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Bible Commentaries
1 Timothy

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

- 1 Timothy

by Thomas Constable



Timothy apparently became a Christian as a result of Paul’s missionary work in Lystra (Act_14:6-23). He joined Paul on the second missionary journey when the apostle’s evangelistic team passed through that area where Timothy lived (Act_16:1-3). On the second journey Timothy helped Paul in Troas, Philippi, Berea, Thessalonica, Athens, and Corinth. During the third journey he was with Paul in Ephesus. From there Paul sent him to Macedonia (Act_19:22). Later he was with Paul in Macedonia (2Co_1:1; 2Co_1:19) and apparently traveled with the apostle to Corinth (Rom_16:21). On the return trip to Ephesus, Timothy accompanied Paul through Macedonia as far as Troas (Act_20:3-6). Still later Timothy was with Paul in Rome (Col_1:1; Phm_1:1; Php_1:1), and from there he probably made a trip to Philippi (Php_2:19-23).

At the end of the Book of Acts, Paul was under house arrest in Rome (Act_28:30-31). Our knowledge of his activities after that time comes mainly from scanty references in his epistles and conjectures since we have no canonical history of this part of his work.

Following his trial before Caesar and his acquittal, Paul evidently left Rome. He made his way eastward and eventually arrived in Ephesus. While in Ephesus Paul doubtless visited other churches in the area and later set out for Macedonia and probably for other provinces intending to continue his pioneer missionary work (cf. Rom_15:24; Rom_15:28). When Paul departed from Ephesus he left Timothy in charge as his special representative to continue the work there (1Ti_1:3). Sometime after that Timothy evidently wrote to Paul, probably asking if he could leave Ephesus, perhaps to rejoin Paul. Paul responded with this letter in which he instructed Timothy to remain in Ephesus and to continue his needed ministry until Paul would rejoin him there (1Ti_3:14; 1Ti_4:13).

"As the first-century churches increased in number, questions of church order, soundness in the faith, and discipline arose. The apostles themselves dealt with these questions, but the approaching end of the apostolic period made necessary authoritative teaching about faith and order for the future guidance of the churches. This teaching is revealed in the Pastoral Epistles." [Note: The New Scofield Reference Bible, p. 1297.]

Timothy’s function in Ephesus was to represent Paul to the church. "The church" in Ephesus at this time would have consisted of a number of house-churches (cf. 1Co_16:19). He evidently was not an elder in that church. Paul spoke of the Ephesian elders in this epistle as individuals different from Timothy.

When Paul had met with the Ephesian elders toward the end of his third missionary journey, he had warned them about false teachers who would arise in their midst (Act_20:29-30). This situation had happened (cf. 1Ti_1:6; 1Ti_6:21; 2Ti_2:18). Evidently Hymenaeus and Alexander were two of those "wolves" (1Ti_1:20). Paul alluded to others in this epistle as well (1Ti_1:3-11; 1Ti_4:1-5; 1Ti_6:3-10). We shall consider their errors in the exposition to follow.

If Caesar released Paul from prison in Rome about A.D. 62, he may have written this epistle in the middle 60s, perhaps A.D. 63-66. Paul’s reference to his going from Ephesus to Macedonia (1Ti_1:3) suggests that he may have been in Macedonia when he wrote 1 Timothy. Nevertheless, since we have no other references to guide us, he could have been in any one of a number of other provinces as well.

The authorship of the Pastorals is a major critical problem in New Testament studies, but I believe the arguments for Pauline authorship are most convincing. [Note: See Donald A. Carson and Douglas J. Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament, pp. 554-68.] Since the nineteenth century, scholars have attacked the Pauline authorship of the Pastoral Epistles more than the Pauline authorship of any of the apostle’s other writings. This is an introductory problem that may be studied by referring to the major commentaries on the Pastorals and to the more comprehensive New Testament Introductions. [Note: See, for example, William D. Mounce, Pastoral Epistles, pp. lxxxiii-cxxix; Donald Guthrie, The Pastoral Epistles: An Introduction and Commentary, pp. 15-53; and Philip H. Towner, The Letters to Timothy and Titus, p. 3. A. Duane Litfin, "1 Timothy," in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: New Testament, pp. 727-29; and A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, 4:555-57; wrote good short discussions.] William Mounce argued for Luke being Paul’s amanuensis in all three Pastoral Epistles. [Note: Mounce, pp. cxxvii-cxix.] But that is impossible to prove.

