Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived fell into transgression. Nevertheless, she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control. (1 Timothy 2:11-15) Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church. (1 Corinthians 14:34-35)
The Woman’s Role Is Limited
Women have always had a pivotal role in the plan of God for the world. It was not good for Adam to be alone and the Lord created the woman as a helpmeet. Satan deceived the woman leading to the fall of man. Noah’s wife and the wives of their sons helped save the existence of humanity when God destroyed the world with a flood. Sarah bore a promised son at the age of ninety by her one-hundred-year-old husband, Abraham. Through the lineage of Leah, the unloved of Jacob, Christ would come into the world. The mother of Moses instilled in her son a deep love for Jehovah. During the period of Judges, Deborah, a prophetess, judged the people of Israel leading to forty years of peace. The stories of Ruth and Esther find their place in the canon of holy scripture. Jesus would be born of a virgin named Mary who would become the first citizens of the New Testament church.
In the early church, women continued to have an influence for good in the plan of God. Crowds of both men and women believed in the word of the Lord and were brought to the Lord. Women labored with Paul in the gospel and many were commended such as Phoebe, Priscilla, Tryphena and Tryphosa and the unknown sister of Nereus. Lydia and a group of women praying by the riverside in Philippi were the first converts in the Gentile city. Women had a vital part in the growth of early church but they were restricted to what they could and could not do. There is never an example of a woman taking the role of the preacher or the evangelist or the role of leadership such as an elder or shepherd of the church. She has a role but it is limited by the Holy Spirit. The key to understanding the role of a woman in the church is to establish authority by the word given through the Holy Spirit and not the opinions or social pressures of society.
The religious world sees a large population of churches with women preachers, leaders, and priests. There are many capable and talented women who have much to offer in the spiritual discernment of the word of God but that same word limits the role of the woman. What is lost in the discussion of a woman’s role is that authority must be based on the word of God – not the word of men. What God says is the pattern. In two specific scriptures of divine authority, God says the woman is not allowed to take on the role of authority over a man. Women who profess godliness and good works are to learn in silence with all submission. Remember this is the will of the Lord, not the view of human reasoning. Paul gives the reason women cannot be preachers because God made Adam first, then Eve; and Eve was the one deceived by Satan. The woman was deceived and sin was the result. Paul goes back to the fall of man when God tells the woman her desire will be for her husband and he would rule over her. Part of the penalty placed upon the woman was pain in childbirth and if that penalty has not been removed, her submission to man has not been removed. Paul does not suggest women are inferior but through the Holy Spirit forbids the woman from taking the role of a preacher.
In the letter to Corinth, Paul affirms the role of the woman is important but again with limitations. She is to remain without a role of authority in the church and to be silent. He is not suggesting she does not sing but rather she remains in subjection in public worship. When a woman defies the word of God she brings shame upon the church. This is very hard for the religious world to agree and many churches refuse to accept the limited role of women in the church. Denying the authority of scripture does not make error truth. Women have a vital and important role in the church and there is much work for them to do. However, according to the authority of the Holy Spirit, women cannot take on the role of preachers, evangelists, and elders or shepherds without disgracing the church and sinning against God. Where is the authority? In every place the New Testament church speaks about a woman’s role, it denies them the authority of leadership. God said her role is limited.