Thursday, April 12, 2007

Biblical Church Leadership – Pt.7

Male Leadership in the New Testament Churches

The practice of male leadership continuing in the New Testament is clearly evident in Scripture. It is interesting to note that approximately 70 percent of the New Testament was penned by the apostle Paul (or a close associate), who is the dominant figure – other than Jesus – in the New Testament. Furthermore, all the Old and New Testament writers were male, as well as the predominant characters were also male. Much to the chagrin of the feminists, the Bible appears to be overwhelmingly patriarchal.

It is simply mind-boggling that there are Bible-believing Christians who can claim that the New Testament teaches an egalitarian approach to gender roles. This approach to gender roles is referred to as Biblical Feminism or Egalitarianism. It is simply the teaching that the New Testament does not teach gender role distinctions between men and women in terms of headship and submission. But it is impossible to support this viewpoint biblically without engaging in what could be termed “hermeneutical ventriloquism”; making the Bible say what you want it to say. [Strauch, pg. 55-56]

But Scripture is very clear on the role of men being in leadership throughout the New Testament, including the marriage relationship. Paul made this point very clear in Scripture, emphasizing the divine order in the husband-wife relationship. Consider the following passages of Scripture:

Ephesians 5:22 – “Wives be subject to your own husbands as to the Lord”
Ephesians 5:24 – “But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their own husbands in everything”
Ephesians 5:23 – “For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church”
Colossians 3:18 – “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord”
Titus 2:1,3-5 –
“1But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine.” “3Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, 4so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, 5to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.”

It is clear that Paul admonished the Christian wives to be submissive to their husbands. The solid biblical basis for this is found in Ephesians 5:23. To further clarify the meaning of “the head of the wife”, Paul uses the analogy of the headship of Christ over the church. The term “head” is used in a figurative sense meaning, “authority over” and “leadership”. It does not mean “source” or “origin” as feminists would claim. [Strauch, pg.57] Colossians 3:18 is another passage that teaches the same principle in Ephesians 5. It should be clearly apparent that each Scripture that deals with the relationship of the wife to the husband, that submission to their husband is clearly taught (Ephesians 5:22; Colossians 3:18; 1 Peter 3:1).

The predominant teaching is that submission is to be “as to the Lord” and “as is fitting to the Lord” (Col. 3). Submission is therefore to be in the same manner as she would submit to the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul consistently taught that the marriage relationship is to serve as a living picture of Christ’s relationship to the Church (Ephesians 5:23). There should be no question that the marriage relationship between the husband and wife is to mirror the relationship of Christ to the Church. It should also be clearly evident from Scripture that the headship-submission is not culturally induced, but is an integral part of the marriage relationship by divine mandate.

The headship and submission roles also carry over to the local church. In fact, Paul used the household analogy when defining the order of the local New Testament church (1 Timothy 3:15). Male headship is to be the biblical norm for the local church (1 Timothy 2:8-3:7). With the family being the basic social unit with the establishment of male leadership, it should therefore not be shocking that men are to be elders or fathers of the larger local church family.

Just as there are certain codes of conduct set forth to govern the family, there are also principles pertaining to the governing of the church family as well. Paul wrote Timothy specific instructions on how the church is to be governed in his letter of First Timothy. Paul wrote certain instructions so that Timothy would “know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God”.

Of particular importance in the church’s social structure is the behavior of women within the church. Due to the influx of false teaching, it appears that traditional gender roles were being challenged, resulting in the women behaving in a manner unacceptable for Christian behavior. In 1Timothy 2:9-10, Paul addresses the issue of modest dress. 1 Timothy 2:11-14, Paul deals with the issue of submission in the church.

“11A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. 12But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. 13For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. 14And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.” (1 Timothy 2:11-14, NASB)

That passage should alone provide the answer to the question of women being elders. The prohibition clearly prohibits women from teaching and exercising authority over men. Women were encouraged to learn, but to do so under submission to the leadership authority of the teaching male elders. Women were also specifically forbidden to teach and lead men in the church. It is not that women are not allowed to teach at all. Women are encouraged to teach in other situations, such as instruction to the younger women in the church (Titus 2:3-5). It is just that they were not to be publicly teaching men in the church.

Discussion on this topic inevitably stirs up heated debate. But the restriction on women elders is not the result of personal opinion or cultural norm. Paul supports his restriction on women teaching and leading men based on the original order of creation.

“For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.” (1 Timothy 2:13-14, NASB)

The statement of the fact that Adam was created first, underscores that fact that God created man as “first among equals”. [Strauch, pg.60] God uniquely created man, equipping him with the physical, emotional and spiritual capacity to head the marital relationship. And it is also God’s design for the woman to complement Adam’s headship. It is no insignificant matter that God did not create Adam and Eve at the same time. God made the woman after the man, from the man and for the man. God brought her to the man and the man named her (Genesis 2:20-23; 1 Corinthians 11:8-9).

It is important to note that the Fall illustrates the necessity for preserving the distinctive creation differences between men and women. 1 Timothy 2:14 clearly explains that it was Eve and not Adam who fell into deception. Satan cleverly perceived that Eve was the weaker one who was vulnerable to being deceived (2 Corinthians 11:3; 1 Peter 3:7; 2 Timothy 3:6). It should be profoundly apparent that men are more suited for leadership by God’s design. Men are better suited for battling against subtle deceptive false teaching and doctrine twisting. It is also noteworthy that immediately following the prohibition against women leading men in 1 Timothy 2, he immediately launches into a discussion concerning the qualifications of those responsible for leadership in the church (1 Timothy 3:1-7). The phrase “the husband of one wife” (verse 2) and “one who manages his own house well” (verse 4) are clearly directed at men and not women.

1. Alexander Strauch, "Biblical Eldership: An Urgent Call to Restore Biblical Church Leadership", p. 55-61.

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