"The majority of modern scholars maintain that the Pastoral Epistles are pseudepigraphical-that is, written pseudonymously (in Paul’s name) sometime after Paul’s death (so Dibelius and Conzelmann, Brox, Barrett, Hanson, Houlden, Karris, Hultgren). Most today locate these three letters around the turn of the century, suggesting that the author aimed to revive Pauline teaching for his day or to compose a definitive and authoritative Pauline manual for denouncing heresy in the postapostolic church." [Note: Philip H. Towner, 1-2 Timothy & Titus, p. 15.]


First and 2 Timothy and Titus are called "Pastoral Epistles" because Paul wrote them to pastors (shepherds) of churches outlining their pastoral duties. The term "Pastoral Epistles" appeared first in the eighteenth century, though as early as the second century they had been grouped together within the Pauline corpus. [Note: Idem, The Letters . . ., p. 1.] These leaders’ main pastoral duties were to defend sound doctrine and to maintain sound discipline. [Note: Ralph Earle, "1 Timothy," in Ephesians-Philemon, vol. 11 of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, p. 344.]

"The pastoral Epistles are primarily practical rather than theological. The emphasis lies rather on the defense of doctrine than on its explication or elaboration. The distinctively doctrinal passages comprise only a small part of the whole; Timothy and Titus had already been instructed." [Note: Ibid., p. 345.]

"It may be time to say farewell to the nomenclature ’the Pastoral Epistles.’ This term, which many trace back to Paul Anton in the eighteenth century, has become something of a restraining device. Its use to describe the contents of the letters is benign enough, but the assumptions about the letters and their intention on which it rests already betray a tendency toward restraint.

"The term PE [Pastoral Epistles] is no longer helpful, even if it is convenient, for what is gained by economy of reference is more than lost by the weight of the baggage the term has accumulated along the way." [Note: Towner, The Letters . . ., pp. 88, 89.]

Towner believed that by grouping these three epistles together as "the Pastoral Epistles" and treating them as a unit the church has strayed from interpreting each one as an individual epistle. He acknowledged that these three have certain characteristics in common, but he felt that interpreting them together as a unit does more harm than good. Several of Paul’s other epistles are equally as pastoral as these three, though, granted, these three deal with pastoral leadership issues.

"There are . . . several reasons that Paul wrote the first epistle to Timothy: (a) to encourage Timothy to stay on at Ephesus and deal with the significant and difficult issues that had arisen; (b) to provide authoritative instruction on how the household of God was to conduct itself in case Paul delayed in coming; and (c) to combat directly the opponents and their teaching and to remind Timothy of how he was to conduct himself and what he was to teach. The underlying purpose was then to encourage Timothy in his work but also to transfer Paul’s authority to Timothy in his fight against the opponents." [Note: Mounce, p. lix.]

Major themes in the Pastorals are faith, savior (salvation), good works, rebuke, personal integrity, the gospel, ethics, eschatology, and church order. [Note: Ibid., pp. cxxx-cxxxv; Gordon D. Fee, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, pp. 14-23; Towner, The Letters . . ., pp. 53-62.]


I.    Salutation 1Ti_1:1-2

II.    Timothy’s mission in Ephesus 1Ti_1:3-20

A.    The task Timothy faced 1Ti_1:3-11

B.    Exhortations to be faithful 1Ti_1:12-20

1.    A positive encouragement 1Ti_1:12-17

2.    A negative warning 1Ti_1:18-20

III.    Instructions concerning the life of the local church 1Ti_2:1 to 1Ti_4:5

A.    The priority of prayer for peoples’ salvation 1Ti_2:1-7

B.    The primary responsibilities of the men and the women in church meetings 1Ti_2:8-15

C.    The qualifications for church leaders 1Ti_3:1-13

1.    Qualifications for elders 1Ti_3:1-7

2.    Qualifications for deacons 1Ti_3:8-13

D.    The nature of the local church 1Ti_3:14-16

E.    The problem of apostasy in the church 1Ti_4:1-5

IV.    Instructions concerning leadership of the local church 1Ti_4:6 to 1Ti_5:25

A.    The leader’s personal life and public ministry 1Ti_4:6-16

B.    Basic principles of effective interpersonal relationships 1Ti_5:1-2

C.    How to deal with widows and elders 1Ti_5:3-25

1.    Provisions for widows 1Ti_5:3-16

2.    The discipline and selection of elders 1Ti_5:17-25

V.    Instructions for groups within the church 1Ti_6:1-19

A.    Slaves 1Ti_6:1-2

B.    False teachers 1Ti_6:3-10

C.    Those committed to Christ 1Ti_6:11-16

D.    The wealthy 1Ti_6:17-19

VI.    Concluding charge and benediction 1Ti_6:20-21

Appendix 1

Women and Ministry [Note: This material is essentially a condensation of parts of Man and Women in Biblical Pespective, by James B. Hurley.]

