Five Key Texts and Pastoral Application
Pastors are called to teach (1 Tim. 3:2, 4:11–13) and equip the saints to obey all that Christ commanded (Eph. 4:11–12, Matt 28:20). Here are 5 passages dealing with manhood and womanhood that we must teach and apply for pastoral faithfulness.
1 Timothy 2:11–14
11 A woman is to learn quietly with full submission. 12 I do not allow a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; instead, she is to remain quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and transgressed.
Paul offers two commands and prohibitions to women in the church. He commands women to learn in two ways: (1) quietly and (2) with full submission. These two ways of correspond respectively to his prohibition: women are not to teach men nor have authority over a man.
Paul is not prohibiting all «teaching.» Women must teach through corporate singing (Col. 3:16). Women are to teach other women (Titus 2:3–5). Women teach in personal conversations that include men (Acts 18:26, cf. Matt 28:20). Paul specifically prohibits women from teaching men and exercising authority over men in the formal context of the congregation (2:8–10, 3:15). Furthermore, the call to remain quiet (1 Tim. 2:12) concerns teaching men and not necessarily all public speaking in the mixed assembly. Women prophesied and prayed publicly (1 Cor. 11:5).
Why does Paul give this restriction for the church (1 Tim 3:15)? Paul bases the command in the creation design (2:13) and the design’s distortion (2:14). God created man first and gave him authority while creating her as a helper (2:13). The woman’s deception and the man’s failure to teach and exercise authority toward his wife distorted God’s good order for gender.
The bottom line: Paul commands women to learn and not teach men or have authority over men in the church’s formal assembly.
Therefore, pastors must clearly teach what is sinfully disobedient, where the gray areas are, and what is permissible for the church today based on the Apostle Paul’s words and intent. Pray for God to raise up men for pastoral ministry, for women to flourish, and for all to taste God’s goodness in his design for gender. Develop and disciple men to lead. Equip men to teach and call some of them to exercise oversight as pastors. Equip and encourage all women to teach all people informally and some women to exposit Scripture to women and children formally in church contexts. Model a joyful embrace of God’s prohibition; prudentially pursue the freedom God gives women and men in the context of the local church. Preach God’s good and wise design in creation, fall, and redemption.
Speaking of that, now let’s consider the creation and the fall.
26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, the whole earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth.” 27 So God created man in his own image; he created him in the image of God; he created them male and female. 28 God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every creature that crawls on the earth.”
God made both man and woman in his image to reflect God by ruling, relating, and reproducing. Their rule reflects God’s reign. As they hear and respond to God addressing them, their relationship to one another reflects the relational nature of God. In multiplying, they reflect God’s passion to expand his glory in the joy of his people globally.
15 The Lord God took the man and placed him in the garden of Eden to work it and watch over it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree of the garden, 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die.” 18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper corresponding to him.”
Before the woman was created, God commanded the man for holy obedience and tasked him to work and watch the garden (2:15). But it was not good for man to be alone so God created the woman from the man as a «helper corresponding to him» and married them (2:18–24). The man was made first, given the task, and alone was insufficient. The woman was made after, described as a helper for him, and completed the goodness of the divine design. God declares the creation of man «good» when the helper relates to him. God means for all men and women to flourish in this goodness. The closer the relationship, the more intense the dynamic of headship and help.
4 “No! You will not die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “In fact, God knows that when you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 The woman saw that the tree was good for food and delightful to look at, and that it was desirable for obtaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.
The serpent deceived the woman. The man passively failed to teach and exercise his authority in leading his wife to trust and obey God. He failed to watch the garden by removing the threat of the serpent. He willfully chose to eat the forbidden fruit—not merely because he was deceived by the serpent.
From these passages in Genesis, pastors must embrace God’s design for gender as good, freeing, and life-giving. Train your members to see and savor God’s goodness for gender so they joyfully fulfill their masculinity or femininity. Pastors ought to exemplify male leadership. Eschew passivity. Take responsibility. Embrace neediness. Humbly seek the unique help of the church’s women as you faithfully shepherd the whole flock.
Now let’s see how this design applies to marriage.
22 Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord, 23 because the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of the body. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives are to submit to their husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her with the washing of water by the word. 27 He did this to present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and blameless. 28 In the same way, husbands are to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hates his own flesh but provides and cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, 30 since we are members of his body. 31For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife,and the two will become one flesh.32 This mystery is profound, but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 To sum up, each one of you is to love his wife as himself, and the wife is to respect her husband.
Paul defines how husbands and wives should walk carefully (5:15) as they’re influenced by the Holy Spirit (5:18). The wife must submit to her husband. Because the Lord commands it, a wife must not submit to her husband against the Lord’s Word. In other words, when a husband leads his wife toward sin, the wife must reject that leadership while maintaining a submissive spirit and desire for non-sinful leadership. The church’s submission to Christ exemplifies submission for the wife. The true marriage between Christ and the church models and fulfills earthly marriage.
