If one wants to preserve the gospel, one must also seek to preserve the ministry of the gospel. That is why we must refrain from ordaining women to the offices of minister, elder, and deacon.
We understand that a light bulb will only light when electricity strikes it. But what if the conduit through which that electricity must pass is corrupted? Will it then do its job? Of course not! Sure, there may be bright glimmers from time to time, but the whole of it is faulty and it will not be as effective as it ought to be.
The same is true for the kingdom of Christ. The gospel is that which lightens the mind and converts the sinner. The main conduits of the gospel are those who are ministers, elders, and deacons in the church. Therefore we ought to do our best to have the right people in these positions. If we do not, we ought not to expect the gospel light to burn as brightly and efficiently.
The Scripture tells us that those who are to hold office in the church are to be godly men. In 1 Timothy 2:12 Paul says, "I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet." This verse, of course, needs to be properly understood from an exegetical point of view. It does not mean that women are not allowed to teach at all. If that were true, Paul would contradict what he said elsewhere. At another place Paul would say that the older women should teach the younger.
1 Tim. 2:12 has to do specifically with the office of elder and minister. The teaching and the exercising of authority should be seen as two parts of the office. To be an elder is to have authority to rule over the people of God, to teach them and guide them according to the Scripture. This, Paul says, is the duty of men.
The same is true for the office of deacon. This is a position distinctly for men. We might see a perfect example of this in the book of Acts where the first deacons are ordained. It is not a passing matter that the early church set apart only men for this task. They could have easily picked a woman or two. After all, these deacons were tending to the widows, and wouldn't it have been best to have some females who could more aptly sympathize and minister to the needs of women?
However, this is not the case. Men were chosen.
It is true, that there is some argument over the verses in 1 Timothy 3:11. In the context of speaking of deacons Paul says, "Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things." Some argue that it ought to be translated, "The women must be dignified." On the basis of this they say that it implies women were permitted to be deacons (deaconesses) as well.
They will also point to the fact that Pheobe is called a deaconess in Romans 16:1.
To this I respond by saying, first, that the word deacon has both a technical and a general use. Sometimes it is used in its technical sense to refer to the office of deacon. At its base though, it simply means someone who serves.
Secondly, to properly understand the role of deacon (and elder) one must have a proper understanding of biblical manhood. The Scripture is filled with indications of man's role as a leader in the home.
The first indication comes from the fact that God created Adam first. It was only after a period of time that the woman is created. As Wayne Grudem points out, this was not so with any of the animals. They were all created male and female, at the same time. Grudem rightly says that this seems to be unique for the purpose of emphasis. Man is created first because his role as head.
Secondly, in that same narrative, we see that woman was made to be man's helper. She was to come along side him and assist him in his work of taking dominion. Helpers, of course, are not the leaders. While they are no doubt indispensable to the work, they do play a secondary role and are in a position of subservience.
The woman is also named by the man. Naming is a right given to those who have authority. So it is significant that it is not God who names her or that she chooses her own name. She, like the animals before her, must derive her identity from the man.
More could be said regarding the opening chapters of the Scripture. For instance, the fact that humanity is held under the sin of Adam (and not Eve, who sinned first) says much about the man's role of leadership. But it would be good to see some other places in Scripture that indicate something of the leadership role of men.
In the book of Numbers we see that men were the ones who were to be numbered for combat. This demonstrates taht they were the leaders and protectors of their homes and families.
In the book of Proverbs we find that it is the duty of the father to instruct the children. While the mother may certainly do a lion's share, the Proverbs show clearly that the father is the primary instructor (and therefore leader) of the home.
When you come to the New Testament, the amount of material is immense. One only need to look at all the passages of Scripture that talk about a woman's submission to her husband (Eph. 5:24-25, 1 Peter 3:1-6; 1 Cor. 11:1-10). There could probably be no more clear indication of man's headship than that.
Understanding what the Scripture says about the nature of man's leadership then gives credence to the role of men in office. If he is the leader of the family, and a church is simply a group of families, then men ought to be the leaders of the church.
Having understood this, we may then ask can a woman be a deacon? The answer is a distinct no. For men are the ones called to be the leaders. To be a deacon is to be invested with authority (the doctrine of ordination), and therefore women are not to undertake it.
With this background we can also understand Paul's prohibition of woman from the office of elder. He is simply recognizing the divine design that is at the core of all social structures.
If we want the church to thrive, we must then make every effort to maintain this God ordained structure in our churches. Men in churches must begin to see their calling and rise up. Women who are currently serving in these positions must step down from them and begin to plead with God to raise up men in their places. Pastors must be willing to take a stand and say to their congregations that their current policies need to change.
If this kind of repentance does not take place, the church will be in danger of becoming a lifeless bulb. The gospel will cease to energize souls because the main conduit of the gospel is askew.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.