The following information comes with the hope that it will enable the reader to make good decisions in the "gray areas" of biblical interpretation, especially those pertaining to the ministry of women.

Preliminary Considerations

Ancient Israel, Assyria, and Babylonia were all patriarchal societies, and the basic kinship unit of each was the tribe or clan rather than the nuclear family. In Israel women enjoyed respect as individuals, and the Mosaic Law protected their personal rights. Inheritances passed through the males, but women could inherit if no male was present. Women participated in public and private worship. In patriarchal times the male family head led in family worship, and under the Mosaic Law only males of the tribe of Levi and the clan of Aaron served as priests. God excluded other males and all females from the priesthood. Women participated in social and business life with men, but their contracts were subject to the ratification of their husbands. Women served as prophetess and even queen with no condemnation for their roles, but examples of these cases are rare.

In Jesus’ day Judaism viewed women as both subordinate and inferior. The religious leaders discouraged men from communicating with women because they thought they might lead men astray. They encouraged women to stay in their homes and to wear veils in public for the same reason. However within the home Jewish men often valued their wives and loved them tenderly. Commonly Jewish men believed that women could not and should not learn about religious matters. Women could attend public worship, but only the men conducted civil matters.

Within Greco-Roman first-century culture there was much diversity. Older Greeks viewed women as inferior and useful only for labor, pleasure, or childbearing. Among the wealthier Romans and Greeks women often received education, they could inherit, and they enjoyed social acceptability. Lower class Romans and Greeks did not educate their women and regarded them as more servile.

Jesus gave women a higher place than did His contemporary Jews. He did not choose women as His disciples or apostles, but, in contrast to the rabbis, He did permit them to accompany Him, minister to His needs, and learn from Him. He regarded women as needing His message as much as men. Moreover He did not deal with them in a condescending manner. His position on divorce granted women more protection than did the Mosaic Law (i.e., permanent marriage with few exceptions).

The apostles perpetuated Jesus’ attitude toward women. The church incorporated women into the body of believers, considered them able to learn, and taught them the truths of the faith. They played a significant role in the church’s expansion. They assisted the apostles as they had assisted the Lord. The early Christians held marriage in high esteem and considered it a permanent commitment. As was also true in Jesus’ teaching, the apostles viewed celibacy as a valid, though not a superior, calling. They saw headship in the church as existing to serve those under authority, not for the personal benefit of those in leadership.

The early church viewed the marriage relationship as a vehicle to reflect the relationship between God and the believer. The husband was to practice loving commitment to his wife for her welfare. The wife was to respond to her husband’s leadership as the church does to Christ’s. Together the husband and wife glorify God by demonstrating God’s love and the proper human response.

The apostles taught that the headship of the man should be observable in the church as well as in the home. Since creation, men have been responsible for the spiritual welfare of God’s people. In the church the elders have this responsibility. Men alone practiced activities that involved the exercise of elder authority. These included fostering the spiritual growth of the church, ensuring the faithful teaching of God’s truth, and serving as Christ’s under-shepherds for the welfare of the flock. However women could act and serve in other areas. They carried out a wide-ranging ministry to the body of Christ. Evidently women served as deaconesses. Sexual differences were not a factor in ministry except when it came to the authoritative teaching and disciplinary power of the elder.

In Israel in both the patriarchal and Mosaic periods God appointed certain males to lead His people. That is, no females and not all males could serve as priests. Only some males functioned as priests. Therefore women as a sex were not genetically subordinate to men as a sex in the matter of religious authority. God selected only certain men to nurture and teach His people. The whole congregation received the service of certain persons, male and female, whom God had chosen to lead in meeting physical needs including prophetesses, queens, and deaconesses in the church. Nurture, teaching, and serving others were not ministries reserved exclusively to priests in the old economy and elders in the new. What is distinctive about those positions is their formal role and responsibility.

There were problems in the relationships of believers in the past just as there are in the present. In the Corinthian church, for example, some of the women wanted to reject any differences from the men. Men and women were jealous of their brothers and sisters, and carnality was common. They had incorrect perceptions of what was an important role in the body. Paul had to remind them that their purpose should be to build up one another.

