By Arthur M. Ogden
The role of Christian women in the service of God has been one of concern to the people of God since the church began. We are still concerned today and I thank God for it, When the time comes that we cannot be aroused to study this issue, we will be in real trouble as far as other vital issues are concerned. A brother recently wrote, “I . . . note that this and related questions are being discussed more lately, and I believe it is a good thing.” I heartily agree. We should always be interested in this and all other Bible subjects and study them to the fullest.
I believe the interest in the subject of “women teachers” is the highest it has been for years. Perhaps the reasons for this are twofold: (1) A new generation of Christians need to have the long standing questions of yesteryear answered to their satisfaction as did past generations, and (2) an element of opposition to “women teachers” has arisen with strong voices challenging our liberty in Christ which permits women to be teachers within certain boundaries. Cries for answers and for help are coming from many quarters. These cries should be heeded.
. For the past thirteen years, I have lived in a section where the questions have been many and the opposition strong. Many long hours have been spent in search of the Truth on the subject, so that the questions could be answered and the opposition met. In this and coming issues of Truth Magazine, I shall discuss with you this issue as thoroughly as I possibly can. Attention is to be given to scriptural affirmations of women’s role in teaching, as well as to a full discussion of those passages which restrict them in teaching, You are asked to weigh carefully the views expressed in these articles by the scriptures. I believe them to be the Truth, and that they will stand the test of the fiercest storm. They have already been tested and tried by the meticulous scrutiny of the opposition’s strongest advocates, men who are capable of uncovering the slightest flaw in any argument, and they have stood the test without one single serious challenge being registered against them. The truth will always stand.
The Charge of the Great Commission
“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (Matt. 28:19-20). This is the commission given by the Lord to the Apostles after His resurrection and before His ascension to heaven. There are three parts to the commission and women are included in all three:
(1) The Apostles were commanded to “Go teach all nations, baptizing them.” Women were baptized (Acts 8:12), so therefore, women are included on the first part of the great commission.
(2) The Apostles were commanded to teach those who were baptized. Since women were included on the first part, to be baptized, they are likewise included on the second part, to be taught after being baptized.
(3) The Apostles were to teach those baptized “to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you,” and since the Lord was in the process of giving them the commandment of the great commission, women were included on the third part, to “go teach all nations.” Women, therefore, by nature of their inclusion in the great commission are commanded to teach.
Paul’s Charge to Timothy
“And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2). Though it be in reverse, this charge is the same as that of the great commission. It too may be divided into three parts:
(1) What to teach. “The things heard of me” (Paul). There should be no question but that Paul referred to the completeness of God’s revelation to him (cf. 2 Tim. 1: 13; 3:14-17).
(2) Who to teach. “Commit . . . to faithful anthr6pois (men),” human beings, whether males or females (J.H. Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, p. 46). Timothy was to teach faithful christians to teach. Paul did not say, “Commit . , . to faithful andras (males).” If he had said males he would have excluded women from the charge, and I suggest that if he had intended to exclude women from the charge, he would have said andras (males). But instead he used anthropois (human beings) and by so doing, included women in the charge to be taught to teach.
(3) Why to teach. “Who shall be able to teach others also.” Isn’t this identical to the great commission? Faithful christians are to be taught to teach others.
A careful study of the scriptures will show that women can teach some others. She can teach by singing (Col. 3:16); be a teacher of good things (Tit. 2:3-5); teach her children (2 Tim. 1:5; 3:14-15); and even teach men under some circumstances (Acts 18:26). Are we to conclude that women can, or cannot be taught to do this teaching? Some would have us believe that women are excluded from 2 Timothy 2:2. If they are excluded, we must of necessity exclude them from Matthew 28:1920, and Titus 2:3-5 also. It would also drive them from every place where teaching is done, lest they learn what to teach. This is the end to which error drives one.
Women are Limited
It should be observed that if women are not limited in their work of teaching, they could teach any body, anytime, and under any condition. They would have been included in the two above charges to the same degree that men were. But the word of God limits them. (1) They are to “keep silence in the churches” (1 Cor. 14:34-35), and (2) they are not “to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man” (1 Tim. 2:12). While these two restrictions limit her in teaching, they do not stop her. She can teach anybody, anytime, anywhere, and under any condition that does not place her in the position of addressing the assemblies described in 1 Corinthians 14, and that does not cause her to violate her submission to man as described in 1 Timothy 2:11-12.
The Charge Implemented
In Titus 2:1-10, the charge of Matthew 28:19-20, and 2 Timothy 2:2 is implemented by commandment to Titus. Read it carefully. You will notice that Paul identifies five classes of Christians, and makes provisions for them to be taught: aged men, aged women, young women, young men, and servants. It is right to classify people according to age status, etc. Titus was instructed to teach four of the five classes. Where? When? What method? What arrangement? Paul did not say, so therefore, these matters were left to human judgement. Who and what to teach were not matters of judgment however. They were commanded, but within the scope of the commands given, generic authority prevails and allows or permits the methods and arrangements, even the implementation of the principles of 2 Timothy 2:2.
The aged or older women were commanded to teach the younger women. Without question, women are commanded to teach. They are to be “teachers of good things; that they may teach the young women . . . ” (v. 3-4). When? Where? What method? What arrangement? Paul did not say, and therefore, these matters are again left to human judgment, and women may fulfill their commanded duty according to the fullness of their ability ai anytime, and in any place, and under any condition that does not place her in a position of violating either 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 or 1 Timothy 2:11-12.
Christian Women of the New Testament
A number of Christian women are mentioned in the New Testament and commended for their part in the spread of the gospel. It should be remembered that every one of these women were under the restrictions of the law of Christ, and if they so labored without violating the law of God, then Christian women today, at the same time, and in the same place, and under the same conditions can likewise work without violating the restrictions of God’s law.
(1) Christian women prophesied (Acts 2:17; 21:9; 1 Cor. 11:1-5). These women under the guidance of divine inspiration exhorted, edified, and comforted (1 Cor. 14:3), but they did not do it in the assemblies of the whole church (1 Cor. 14:34-35), but they did not do it where it caused them to violate their submission to man (1 Tim. 2:11-12). I maintain that christian women today can do the same things without violating any passage of scripture. You must conclude that, or be forced to the position that God endowed christian women to violate His law.
(2) Priscilla assisted her husband, Aquila, in teaching Apollos (Acts 18:26). She was not in the assembly of 1 Corinthians 14, and therefore was permitted to have a part in this teaching, as long as she did not ignore her place of submission as taught in 1 Timothy 2:11-12.
(3) Phoebe was appointed by the church at Cenchrea to do a work, and Paul gave his approval by encouraging the brethren at Rome “to receive her,” and “assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you” (Rom. 16:1-2). While we do not know what her business was, we do know that it was right for the church to appoint her to do this work, and that she could do it without sin.
(4) Rhoda, Dorcas, Syntyche, Euodias, and others could be mentioned, none of which were rebuked for the work performed. Women may therefore, work diligently in the service of God, even by teaching others, and do it within the framework of the law of Christ without violating the restrictions placed upon them. Do not neglect your duty to God, dear sisters, just because some false teacher keeps shouting, “women are forbidden to teach.” “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).
In our next article, we shall discuss, “1 Corinthians 14:34-35: Is It Binding Today?”
Truth Magazine XX: 41, pp. 651-652
October 14, 1976