Once upon a time, a man decided he needed to get right with God… so he decides he’s going to read from the Bible everyday. But he doesn’t know much about the Bible… and has NO experience in looking for direction from the Bible.
Eventually he decides he will simply let the Bible decide what he ought to read. He will open his Bible randomly to a page and, with his eyes closed, he will drop his index finger onto the page where the Bible has opened… and this, he will have a message of direction from God through the Bible.
The very first verse he happened to turn to was Psalm 137:9 which says “Happy is the one who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.”
This guy isn’t sure how that applies to him, so he closes his eyes and tries again. This time the Bible fell open to Luke 10:37 where Jesus said: “Go, and do likewise.”
The man was quite upset and he did not know how he could ever obey that, so he decided to turn to one more place. Again he opened the Bible at random and to his horror his finger fell upon John 13:27 where Jesus says: “What you are about to do, do quickly.”
This method of randomly opening the Bible and claiming it is GOD speaking directly to you… can really send a mixed or erroneous message… because there’s no context. Those three Biblical statements are Scripture… they are real and they are only a PIECE of a point or a message God has preserved through the written Word. But if you only take a piece of Scripture… you can very easily make the Bible say whatever you want it to say.
That happened again this past week at a celebration of a man named John MacArthur serving 50 years as a pastor. The emcee of the event decided to play a game. He would say a phrase… and MacArthur was supposed to respond in a short, pithy response… just a word or two.
The emcee said “Beth Moore…”
MacArthur, after taking a good 30 seconds or so to think about his answer replied simply: “Go home.”
In case you aren’t sure who Beth Moore is, she “is a prominent evangelical Bible teacher, author and founder of Living Proof Ministries.” She is an excellent teacher, and best I can tell, she is on the mark theologically too. What she says, lines up with Scripture.
Well, back to MacArthur. He commented a minute or so later: “There is no case that can be made biblically for a woman preacher. Period. Paragraph. End of discussion.”
Later he added, “Just because you have the skill to sell jewelry on the TV sales channel doesn’t mean you should be preaching. There are people who have certain hawking skills, natural abilities to sell, they have energy and personality and all of that. That doesn’t qualify you to preach.”
The audience laughed and cheered with each of these pronouncements.
The idea that MacArthur and so many others are pushing here, is to “take literally” the Biblical passages where Paul says that women should be silent in church and not permitted to teach or have authority over a man.
Before we go very far…
Those words ARE in Scripture. But they’re being quoted without all the context… sort of like our deluded Bible reader in my story I started with.
One of the primary scriptures folks refer to when making claims like MacArthur did is First Timothy 2:8-15. I’m going walk and talk my way through those verses…
8 Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing.
OK… Verse 8 tells the men their focus in the Body of Christ, in the Church, is praying (to Whom? GOD!) And a warning that when you start getting angry in a church setting or start disputing and arguing in a church setting, then you’ve lost your focus. You’re like a train that is derailing… a nasty wreck is immanent. He says get back to focusing on the holiness and on reaching God in prayer. All that other male ego stuff just doesn’t belong in the church. Watch out for the one who always has to argue and watch pout for the one who always has to have the last word andwatch out for the one who looks for ways to bring division into the church.
The thing is, it’s not just MEN who get angry and start disputes and arguments and bullying others in the church is it? So why does Paul address it to men?
Here’s what I think is the reason. Paul, like he does in so many of his letters, is writing responses to questions that people wrote to him. And I THINK that Timothy, in the church he’s trying to pastor, is having trouble with some men who are feeding their anger and causing disputes… arguments and verbal sparring… and Paul specifically, for that situation, tells Timothy how to solve that situation with those specific people.
AND THEN in verses 9 and 10, he speaks to whatever questions Timothy has asked about the problems he’s having with some of the women in Timothy’s congregation…
9 I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, 10 but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.
Again, we don’t have the original letter that Paul received with the questions that he’s now responding to, but it’s pretty clear to me that there were women showing up who were dressed immodestly, trying to draw attention to themselves, when they should have been trying to draw closer to God… not draw the attention of the other people in the worship service.
Apparently, Timothy must have asked about women in leadership… and I think he must have been taking heat from some of the men who just want things to calm down… Maybe they’re tired of some of the women who were interrupting worship to ask questions or they’re up and down and back and forth… We don’t really know for sure… but we know they were being disruptive and we know that Paul felt the need to say they needed to be more modest and draw less attention. Part of his answer is that these women need to be quiet and just ask their questions later after worship.
But I think most of this next paragraph is for the guys who were complaining about the women in leadership positions… Let me keep reading and I’ll explain why…
11 A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. 15 But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.
But I don’t think this can be a literal principle for every woman everywhere for all of human history. Some is specifically for THOSE women in that ONE congregation in that one moment of history… But it also sounds like Paul’s rehearsing the arguments put out by those arguing and disruptive men from back in verse 8.
Follow verses 11-15…
- Should learn in quietness
- Should be submissive (to a man it seems)
- Cannot be permitted to teach men
- Cannot be permitted to be in authority over men
- Must be silent.
- WHY? Because Eve was created from the man and Eve’s the one who was deceived by the snake.
Up until now, from verses 11-14, it looks like Paul’s just nailing reason after reason that women ought to shut up and sit down… at least when the men are around.