Proper Procedure

In trying to determine what to do in specific situations involving women and ministry there are several factors that we must consider. We need to do so to make sure what we do is pleasing to God and right for others (i.e., Christian ethics). We must consider what God has revealed, His moral standards. We must also make sure we understand the situation encompassing the decision accurately, its context. Third, we must take care that we are doing the right thing for the right reasons, our motivation.

It is difficult to make decisions involving the will of God because our knowledge is imperfect and other people may not share our perceptions.

One of the problems of perceiving the situation properly involves the question of what "headship" entails. Good people disagree on this fundamental point. Consequently they have come up with diverse positions on the proper role relationships of men and women.

Headship is largely an issue of authority. Some have erred by equating authority with the right to command. This is a selfish view. Biblical headship always involves building up others. Furthermore authority always includes the element of delegation. A leader who refuses to delegate is not using his authority properly. In the family some men feel their authority is incomplete if they do not personally make all the decisions. This demonstrates a failure to understand the nature of headship. Headship should take into account the needs and abilities of those for whose sake those in authority make decisions. Headship also involves providing an example for those under one’s authority.

Another problem of definition involves the meaning of teaching or exercising authority over a man. We have more precisely defined role relationships for headship in the church as compared to headship in the family. How much delegation of authority did God intend in the work of an elder? Obviously He intended some including teaching and church discipline. Where along the continuum of teaching, for example, does a woman fit in? The scriptural precepts are that women can teach (1Co_14:26) but are not to exercise authority over a man (1Ti_2:11-12). What she can and cannot do within these parameters is the question. People differ because they understand Scripture differently, they see the significance of the issues involved differently, and they have different motives.

Principles for Making Decisions

One principle taught in Scripture is that in the marriage relationship the husband is to be the self-sacrificing head and the wife the submissive respondent.

Second, the pattern of representative male leadership for God’s people in matters of teaching, ruling, and nurturing had been God’s will from the creation of Adam and Eve throughout history.

Third, restrictions on the office of elder in the church do not apply to all other religious activities. Men and women serve on the same footing outside the office of elder.

Fourth, in both Israel and the church the appointive headship of certain men does not apply outside marriage and the church. There is no biblical restriction on the roles of the sexes in social and civic life.

Fifth, leaders must actively desire the welfare of those they lead.

In addition to these clear normative standards, the Bible also urges proper motivation: love for God and our neighbors.

Applying the Principles

At this point we must bring the actual situation into consideration to do the will of God. We must examine the biblical principles in the light of the realities of life. It is not that the situation determines our ethics. However the situations must affect the application of biblical principles as the surface of a putting green must affect how you stroke a golf ball.

The following guidelines are helpful in evaluating the context of any sort of action in a "gray area."

Concerning scriptural revelation, does the Bible expressly prohibit or permit the activity? Often we can answer the question at this level, but it is vital to proceed on.

Concerning the actual situation, does the activity effectively overthrow a biblical norm or motive but escape censure on a technicality of definition? Is the activity in keeping with the obvious purpose of Scripture, but prevented by a technicality of definition? The spirit must always receive preference over the letter.

Concerning how others will perceive the activity, is it likely to lead to misunderstanding or will others see it in such a way that it leads to confusion or becomes a stumbling-block? Can we explain it sufficiently so that it is not likely that others will misunderstand or stumble? Our actions must not only be right, but other normal people must also perceive them as proper.

Appendix 2

Women in the Church: Biblical Data Report

An Ad Hoc Faculty Committee on the Admission of Women to Dallas Theological Seminary prepared this survey of the biblical data pertaining to the participation of women in the worship and service of God between 1984 and 1987. The committee based this report on the premise that the faculty and administration should design and administer the curricular offerings and degree programs at Dallas Seminary in a manner consistent with a valid understanding and application of Scripture.

I. Woman at Creation

A.    Woman has personal equality with man as an image-bearer of God (Gen_1:27-28; Gen_5:1).

Allowing for biological distinctives a woman has the same human nature, qualities and abilities as a man. Maleness and femaleness, though distinct, are fully harmonized (Gen_1:28; Psa_8:4-8; 1 Corinthians 11-12).

B.    Woman has a distinctive role function within this equality (Gen_2:18).

The priority of the male in creation reflects God’s appointed order for His creation not male superiority. Man has the responsibility of headship (cf. 1Co_11:3; Eph_5:21), and woman has the responsibility of being a "fitting helper" (Gen_2:18). Each supplies what is lacking in the other. They are complementary because they are distinct.


