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Why We Don’t Ordain Women

January 29 2023

Book: 1 Timothy

Why We Don't Ordain Women

Scripture: 1 Timothy 2:8-15

Thank you for reading this sermon from Christ Fellowship. I hope and pray that this sermon will be a blessing of grace and truth to you. With that said, let me encourage you not to use this sermon as a replacement for your local church. Christ Jesus did not establish his Church simply for us to consume content. Instead, He calls us to be part of a real, covenant family. 


The text we will read today is very offensive to contemporary Western culture. And so, before we begin, I want to make two general comments.

First, I believe the Bible is God’s Word. I believe that the Bible, in its original manuscripts, is completely without error and without fault – including our text for today. This is what God wants us to know and how God wants us to live.

Second, I believe that the Bible’s view of women is far better than the world’s view of women. Contemporary Western culture is currently seeking to destroy any distinction between male and female. Gender is becoming meaningless.

But the Bible teaches that God created men and women different on purpose. God sees men and women as equal in value, but He has given us different roles to play in creation.

2,000 years ago, that was radical and progressive teaching. When the Bible was written, the world did not value women. In fact, the early church was very attractive to women because of the way they were being treated by Christian men. And I would argue that many of the positive advancements of women in society are because of the Bible’s influence, not in spite of it.

But we have a decision to make. Will we accept the Bible’s view of gender or this world’s view of gender? Did God design men and women differently on purpose? Do we have different roles to fill, assigned by God? Or should we reject the Bible’s view and embrace the view of the world? Our text will force that issue for us today.

I’m only going to make a few brief comments as we read and then at the end, we will take it as a whole.

8 I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling;

In other words, pray for the sake of prayer – not as an excuse to get together and argue. Worship should be peaceful and orderly.

9 likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, 10 but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works.

Paul addresses women in the churches. Not a specific group of women, but all women.

He instructs women to dress with modesty. Some have taken this as an absolute command against hair styling and jewelry of any kind. I see it more as a command against trying to dress like the world or to draw attention to yourself in public.

In defense of that view, I would suggest Revelation 21:2, where the glorified Church is described as a bride adorned beautifully for her husband. But the emphasis is on her character, not her appearance.

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

The context here is public ministry of the church. Paul forbids women to publicly teach men or have authority over men.

Numerous attempts have been made in the past 70 years to limit the scope of this command, or to explain it away somehow. Most commonly, it is suggested that Paul is only talking about a problem specific to this church or this culture. But that possibility is eliminated by the very next verse:

13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15 Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.

Paul defends his prohibition of women teaching or having authority in the church on the grounds of creation and the gender roles established by God.

There’s a similar argument in 1 Corinthians 11, where Paul does allow women to pray or prophesy in public worship – but only under the authority of men. There also he refers to the creation of Adam and Eve.

And then in 1 Corinthians 14, he writes this:

As in all the churches of the saints, 34 the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. 35 If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.

Clearly, this is not something Paul meant only for Ephesus. Instead, Paul understands that God created men and women differently and that God does not allow women to teach or have authority over men in the church. God has been very consistent on this issue.

And I want you to understand that this isn’t really open to debate. I know that some churches and denominations in the past 70 years have started to ordain women, but those churches and denominations have a lower view of the Bible than we do. They will tell you that Paul is wrong about this. And that means that being in favor of women’s ordination is essentially the same thing as denying the authority of the Bible.

Let me clarify. I’m talking specifically about women serving as pastors or elders. Those are the offices of teaching and authority. There are no examples of female pastors or elders in the New Testament. Likewise, there are no examples of female priests in the Old Testament.

There are some examples of female leaders. The Bible does permit women to exercise leadership gifts in the church. But not women’s ordination. The Bible does not permit women to publicly teach or hold authority over men.

I think it is worth mentioning again, this has only become an issue in the past 70 years because our culture is making it an issue. The denominations that practice women’s ordination are in rapid decline. The Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church, the vast majority of Protestant churches around the world and throughout history – we all understand that Scripture forbids it.

This is not a debate in the African churches or the South American churches or the Asian churches. It’s only a debate for some American and European churches who have a weak view of the Bible. They are giving in to pressure from the culture to destroy God’s creative distinction between men and women.

This is a much bigger problem than women serving as pastors or elders. Paul could easily have said, “I do not permit women to be elders.” He doesn’t say less than that. In fact, he says more than that. It’s not just about being excluded from an office. It’s about the function of the office. He forbids women to teach or have authority over men. In other words, don’t even act like a pastor or an elder. There’s no loophole here.

This is about God assigning us a gender at birth and God deciding what that means for us – what our purpose will be in the family and in the church. We need a Biblical theology of ordination, but more than that, we need a Biblical theology of manhood and womanhood.

Scripture teaches that God created us male and female as complementary expressions of His image. Men and women reflect truth about God and His world together in ways that men alone or women alone could not. This is not a traditional idea or a cultural idea. It’s a reality that transcends culture, because men and women express this reality in every culture.

Scripture does not teach that men are superior to women, that men rank higher than women in the eyes of God, or that women are second-class creatures. Men and women are completely and fully equal in the eyes of God. Equally valuable. Equally necessary.

But men and women were created to fill two distinct roles in the family and in the church. Men have been given the responsibility of headship in those two areas, but headship is not a 1950s sitcom or an excuse for patriarchal oppression.

Instead, the Bible describes headship as the first to serve… the first to sacrifice. And Paul makes it very clear in Ephesians 5 that God designed men and women this way for a much greater purpose than we may realize. Our design carries Gospel intent. Ephesians 5:

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body.

31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

He’s talking about marriage. More than that he’s talking about God’s design for men and women. And even more than that, He’s really talking about Jesus and the Church.

If we reject what Paul says here, then we are rejecting God’s purposes in the family and in the church. This is meaningful theology that we cast aside when we choose to accept the culture’s lack of distinction between men and women.

What I’m describing here has become known as complementarianism, and it is the historic Christian perspective on gender.

I want to share a lengthy quote by a lady named Mary Kassian, and I completely agree with what she says here:

“Essentially, a complementarian is a person who believes that God created male and female to reflect complementary truths about Jesus.

Complementarians believe that males were designed to shine the spotlight on Christ’s relationship to the church (and the LORD God’s relationship to Christ) in a way that females cannot,

and that females were designed to shine the spotlight on the church’s relationship to Christ (and Christ’s relationship to the LORD God) in a way that males cannot.

Who we are as male and female is ultimately not about us. It’s about testifying to the story of Jesus. We do not get to dictate what manhood and womanhood are all about. Our Creator does. That’s the basis of complementarianism.

If you hear someone tell you that complementarity means you have to get married, have dozens of babies, be a stay-at-home housewife, clean toilets, completely forego a career, chuck your brain, tolerate abuse, watch Leave It to Beaver reruns, bury your gifts, deny your personality, and bobble-head nod “yes” to everything men say, don’t believe her. That’s a straw (wo)man misrepresentation. It’s not complementarianism.”

What we are really fighting against is not a culture that promotes women, but a culture that promotes self. Let me say that again. The world isn’t defending women. It’s defending self. The world can’t even define the word “woman” anymore without offending someone. The world is defending the false idea that people can be whoever they want to be.

The Bible says we don’t have the right to decide some things about who we are. And rejecting who God says we are doesn’t make us happier or healthier as a society… it makes everything worse. Thankfully, our Creator has every intention of putting things back where they belong.

That includes all the ways women have been hurt and devalued by men throughout history. We’re not going to solve that problem by blurring the lines between genders. Jesus is going to solve the problem through grace and truth, because He loves His bride fiercely.