Conversely, the husband must sacrificially love his wife toward holiness by cleansing her with God’s Word. God’s truth must be spoken in order to feed her faith and holiness. He must love his wife two ways: (1) as Christ sacrificed for the church, and (2) as the husband incessantly loves his own body and cares for himself. Paul grounds «love for wife as self-care» in the one-flesh union of husband and wife. The husband and wife are one. Therefore, to neglect one’s wife actually and always functions to neglect oneself.
How then shall we pastor? Pray for men to grow in love and leadership. Pray for a transformative marriage culture in the church. Pray for joyful submission to God. Teach wives that their submission to their husbands is an expression of their submitting to Christ. Preach the goodness of submission and sacrificial love for joy in Christ. Clearly and constantly define biblical and Christ-centered love. Define the goal of holiness. Beware of how Satan can abuse even biblical teaching. Hold men accountable to love and lead and serve. Equip members to submit and love in their current situations. Counsel members through their marital challenges. Model humble leadership and love for your wife’s holiness. Are you growing in loving and serving your wife? Is your delight in her holiness increasing?
Let’s take another look at gender in church.
1 Corinthians 11:2–9
2 Now I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold fast to the traditions just as I delivered them to you. 3 But I want you to know that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of the woman, and God is the head of Christ. 4 Every man who prays or prophesies with something on his head dishonors his head. 5 Every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since that is one and the same as having her head shaved. 6 For if a woman doesn’t cover her head, she should have her hair cut off. But if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, let her head be covered. 7 A man should not cover his head, because he is the image and glory of God. So too, woman is the glory of man. 8 For man did not come from woman, but woman came from man. 9 Neither was man created for the sake of woman, but woman for the sake of man.
1 Corinthians 14:29–35
29 Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should evaluate. 30 But if something has been revealed to another person sitting there, the first prophet should be silent. 31 For you can all prophesy one by one, so that everyone may learn and everyone may be encouraged. 32 And the prophets’ spirits are subject to the prophets, 33 since God is not a God of disorder but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints, 34 the women should be silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak, but are to submit themselves, as the law also says. 35 If they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home, since it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.
Paul aims for men and women to express God’s design for gender when praying or prophesying in the assembly. Men should reflect Christ’s headship over them. Women should reflect man’s headship over them. Paul again roots the man’s headship over the woman in the order and design of her creation (11:8–9). Lest we think submission is a negative thing, Paul dignifies submission under headship by referencing Christ’s submission to God (11:3).
Women ought to pray and prophesy in a way that demonstrably honors two truths: the woman is the glory of man, and the man is the head of the woman (11:6b). Though women prophesy, they ought to do so in a way «subject to the prophets» (14:32). Some aspects of how we express authority and submission change with culture. But the biblical principles always undergirding these symbols remains the same—men are given leadership in the home and in the church and we are to never act in ways that subvert that order.
Though cultural expressions change, Christians must understand and consider the culture where they live and serve. F.F. Bruce wrote, «There is nothing frivolous about such an appeal to public conventions of seemliness. To be followers of the crucified Jesus was in itself unconventional enough, but needless breaches of convention were to be discouraged.»
Pastors, teach and embrace headship and submission. Carefully understand and utilize your culture’s expressions. Reflect theologically on biblical commands and principles. For example, gendered headship and submission at church is connected to the way God relates to Christ. Discern from Scripture prudent ways for women to participate in the gatherings. While women publicly participate, joyfully communicate God’s design for male headship in culturally effective and biblically faithful ways.
We must teach one more text used in this gender discussion.
28 There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female; since you are all one in Christ Jesus.
In context, Paul asserts that the Galatian saints are all justified and adopted as sons of God through faith, not through the works of the Mosaic law-covenant (3:24–26). Why are God’s adopted people no longer under the guardianship of the law-covenant? Paul answers, «For those of you who were baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ» (3:27). Being clothed in Christ settles our justification. The distinctions made by the law-covenant between Jew and Greek are irrelevant for justification and adoption. There’s no pre-requisite of ethnicity, gender, or economic status in order to be Abraham’s promised seed and heir (3:29).
Specifically, God set aside the male and female distinction for justification, adoption, inheritance, and union with Christ. Paul doesn’t obliterate gender in his other writings by asserting gender’s irrelevance for justification. So Paul can later write 1 Timothy 2:11–3:7 or Ephesians 5:22–33 and assume Christians will make the proper gender distinctions for marriage and local church leadership.
Pastors should serve, honor, and bless both men and women as equally dignified and valued in the church. Ensure that our women are not mistreated as less dignified or valued. Where the Bible makes gender distinctions significant, go and do likewise. Where the Bible renders gender insignificant, go and do likewise. Lastly, block out enough pastoral time to strategize and oversee the women in your church to make sure they are growing in biblical conviction, holy character, and ministerial competence for good works.
God’s Word is an incomparable gift. Let us pastors not only be hearers of the Word, but faithful doers and teachers for the glory of God and the health of our churches.
* * * * *
 F. F. Bruce, 1 and 2 Corinthians (The New Century Bible Commentaries, Eerdmans and Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1971).