Recently, I read and enthusiastically liked the following post by one of my Facebook friends:
“Just because you don’t like something does not mean it should be illegal. And just because you like something does not mean it should be mandatory, or publicly funded.”
“ If a majority of Americans understood this, most of our political battles would disappear overnight.”
As soon as I read it I thought to myself, what a great point! I also immediately thought how this statement has similar application in the Church! Here’s how I would slightly modify it for the Church:
Just because we find a God ordained pattern in the Scripture does not mean that not following that pattern is unequivocally a sin in God’s sight.*
If a majority of the Church understood this, many of our differences would disappear overnight.
* Please do not misunderstand my meaning. I am NOT referring to any form of sexual immorality or advocating for anything revealed as sin by the Ten Commandments.
Case in point: The clear and undisputed biblical pattern for leadership (Old and New Testament) is that while both men and women are equal in dignity, value, essence and human nature, men typically have leadership responsibility before God in the family and in the Church (which is a family of families). However, to use that clear pattern to support the idea that it is a sin for women to lead or teach, or be ordained as pastors, elders or deacons, has no biblical basis.
Three reasons why I believe it is unbiblical to accuse women leaders and those who ordain them as committing sin:
First, if it were a sin, every time that God broke with this pattern (which is His, not man’s) He would be committing sin. Deborah, who was a Prophetess and Judge of Israel, is just one example (Judges 4:4-5). Any attempt to defend God with technicalities such as saying that Deborah was not a priest so she doesn’t count, or God couldn’t find the right man so she was His plan-b, or any other reason, simply does not fly if it is true that women leading (except in very limited ways) is a sin as some believe and declare. Furthermore, nothing in Scripture ever supports the notion that God needs to justify His choice of a leader’s sex (or anything else He chooses to do) using technicalities.
Second, if it were truly a sin for women to lead, teach or be ordained as pastors, elders, and deacons, then surely God would have included it on those two stone tablets He gave to Moses, and we would be referring to them as the 11 commandments. At the very least, they would have been mentioned as part of the 6th commandment (“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.”)
Third, if it were a sin in the Church, it would have been included in the letter by the Jerusalem council as recorded in Acts 15:24-29. In case you don’t recall this letter, when Gentiles were starting to be added to the Church, there were Jewish believers who were insisting that Gentile converts “be circumcised and commanded to keep the law of Moses” (Acts 15:5). The entire account is recorded in Acts 14:27 – 15:29, but here’s the passage that includes that letter:
22 Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, men who were leaders among the believers. 23 With them they sent the following letter:
The apostles and elders, your brothers,
To the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia:
24 We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said. 25 So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul—26 men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing. 28 It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: 29 You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.
If it were truly a sin for women to lead, teach or be ordained as pastors, elders, and deacons, then the Gentile converts would have certainly needed to be made aware of it. Yet it is noticeably absent from the letter. I suggest that if it were truly a sin, then the Jerusalem council and the Holy Spirit would have included it.
While I’ve heard many arguments that point to New Testament passages and Church tradition to support the prohibition against women functioning as teachers and being ordained in the Church, I believe these only support the biblical pattern that men typically have leadership responsibility before God in the family and the Church, and NOT biblical or ecclesiastical law. If it were law, it would be new law as I believe I have demonstrated. The only new commandment of the New Testament and New Covenant is the one Jesus gave to “love one another as I have loved you.” (John 13:34; 1 John 2:7; 2 John 5).
Ok, so what if it isn’t a sin. Aren’t those who fail to follow God’s pattern still wrong?
Maybe, but maybe not. There are many biblically and theologically sound churches that believe there is good scriptural support for women leading, teaching and being ordained as pastors, elders, and deacons. However, the purpose of this article is not to convince anyone that they should start ordaining women leaders if they feel it is wrong. It is to simply demonstrate that there is no biblical justification for accusing churches who allow women to lead and function according to their gifts and abilities of sinning, being on the road to perdition, and even worthy of dis-fellowship in some Churches.