc.) out there, all of whom are in disobedience to 1 Timothy 2:12 and teach false doctrine (usually Word of Faith/New Apostolic Reformation).

The Bible says we’re to avoid even the appearance of evil, and you don’t want to appear to be one of those women if it’s avoidable. Having a man lead the teaching helps distance you and your church from those types of sinful women and their bad theology, and sets a godly example for the people you’re ministering to.

…the Great Commission is clear that we’re not just to make converts, we’re to make disciples. That means the ultimate goal of evangelism is to get the newly saved person plugged in to a local, biblical church. Why confuse a new Christian by having women lead out “in the field” when it’s not going to be that way in the church?

…there are very few examples in the world of what it really means to be a man. Men are constantly emasculated on TV and in society and receive all kinds of conflicting messages regarding what real manhood is. What an impact on lost men (and women) to see an example of a godly, masculine man who leads well, fulfills his duties and responsibilities, and is totally sold out to Christ. If you have someone like that, why wouldn’t you want him to lead?

Basic Training: The Great Commission

The Mailbag: Is it biblical for women to carry out The Great Commission?

Evangelism at Theology Gals


12. What about teaching my sons the Bible? Should I stop when they are teenagers?

This is a little bit of a different question because now we’re talking about the home instead of the church. We’re also talking about minor children who are under your authority as a parent rather than men or youth in your church who are not under your authority. Additionally, there is no Scripture which clearly addresses a specific age at which a mother should stop formally teaching her sons the Bible.

Ideally, Dad should regularly lead the whole family in Bible study, because the Bible says he is to be the spiritual leader of the home. But if your husband is OK with you also teaching your sons the Bible at another time of day in a way that complements what he’s doing in family worship time, there’s no biblical problem with that.

My husband leads our family worship, but I also teach my teenage sons a chapter of the Bible every morning before we start school. My husband is fine with that because it goes hand in hand with what he’s doing as our spiritual leader.

My counsel would be to talk it over with your husband and decide together what would be right for your family according to the limited biblical principles we have that address this issue. My thought is that as long as long as these children are in your home under your parental authority, and your husband is OK with it, it’s fine to formally teach them the Bible.


13. What about teaching the boys in my church’s youth group?

Women should not serve as youth pastors. The Bible restricts pastoral and elder roles to men.

As to teaching the Bible to co-ed groups of minors (in Sunday School, as a youth helper, etc.), there is no hard and fast rule, but my recommendation is that a good time for women to break from teaching boys at church is around the time they start middle school. In the Bible, boys traditionally moved from childhood to adulthood at age thirteen. Jesus exhibited growth toward manhood and engaged the rabbis in the temple at age twelve. Of course, these are both anecdotal and neither means this age is the basis of any sort of law for Christian women about teaching boys, but there seems to be some wisdom there- a good rule of thumb. Once they hit their early teens, boys really need the guidance of godly men who can lead by example and teach them what it means to grow into godly manhood. When it comes to teaching adolescent boys at church, it’s much less about what women are “allowed” to do and much more about the best way to grow godly men. Only men can train boys to be men.


14. Is it OK for women to make announcements, or give mission reports or personal testimonies during the worship service?

I don’t see why these would be a problem biblically, as long as she doesn’t veer off into preaching, exhorting, or instructing the congregation… (See the remainder of my answer to this question in #2 of this article and in this article.)


15. Should women lead prayers or read Scripture aloud (verbatim, no commentary or teaching) from the platform during the worship service?

I would discourage both for a couple of reasons.

First, while neither is technically a violation of the “letter of the law,” so to speak, in the times we live in where so many women and their churches are in rebellion against the biblical role of women in the church, having a woman lead prayer or read Scripture from the pulpit or platform may send a message – to visitors and church members – that your church doesn’t want to send.

If a visitor walks in and sees a woman leading in this way she could draw the conclusion that your church is egalitarian. If she’s looking for an egalitarian church and thinks she’s found one, you’ll eventually have to disabuse her of that idea, possibly months down the road after she has already joined the church. If a visitor who’s complementarian comes in and sees women leading in this way, she could also draw the conclusion that your church is egalitarian and get up in the middle of the service and leave before you have a chance to explain the situation. The same kinds of conclusions could be drawn by the members of your church with similar results, causing unrest in your church. Why put a stumbling block in front of your visitors or members?

Second, there seems to be a tragic dearth of male leadership in the church in general. So many men are either too lazy or too afraid to lead, or they see very few examples of what leadership by a godly man looks like. I think it would be great for the pastor to sometimes ask men who need to learn leadership skills to dip a toe in the water by leading a prayer during church, and at other times ask a spiritually mature man to model leadership skills by leading prayer during worship. Sometimes, these kinds of situations aren’t about women’s roles, but men’s needs.


