Bat For Lashes asked the question, “What’s a Girl To Do.” Obviously BLF was not satisfied with previous suggestions to women as to the answer to that burning question. It cannot be forgotten that Helen Reddy said, “I am woman hear me roar.” It has to also be remembered that Cyndi Lauper said, “Girls just wanna have fun.” While in ages past Connie Francis vowed to be “Where the Boys are,” and Tammy Wynnette had pledged to “Stand by [her] Man.” The question of women’s roles is not just a question limited to society where the roles of man and woman have become blurred in recent years, the question is one that has been and is still being tackled in our churches. While various social programs and laws offer solutions to the question in society at large, for the Christian the Bible is the place that holds the answer.
Moses recorded that God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (Genesis 2:18). The question that has to be answered is what kind of helper is the woman to be in the New Testament church? Are the churches to adopt a complimentarian or an egalitarian stance with regards to role of women in the church? According to John Piper “Confusion over the meaning of sexual personhood today is epidemic.” Piper went on to say, “it is a remarkable and telling observation that contemporary Christian feminists devote little attention to the definition of femininity and masculinity.” The roles of man and woman are set in place by the Bible.
The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet” (1 Timothy 2:12). In recent years this verse has come under attack by those who claim the verse deals with a problem specific to Ephesus, yet the Apostle Paul seems to have taken that out of the equation when he ties this teaching to the created order of Genesis 1 and 2: For Adam was formed first, then Eve (1 Timothy 2:13). Paul does not address a problem in Ephesus; He simply relies on Gods original creation. While Orthund writes, “Moses doubtless intends to imply the equality of the sexes, for both male and female display the glory of God’s image with equal brilliance: “. . . in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them,” G.C Steele writes:
The pattern of behavior advocated in the letters is not opposed to society so much as to individual desire; self-control is inculcated as the way for the church to survive as a corporate institution, and therefore it is understood as submission to the communal rules rather than to a personal ideal of conduct. The asceticism that is advocated is not in regard to food, drink, sexual activity, and family life, but rather subjection to the life of the community in which each person has their proper place.
Can they be equals and have their ‘proper place’ at the same time?
Writing to the church in Corinth concerning Spiritual Gifts, the Apostle Paul wrote, “But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose” (1 Corinthians 12:18). He went on to write, “On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable” (1 Corinthians 12:22). If a part is indispensible it must then be equal to other parts that are indispensible, yet at the same time have its proper place for it wouldn’t be the part that it is if it were not in its proper place: A kidney placed in the middle of a chest cannot function as a heart, yet it is equal to the heart in that the body couldn’t function as a whole if the kidney was not in its proper place. Equality and proper place can and do operate as one in the sense of the body as well as the Body of Christ.
Paul has set up a scenario where men are the head, women can’t teach men, but women can teach women and children (this last point is implied in 1 Timothy 2:12). Whereas Genesis 1 and 2 makes the case for equality, Paul puts the equality in its ‘proper place’. Wayne Grudem puts the restrictions on a woman’s role in the church into three categories: (1) Governing authority, (2) Bible teaching, and (3) public recognition. Grudem writes, “In fact, all the questions of application pertain to at least one of these areas.”
In chapter 3 of his first letter to Timothy, Paul gives qualifications for the leadership of a church. Paul says that an overseer should be “husband of one wife” (1 Timothy 3:2). It seems that If the office of overseer (what we now call an elder) could be a woman we would have some type of charge to the women in this context. Yet, it is missing. Hendriksen and Kistemaker wrote, “Accordingly, the meaning of our present passage (I Tim. 3:2) is simply this, that an overseer or elder must be a man of unquestioned morality, one who is entirely true and faithful to his one and only wife; one who, being married, does not in pagan fashion enter into an immoral relationship with another woman” (emphasis mine).
Paul then moves his discussion in 1st Timothy 3 to the qualifications of deacons. Paul starts his discussion on deacons in 1st Timothy 3:8 and concludes it in verse 13. In verse 12 he uses the same wording for deacons that he uses for elders: Husband of one wife. What is interesting is that in his discussion about deacons, in verse 11 he writes, “Their wives likewise must be dignified” (ESV). The New American Stand Bible translates it this way: Women must likewise be dignified. Either translation is a good translation of the Greek. Why in the middle of a discussion on deacons- who have to be the husband of one wife- would Paul insert instructions to women? Could it be that the early church had female deacons?
For the early churches in the Restoration Movement there were female deacons. Dr. Bobby Valentine records, “In 1835 Campbell wrote, ‘From Rom 16:1 as well as from 1 Tm 3:11 it appears that females were constituted deaconesses in the primitive church. Duties to females as well as to males demand this’ (“Order”, MH 1835, p. 507). He would write 18 years later, ‘The primitive church had also deacons. Such was Phoebe, of Cenchrea’ (“Church Organization #2″ MH 1853, p. 185).” On the office of deacons, D.K. Pendleton asserted, “Besides Deacons, every church should have Deaconesses, whose duty it is to perform such offices as cannot be so well performed by deacons, and especially such to females, as could not with delicacy and propriety be laid upon the deacons. This both Scripture and decency require.” Was Paul suggesting there was an official office of deaconess?
While both women as well as wives are acceptable translations of the Greek word ????????, it is a safe assumption that Paul was not speaking of an official office, but the conduct of the wives of deacons. It can be deduced from Paul’s writing ‘husband of one wife’ and no instruction to the women to be the ‘wife of one husband,’ that he was not giving instructions for an official office. It seems only logical that there would be times when a woman may have some type of problem that she was more comfortable with another female helping with. Who better than a deacons wife to serve in this capacity? But, if Campbell and Pendleton were right, it has to be remembered that the role of a deacon is one of serving. Paul’s instruction were that a women could not have authority over a man: A servant rarely has authority over those he serves.
There can be no denying that in the churches today women serve. Granted, it might not be in an official capacity, but they serve. They teach our children. They minister to other ladies (as well as teaching them). While there is a Biblical prohibition due to the order of creation placed on women having an official office, our women serve. The Bible takes a stance that there is equality between man and woman while at the same time asserting there are differences in the roles they fill.
Until next time May The Good Lord Bless And Keep You: All Y’all!
The Tribe Of Jesus
North Carolina, USA
 John Piper quoted in Wayne Grudem, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism (Good News Publishers/Crossways Books: Kindle Edition, 2006), 3.
 Andreasa Kostenberger and Terry Wilder, Entrusted With The Gospel (B&H Academic: Kindle Edition, 2010), 304.
 Wayne Grudem, ‘But What Should Women Do in The Church’ Journal For Biblical Manhood and Womanhood Volume 1 (Louisville: Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, 1995)
W. Hendriksen and S.J. Kistemaker, Vol. 4: New Testament commentary : Exposition of the Pastoral Epistles New Testament Commentary (121). (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953-2001), 121.