II. Woman at the Fall

The superiority of male over female is first mentioned in Scripture as an inevitable consequence of sin not as an inherent quality or right. In the post-Fall order of things God said man would exploit woman’s natural "helpmate desire" toward him, or more probably, he would retaliate in the face of her "desire" (cf. Gen_4:7) to dominate and lead him in order to dominate and subjugate her (Gen_3:16 b). The subjugation of either women or men is a symptom of mankind’s fallen nature (cf. e.g., pagan religions).


III. Women in Old Testament Times Until the Time of Jesus

A.    Women served in the doorway of the Tabernacle (Exo_38:8; 1Sa_2:22).

The same word (saba) is used of their work as that of the Levites. These women were probably widows who devoted themselves to the service of God.

B.    Miriam, a prophetess, and all the women with her gave public praise to God (Exo_15:20-21).

Apparently, she also had some leadership role along with Moses and Aaron (Mic_6:4).

C.    Deborah was a prophetess and also a judge in Israel (Judges 4-5).

She and Barak sang a song of praise for God’s deliverance which is recorded for both men and women to read (Judges 5).

D.    Hannah prayed in the house of the Lord, and her prayer of thanksgiving was recorded for both men and women to read (1Sa_1:9 to 1Sa_2:10).

E.    Huldah was a prophetess who prophesied before the high priest and the men of King Josiah (2Ki_22:8-20; cf. 2Ki_22:3 with Jer_1:2).

F.    Many women sang in the temple choirs (1Ch_25:5-7; Neh_7:66-67).

G.    Many women had an important part to play in proclaiming the Lord’s Word (Psa_68:11).

H.    Though a few women served as civil rulers in Israel (e.g., Deborah) there is no record of a female priest or high priest.

I.    The prophet Joel predicted that one day "your sons and daughters will prophesy" (Joe_2:28-32; cf. Act_2:16-18).

J.    The Virgin Mary’s praise to God is recorded for both men and women to read (Luk_1:46-55).

K.    Anna was a prophetess who served in the temple night and day with fastings and prayers (Luk_2:36-38).


IV. Women in the Ministry and Teaching of Jesus

A.    A loyal group of women accompanied Jesus and served Him on His ministry tours (Luk_8:1-3; Mat_27:55; Mar_15:41).

B.    In contrast to normal custom and rabbinic standards, Jesus spoke with a Samaritan woman and revealed to her the nature of true worship (Joh_4:7-26).

C.    Jesus cared equally for the physical infirmities of women (Mar_1:29-31; Mar_5:25-34), and He drew attention to the devotion of an unnamed poor widow to teach a lesson in discipleship (Mar_12:41-44).

D.    He permitted Mary, Lazarus’ sister, to sit at His feet and learn--a privilege granted only to men at that time (Luk_10:42).

E.    Women who had been healed by Jesus praised God publicly in the synagogue (Luk_13:13).

F.    In a male-dominated culture, Jesus redressed legal situations which were weighted against women (cf. Mat_19:9-10; Mar_10:11-12).

G.    Though Jesus had both male and female disciples, all twelve original apostles were men (Mat_10:1-4; Mar_3:13-19).

H.    Jesus entrusted women with the high privilege of carrying the news of His resurrection to His twelve disciples (Mar_16:6-8; Luk_24:11).

I.    Mary Magdalene was one of the first people to see Jesus as the risen Lord (Joh_20:11-18).

J.    Jesus’ charge to evangelism and discipleship given to the apostles applies to the church at large with reference to all believers, men and women (Mat_28:19-20; Mar_16:15-16; Act_1:8).


V. Women in the Life and Ministry of the Early Church

A.    The Holy Spirit fell on men and women on the Day of Pentecost (Act_2:1-4).

B.    Women prayed with men (Act_1:14; Act_12:12).

C.    Women had various ministries of hospitality, service and good works (Dorcas, Act_9:36; Mary, the mother of Mark, Act_12:12; Lydia, Act_16:14-15).

D.    Priscilla and Aquila took Apollos aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately (Act_18:26-28).

E.    The Holy Spirit used women as His prophetic mouthpiece (Philip’s four daughters were prophetesses, Act_21:8-9).

Overall, it appears that women took as active a part in the life and ministry of the church as men.


VI. Women in the Ministry and Teaching of Paul and Peter

A.    Paul affirms the personal equality of man and woman in the new creation by stating that in Christ there is "neither male nor female" (Gal_3:28).

A woman obtains salvation by faith exactly as a man does (Eph_2:8-9; 1Pe_1:18-19), and both are co-heirs of the grace of life despite some physical limitations a woman has as one who has "the weaker [feminine] vessel [body]" (1Pe_3:7).