Check out verse 15…
Understand, verse 15 is NOT a new thought. It is NOT a new paragraph. Rather, verse 15 sums up the paragraph we’ve been reading that started in verse 11… where Paul has been giving the reasons to silence those women. And the final reason that supports that argument?
15 But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.
The final reason to shut those women up and keep them out of the teaching positions and authority positions and preaching positions is: a women can be silenced because the way she has hope of getting saved is by having a baby… IF she’s good enough.
W H A T ? ? ? ! ! !
I believe wholeheartedly that we have either misread this silencing of women or else our theology is all wrong. For verses 11-14 to be taken literally as Paul’s reasons to silence women, then verse 15 has to be taken literally saying that no woman ever can get saved unless they have a baby… it says childbirth!! Not only is the pulpit forbidden to a woman, but so is the ALTAR! None of this believing in Jesus as Savior and Lord!
Rather, in the same way that an argument of logic will quote the oppositions’ foolish reasons to do something, so I believe Paul lists these STUPID arguments that say that a woman must be silenced and then takes those arguments to their ultimate end… I think he is taking the mens’ arguments against the women in their congregation to its furthest reaches by proving how ILLOGICAL their beliefs really are. To claim that a woman cannot be used by God is to diminish God… What kind of weak, helpless god do we have anyway?? The ONLY way a woman can be used by God is by having babies…
Paul highlights the stupidity and ignorance of that claim.
Silence the women??? Women can’t serve God??? What, is God not big enough or powerful enough to use a woman???
- It was GOD… who used Miriam, right alongside of Moses, prophetically explaining in poetry and in song the meaning of the exodus from slavery in Egypt…
- It was GOD… who used Deborah, who ran Israel and all of its 12 tribes… and she was speaking and exhorting and teaching and prophesying.
- It was GOD… who invited both the Israelite men and the Israelite women to take the same religious vows to become Nazarites…
- It was GOD… who went ahead of Esther, who saved the nation as a leader whom GOD had put in place in power “for such a time as this” to save the Jewish nation and was responsible for the prevention of the slaughter of her people, the Jews…
- It was GOD… that sent King Josiah of Judah to the prophetess Huldah, to seek out godly counsel for returning his nation and his people to God……
- It was GOD… who handpicked a young uunwed teenage girl named Mary, who literally carried the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the GOOD NEWS, and God even her used to share a prophetic song about her Son and what He would do…
- It was GOD… that led Paul and his band to Lydia, who was the first person in what we now call Europe to be saved and baptized… not by childbirth, but by believing in Jesus Christ, and being baptized by water and the Spirit…
- It was GOD… who used Priscilla, to correct and teach the male, missionary evangelist, named Apollos, who had been sharing the gospel but had some of the details a bit off…
- It was GOD… that led and directed Mary Magdellan, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and also the mother of Zebedee’s sons… to be there with Jesus every step of his ministry, caring for the ministry needs, taking care of finances, and caring for Jesus himself, and followed all the way to the cross, even when every male disciple but one had all run away in fear…
- It was GOD… who led those same two Marys who followed the burying of Jesus’ body in the tomb…
- And it was GOD… that used those same women on that very first Easter morning, when every single male follower of Christ was in hiding… God used those women to serve as the very first preachers of the GOOD NEWS that that HE IS RISEN!
- And when Jesus ascended to Heaven, Luke tells us in the book of Acts that the male disciples “all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers…”
- And, as we look ahead from the times of the Bible to our days, we read that it is God who “will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and your daughters will prophecy… Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days…”
And, just to be clear about what Paul was really saying about women in the church… He gave us the verse we are using as this month’s memory verse:
GALATIANS 3:28 (NIV)
“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
It is time for the Church of Jesus Christ to STOP being sexist, expecting that it is only the men who can be called and used by God. What a pathetic god you must believe in if God can’t even use his own creatures…
It is time for the Church of Jesus Christ to STOP being condescending, lording our maleness over the women that God Almighty gave us in the church for the betterment and blessing of the Church, according to God’s own will!
It is GOD who calls people, both men and women…
If you are one that has been part of the putting down of women, or the bullying of women, or even the discouraging of women in the church, REPENT! If God called them, and you are the one who keeps them back, it is GOD you are fighting against! You. Will. Lose. REPENT!
If you are a woman, or a man, who believes God is calling you into ministry… whether that be as a preacher, or the head of a ministry project or a ministry committee, come and bow yourself before God… Surrender yourself to God’s will and God’s way… say YES!
You can even come to the altar rail to pray… If you want, I’ll pray with you as well…
It is time for people, both men and women, to speak out in defense of our Christian sisters and what the Bible says about their freedom to teach, to preach, and to lead.
It is time for Christian male leaders who regularly debilitate, denigrate, and dismiss Christian women doing Kingdom work to be confronted and removed as nothing more than stumbling blocks that are hindering the ministry of the Church.
If you are a woman who doesn’t know Jesus as your Savior, the Bible does NOT mean you have to go have a baby in order to be saved… We read in Acts 16 that to be saved, you simply need to “Believe in the Lord Jesus…” You are welcome to come forward and talk with me and we’ll pray together.
Men, who don’t know Jesus as Savior… you are also invited to come and meet him.
The answer to a woman who is walking out the call of God in her life is not that she “Go Home” like this pompous radio preacher who mocks and scoffs one of Jesus Christ’s handpicked servants. But rather, we are to encourage those who hear God calling… to whatever ministry they’re being called to… whether they are male or female.