16. Should women serve as worship leaders? What about singing solos, singing in the choir, playing an instrument, etc.?

No, women should not serve as the worship leader. The primary reason I say this has more to do with the position of minister of music – a term I think we need to get back to – than the role of women in the church. For the secondary reason, see #15 above…Singing in the choir or on the praise team, singing solos, playing an instrument, etc., under the leadership of the minister of music, is, of course, fine… (See the remainder of my answer to this question in #4 of this article.)


17. Should women serve as deacons/deaconesses?

It could be perfectly biblical if we’re using a Scriptural understanding of a deaconess’s duties and position, not the understanding many churches currently have of the (male) office of deacon. In many churches male deacons function as, and are given the authority of elders, carrying out teaching, leadership, authority, and other duties and characteristics that would be biblically inappropriate for women… (See the remainder of my answer to this question in this article.)


18. Can women be missionaries? Is it biblical for women to carry out the Great Commission?

Yes. Absolutely. In fact, we need more women – single and married – to serve as missionaries (more men, too). The only caveat is that women who serve as missionaries need to do so in a way that is in keeping with Scriptural principles of women’s roles in the church. (For example, female missionaries should not be pastoring churches on the mission field. A missionary’s job is to share the gospel with people and then disciple them in sound doctrine, and you don’t want to be teaching false doctrine through the act of preaching to men.) But there are oodles of mission opportunities that fit the bill… (See the remainder of my answer to this question in this article.

The Mailbag: Is it biblical for women to carry out The Great Commission?


19. Can women perform baptisms?

Although there is no biblical prohibition against it, what seems to be most in keeping with the pattern of both Scripture and church history is for pastors and elders to perform baptisms. This would preclude women, as well as most men, from performing baptisms. For more details, see my article Basic Training: Baptism.


20. I’ve heard people say it’s OK for women to preach or teach the Bible to co-ed groups as long as they are doing so under their pastor’s and/or husband’s authority. Is this true?

No. There is no Scripture that says it’s OK for pastors/husbands to extend some sort of mantel of authority to a woman to do these things. When God says “no” about something, no man has a right to say “yes.” I’ve written more about this in my article Fencing off the Forbidden Fruit Tree.


21. Is it biblical for women to serve as children’s directors or children’s pastors/ministers?

It could be, depending on the situation. (Women should not bear the title Children’s “Pastor” or “Minister”, though. Biblically, women are not pastors/ministers, so carrying that title would be dishonest and misleading.)

It is perfectly biblical for women to teach and lead children in the church setting. (And when I say “children”, I mean birth to about age 12. I’ve addressed women teaching youth/teens above in #13.) The biblical prohibition is against teaching and holding authority over men in the church. Male children are not men.

The potential 1 Timothy 2:12 issue is not with teaching and leading children or supervising other women who teach children. The issue at play is whether or not a female children’s director will be holding unbiblical authority over any men who work or volunteer in the children’s department as Sunday school teachers, Awana leaders, nursery workers, etc. And that’s something that’s got to be examined on a case by case basis. It could be completely biblical for a woman to serve as a children’s director in one church but not in another simply due to circumstances of the environment.

Does the church have only women working in the children’s department? Is there an associate pastor or elder over the female children’s director that handles any issues of authority? Would she have to train, evaluate, or correct male volunteers? What kinds of things would male volunteers need to come to her about? These and other questions all need to be carefully considered by her pastor, elders, husband, and the woman herself.

If a pastor or elder oversees the children’s director’s leadership so that she is acting under his authority and at his direction (including the pastor/elder vetting and approving any curricula and materials, guest speakers, activities, etc., she wishes to use), and she is not violating Scripture by preaching to men, teaching men Scripture, or exercising authority over men, I don’t see why it would be a problem for a woman to lead the children’s ministry. In fact, Christian women and churches who handle this properly could be a superb example and model for other Christian women and churches.


There are thousands of practical scenarios we could go through about women teaching men, but at the end of the day, we ladies have to examine our hearts honestly and ask ourselves: Is it my heart’s desire to do everything I can to obey and submit to Scripture out of love for Christ, or is it my heart’s desire to do what I want to do and either ignore Scripture or twist Scripture to make it fit what I want out of love for myself? That’s ultimately the heart of the matter.


¹It’s important that we ladies remember whose authority we’re under. First and foremost, we are under the authority of Christ and His word, and we are to submit to and obey Him. Next, if you’re a minor still living at home, you are under your parents’ authority, and God’s word directs you to honor and obey them. If you are married, the Bible says that you are to submit to and respect your husband. Finally, SCRIPTURE tells us that we are to submit to the biblical instruction of godly pastors and elders
I remind us of these authorities in our lives because, while I can provide answers to questions, I am not an authority in your life. Your husband, parents, or pastor might prefer that you act in ways other than those I’ve outlined above, so, as long as those ways are in compliance with Scripture, please be sure you’re submitting to them.