Like a man, she is indwelt by the Holy Spirit (Rom_8:9 b), and her body also serves as a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit (1Co_6:19-20). In the new creation she has equal standing before God (Rom_5:1-2) and man and woman are interdependent (1Co_11:11-12).

B.    A woman has access to God in prayer as does a man (1Co_11:4-5; 1Co_11:13); she is nurtured by His Word as is a man (1Pe_2:2); and she enjoys the privileges and responsibilities of the priesthood of all believers (1Pe_2:5; 1Pe_2:9; 1Pe_3:7; Rev_1:6 a).

C.    In Christ a woman is given the same spiritual gifts available to men today, including pastoring, teaching and evangelism (1Co_12:7-11; 1Co_12:27-31; Rom_12:3-8; 1Pe_4:10-11).

The Holy Spirit sovereignly distributes spiritual gifts (1Co_12:11). They are given in order that all believers might use them to glorify God (1Pe_4:10-11) and to equip and build up the body of Christ (Eph_4:12-16). They are to be exercised for the common good and according to God’s established order (1Co_12:7; 1Co_14:26-40). A spiritual gift is not the same thing as a church office.

D.    Paul recognized that the Holy Spirit used women as His prophetic mouthpiece (1Co_11:5).

E.    Paul instructed older women to teach younger women and children (cf. 2Ti_1:5 with 1Ti_3:14-15; ch. Pro_1:8; Tit_2:3-5).

F.    Women had ministries of hospitality, good works and service (1Co_16:19; Col_4:15; 1Ti_2:10; 1Ti_5:9-10).

G.    Paul encouraged both unmarried men and women to remain single and devote themselves to the Lord’s service (1Co_7:32-34).

H.    Euodia and Syntyche were co-workers with Paul (Php_4:2-3).

I.    In Romans 16, 10 out of the 29 people Paul commended for loyal service were women (Romans 16; cf. 1Co_9:5). No distinction in service or status is implied.

Phoebe is called a "deacon (servant) of the church" (Rom_16:1). Andronicus and Junia (feminine), Paul’s kinsmen and fellow-prisoners, were said to be "outstanding among the apostles who also were in Christ before me" (Rom_16:7).

J.    Within the framework of the personal equality of man and woman God has established a functional order in which man has the responsibility of headship (leadership) in both the home and church (1Co_11:3; 1Co_11:8-9; 1Co_14:34-36; Eph_5:23; Col_3:18; 1Ti_2:11-12; 1Pe_3:1-7), and woman has the responsibility of willing submission in recognition of God’s order (Eph_5:22-24; Col_3:18; 1Pe_3:1).

Functional submission in these spheres is not inconsistent or incompatible with personal (ontological) equality in Christ. The two must exist side by side just as God instituted them originally.

One primary means by which woman glorifies God is through being the "glory of man" (1Co_11:7), that is, by fulfilling her responsibility given at creation of voluntarily submitting herself to the headship of man.

In the New Testament, the headship-submission relationship relates to the home and the church. All women are not subject to all men.

K.    Paul’s list of elder qualifications indicates that the office of elder/pastor is limited to men, and this office, with its commensurate authority, is conferred by the local church (1Ti_3:1-7; Tit_1:5-9; 1Pe_5:1-4).

Consequently, the directing/ruling function of the local church is reserved for men. There are no examples of "ordained" women elders in the Scriptures, nor are they encouraged to seek such an office. Nevertheless, elders may delegate certain responsibilities to various church members, both men and women.

L.    Whether the office of deacon is open to women is debated. The primary passage which raises this issue is 1Ti_3:11. There are three major interpretations of this verse:

1.    The women mentioned are unmarried assistants to male deacons. [Note: Robert M. Lewis, "The ’Women’ of 1 Timothy 3:11," Bibliotheca Sacra 136:542 (April-June 1979):167-75.]

2.    The women mentioned are the wives of male deacons. [Note: Charles C. Ryrie, The Place of Women in the Church, p. 91; C. K. Barrett, The Pastoral Epistles in the New English Bible, p. 61.]

3.    The women mentioned are a select group of female deacons within the church. [Note: James B. Hurley, Man and Woman in Biblical Perspective, pp. 229-31, and the majority of commentators.]

The second and third views seem more probable, and both handle the data adequately. Whether or not they held the office of deacon in New Testament times, it is clear that women fulfilled many of its functions (cf. 1Ti_2:10; 1Ti_5:9-10; Act_9:36).

