Understanding Biblical Authority Structures
(The Roles of Male and Female)
I have deliberately used the phrase ‘authority structures’ rather than the much used term of leadership because I believe it more accurately explains the biblical perspective on the all important roles of men and women in the body of Christ. The whole ‘leadership’ phenomena can often be a smoke screen that obscures what the bible makes absolutely clear in this area. Our starting point must always be to look at what the bible teaches on a given subject before we progress to application in our many different situations.
Lessons from the Garden of Eden.
· Genesis 1v27 teaches that male and female are both made in the image of God and are both of equal value to the Lord. The New Testament also endorses that with respect to salvation and being born again male and female must both come to God the same way, through the cross. Hence Galatians 3v28, ‘There is neither male nor female’.
· Genesis 2v15-25 tells us that God created the man first and then the woman who was made as a helper for him and this divine order is very important. God gave His word and command to the man in Genesis 2v16 before the woman was created. Adam was responsible for passing on the command to the woman. Note she was not called Eve until after the fall.
· Genesis 2v18 reveals to us that it is not good for man to be alone. This should be an encouragement that God has called us to loving, joyful fellowship between male and female.
· The fall took place as a result of the woman being deceived and the man transgressing. This lesson is repeated through the bible and that where we get female authority out of harmony with clear biblical guidelines it leads to disaster. Adam and Eve in Genesis 3, Ahab and Jezebel in 1 and 2 Kings are clear examples.
· The summary is that God has placed his authority and headship upon the man who is responsible to be a breadwinner and to go to work (2v15), to be a steward of the Word of God and to enjoy loving communion with his wife and family. The wife is to be a helper to the man, to be one flesh with her husband and to enjoy the role of support, mother and wife. Children and other women are her prime area of authority and responsibility.
Headship in the Family is Male. 1 Corinthians 11v3
The divine order is God, Christ, man, woman. The whole concept of headship is essential to our understanding and Ephesians chapter 5 explains that God expects twice as much from the man as the woman in marriage.
The Responsibilities in Marriage
Read Ephesians 5v21-33
One joint responsibility is to submit to one another in verse 21
Men have eight responsibilities.
Husband accept responsibility as head of the marriage verse 23
Understand that the husband is under authority with Christ as his head verse23
Husbands love your wives just as Christ loved the Church and gave himself for her verse 25. Sacrifice and dedication.
Sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word verse 26. The ministration of the word of God in the marriage. The husband is the pastor in the family.
The goal is to present the wife to Christ as a glorious bride verse 27.
Love their wives as their own bodies verse 28
Nourish and cherish his wife verse 29
Leave and cleave verse 31
Wives have four responsibilities:
Wives submit to your husband as to the Lord verse 22. Notice it does not say Christian husband
Accept your husband to be the head of the union and support him in this. Verse 23
Wives be subject to your husband in everything verse 24
Wives respect your husband verse 33.
The Family Structure is the Model for Authority in the Church.
The name for positions of authority in the church, are Elder (Also called Bishop, Overseer, Pastor, Shepherd) and deacon. If we read in 1 Timothy chapter 3, Titus chapter 1 and 1 Peter 5v1-5 on the New Testament teaching, church leadership is male as in the family. No where from Genesis to revelation is a woman given the title Elder, also neither is a single person.
Spiritual Ministry in the New Testament
There is a clear difference between the work of the Lord and the authority of the Lord and the bible has clear boundaries for us. Many people try to explain things away that they do not like and say ‘It was cultural’ or similar things. The issue then moves to a higher level to deal with the question as to whether we accept the authority of scripture or not.
The issue of male and female leadership was obviously arising in the church in Ephesus and Paul raised this in his letter to Timothy. With respect to the public assembly the apostolic command is clear.
‘Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man but to be in silence.’ 1 Timothy 2v11-12. If we are really honest we do not really need a commentary to understand this simple statement. God wants women within the assembly ‘to learn’ but not to be preaching or teaching the bible to men. This also includes leading meetings with men included. One person said to me recently that two thirds of the world’s population are woman and children and this is a glorious field of service for godly women without trying to exercise dominion that is only given to men.
Paul under apostolic command repeats this again in 1 Corinthians 14v33-35. This is to prevent confusion in the assemblies and possible role reversals taking place but the scripture does not forbid women praying, prophesying and testifying in the public assembly. (1 Corinthians 11v5)
Prophesying is preaching, therefore women can preach to mixed congregations. This is not true, read 1 Corinthians 14v3. Would Paul contradict his own teaching?
In Romans 16v7, Paul says that Andronicus and Junia (Both ladies) are of note among the apostles. In the work of the Lord this was true but they did not exercise authority over men. Jesus chose 12 men whom he gave the authority and title of apostle. Women were part of the team but they were not given that role of having authority of men. If Jesus did the same today would he choose 10 men and 2 women to be politically correct? No he would not because this model of government is never taught in the scripture from Genesis to Revelation.
In Romans 16v3 the wife’s name Priscilla is used before the husbands Aquila. Some claim this means we can have Female pastors and ordain women. I hope with what I have laid out that I do not even need to answer this objection because that would overturn the clear, glorious authority plan of Almighty God.
Please look up the scripture references quoted with a humble attitude. We all tend to defend the position we hold and the experiences we have inherited even if they do not agree with the ‘whole counsel of God’. Some may feel angry or frustrated as they read this, but may we all come to a place of freedom in Christ to enjoy our roles and take up our God ordained responsibility as men or women without crossing the Lord’s clear boundary lines.