Phoebe may have been a recognized deacon of the church in Cenchrea (Rom_16:1-2). If so, this would indicate that both men and women served in this office. However, since she was probably a wealthy social leader in the city, she may have been simply an unofficial patroness of the church.

M.    Since the function of teaching is a spiritual gift and not an office of the church, it is available to both men and women (Rom_12:7; 1Co_12:28-29).

The question, however, is not whether a woman may teach but whom she may teach and in what setting. Three Pauline passages speak to this issue: 1Co_11:2-16; 1Co_14:26; 1Co_14:34-36; and 1Ti_2:9-12. The interpretation and application of these passages continue to evoke considerable debate in evangelical circles. It is generally agreed that these verses primarily refer to activities within the context of corporate worship.

1.    1Co_11:2-16; 1Co_14:26

On two occasions Paul mentioned specific situations in which a woman may speak in corporate worship (1Co_11:5; 1Co_14:26).

In 1 Corinthians 11, Paul instructs a woman to have a sign of authority on her head (1Co_11:10) when she prays and prophesies in order to demonstrate her submission to God’s established order in the church. Some argue that "authority on her head" refers to the authority of a woman herself to exercise her spiritual gifts within the divinely ordained order and not to a sign of another’s authority over her. [Note: Morna Hooker, "Authority on Her Head: An Examination of 1 Corinthians 11:10," New Testament Studies 10 (1963-64):410-16.]

The nature of this sign of authority in Paul’s day is difficult to determine, but it is usually interpreted in one of two ways:

a.    It may refer to the practice of wearing veils in corporate worship since some sort of head covering seems to be indicated in the passage, even though the term "veil" does not occur in the Greek text. [Note: Bruce K. Waltke, "1 Corinthians 11:2-16: An Interpretation," Bibliotheca Sacra 135:537 (January-March 1978):46-57.]

b.    It may refer to a woman’s long hair which, when properly fastened, would serve in place of a head covering (1Co_11:15), reflecting her submission to God’s established order in the church. [Note: Hurley, pp.184-86.]

This raises the hermeneutical problem of cultural relativity with its corresponding adaptations. Unchanging truths about God and His will are applied in a variety of cultural and situational contexts within Scripture itself. It is generally recognized, especially by dispensationalists, that not all biblical teaching about conduct is normative for behavior today. Some applications of biblical principles are restricted to a limited audience. Scripture itself must specify the nature and extent of this restriction in some way and biblical theology confirms it.

One task of exegesis that is widely practiced but lacks widely accepted definitive criteria is to distinguish universal, unchanging, normative truths from recorded applications, which are local, temporary and subject to changing situations. To fail to see how a particular application of a normative principle has been culturally conditioned or to treat a normative principle as culturally relative would both be mistakes. How to make this distinction and do it accurately needs further thought and discussion

Many interpreters agree that the normative principle in 1 Corinthians 11 is that a woman, while praying and prophesying, is to show her acceptance of and submission to God’s ordering of His creation (1Co_11:7-13). Accordingly, the application of this principle here is culturally conditioned. In Paul’s day, it was expressed by the head covering, which was necessitated by first-century culture (1Co_11:16). Our culture has no consistent, corresponding custom. However, a woman’s hair naturally serves in the place of a head covering, and the normative principle of a submissive spirit remains constant.

Some, however, would argue that the head covering is not simply a particular application of a normative principle and therefore culturally determined; but is, in fact, part of the normative principle itself and thus normative practice since Paul appeals to creation order in his argument. But one must consider whether Paul used the creation account to substantiate male headship or a female head-covering.

2.    1Co_14:34-35

In light of 1Co_11:5; 1Co_14:26, it is reasonable to suggest that 1Co_14:34-35 does not mean that women are to be absolutely silent at all times during corporate worship. Of several interrelations of this passage two of the most common are also the most probable.

a.    Paul’s prohibition is against women speaking out to teach men in corporate worship (cf. 1Ti_2:11-12). [Note: Knight, The New . . ., pp. 36-37.]

b.    Paul’s prohibition is against women evaluating the utterances of the prophets in corporate worship since this evaluation would involve an exercise of authority which would go against the requirement of submission to male headship (1Co_11:2-6; 1Ti_2:11-15). [Note: Hurley, pp. 188-94.]

Both interpretations have merit, but the latter one fits the context of 1Co_14:26-35 better. As shown above, the Law did not prohibit prayer and praise by women in public worship. Consequently, Paul’s reference to the Law (1Co_14:34) is probably a reference to the creation account and God’s established creation order as it is now to be exhibited in the local church.

3.    1Ti_2:9-15

In verses 9 and 10 Paul directed that a woman’s dress and behavior should be appropriate when she engages in corporate worship so that in attitude, appearance, or conduct she does not give the impression that she rejects God’s established order of male headship in this sphere.

In verse 11, he asserted that women are to receive instruction in corporate worship with a quiet and submissive spirit. If they do this, they will have less difficulty obeying Paul’s command in verse 12 to neither teach nor have authority over a man in public worship. This is not Paul’s narrow opinion or an over-reaction to a local church problem at Ephesus. [Note: See Douglas Moo, "1 Timothy 2:11-15: Meaning and Significance," Trinity Journal 1 NS:1 (Summer 1980):62-83.]

The reason for Paul’s prohibition is twofold:

a.    Adam was formed before Eve (1Ti_2:13)-a reference to God’s established order in creation and the principle of headship (Gen_2:21-22).

There is a proper kind and order of leadership in the new creation as well as in the old prior to and following the Fall.

b.    Eve was genuinely deceived by Satan; whereas Adam was willfully disobedient to God’s command (1Ti_2:14).

She acted on her own initiative and was deceived. Paul did not wish Eve’s error to be repeated in the church. Thus, a woman-no matter how gifted or capable-is not "to have authority" (not just "to usurp authority," KJV) that properly belongs to a man in this sphere. This is simply God’s established order. Paul did not mean that a woman is inherently less intelligent or more easily deceived than a man and so cannot teach or lead. Male headship itself has not preserved the church from heresy. Neither did Paul mean that sin in the human race is the fault of a woman (cf. Rom_5:12-21).

Despite her equal standing in Christ, a woman should not despise the key role assigned to her-childbearing and childrearing-and should use it as an opportunity to glorify God. Her unique ability to bear and nurture life is evidence of God’s favor upon her. In so doing she will work out her salvation in God’s ordered plan and will reap eternal reward (1Ti_2:15).

Though women are forbidden to teach men in corporate worship they can always teach women and children (Tit_2:3-5) and give instruction to men as well at least privately as Priscilla and Aquila did with Apollos (Act_18:26).

Several questions remain.

a.    What constitutes teaching in the worship service of the church?-a testimony, a devotional, a missionary report, singing a solo, or reading a passage of Scripture?

b.    Does a woman violate Paul’s injunction if the elders of her church, realizing she is a competent teacher, agree that she should teach the whole church, men included, in the area of her competence which may or may not involve the direct exposition of Scripture?

c.    Can a woman teach men in settings apart from local church worship or church-related meetings (e.g., home Bible studies), such as in a college classroom, in personal evangelism, in a writing ministry, or on the mission field where no male missionaries serve (cf. Act_18:24-26)?

VII. Conclusions

A.    Scripture affirms that women are equal with men as image-bearers of God and in their personal standing before God and the church.

B.    Scripture affirms that women are distinct in their femaleness from men in their maleness as created and ordered by God.

C.    Scripture affirms a basic pattern of functional order applicable to the church in which men are given headship-the task of leadership, and women are to be subject to this leadership (as are men who are not designated leaders).

D.    Scripture demonstrates that women have unique and significant ministries to fulfill along with men in the church because they are gifted with the same spiritual gifts as men. There are no gender distinctions in the distribution of spiritual gifts.


E.    The office of elder is not open to a woman, but as with a man, she can exercise her gifts without holding this office.

F.    The office of deacon is probably open to a woman-at least women fulfilled many of its functions in the New Testament church.

G.    The Scriptures indicate that a woman may participate actively in corporate worship, but she is not to teach or engage in activities in which she has authority over a man or men in this sphere.

She may minister in church services or church-related meetings so long as her primary purpose is not to have authority that befits the office of elder/pastor. It is debated whether this prohibition regarding teaching the Scriptures or Bible doctrine extends beyond the confines of corporate worship or church-related meetings.

There are numerous spheres of leadership and ministry that are appropriate for women, limited only by situations where a woman would assume "headship" authority over a man or men. Such spheres include Christian education, outreach and evangelism, specialized pastoral ministries, church administration, a music ministry, a prayer ministry, a service ministry, and a writing ministry.

Perhaps two biblical guidelines would be helpful in evaluating particular situations:

a.    Does our interpretation or application of a biblical passage in a given situation affirm woman’s personal equality with man?

b.    Does our interpretation or application of a biblical passage in a given situation affirm woman’s responsibility of willing submission to man’s headship responsibility in the home and church?



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