Read Part 1 of this series here.
In part 1 of this series, we discussed a common claim that the women God used throughout Scripture must be justification for female pastors in a church. A closer look at these women actually reveals that they were not in defiance of 1Timothy 2, 1 Corinthians 14, and Titus 1-2 at all, but rather they were being used by God in the roles He had given them to bring Him glory.
Egalitarian women will often claim that because of Esther or Priscilla, they are just as qualified to pastor a church as men are. This not only reveals a poor understanding of Scripture, but it shows a low view of the roles God gave them as women in the first place. God’s role for us is rooted in creation, and it does not change. And God has chosen that women are not to teach, preach to, lead, or rule over men. To disagree with this is to disagree with God’s Word.
Christian women of the Bible were not disobedient to God’s Word as they didn’t become pastors and rulers and hold headship over men. Their femininity and God-given roles were actually highly esteemed and exemplified by the way God used them throughout Scripture.
When discussing Esther, it is important to recognize that she was not a pastor, a teacher, or a spiritual leader of any kind. She was a queen. She didn’t instruct anyone or lead anyone, and she especially didn’t usurp the role of her husband.
“Esther had not made known her kindred or her people, as Mordecai had commanded her, for Esther obeyed Mordecai just as when she was brought up by him.”–Esther 2:20
On multiple occasions, the author of the book of Esther emphasizes how obedient she was to Mordecai, her cousin, who advised her against revealing her Jewish background to the king (Esther 2:10).
Esther was fearful of even speaking to her husband without his permission, disproving that she had any kind of authority over men. God certainly used her in a miraculous way, just as He uses all women He has called to salvation for good purpose. God used Esther to liberate the Jewish people from the oppression of Haman, and because of her faith, obedience, and submission to the men in her life, the Jewish people were saved.
“But the angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, as He said. Come, see the place where He lay. Then go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead, and behold, He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see Him. See, I have told you.’ So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell His disciples.”–Matthew 28:5-8
While many in the egalitarian camp might claim that the women at the tomb going to tell the disciples what they had seen is equivalent to preaching from the pulpit, this couldn’t be further from the truth. These women were not holding any kind of authority over the disciples by doing this. They were simply told by the angel to give an eyewitness testimony of what they had seen, and they were carrying a message from Jesus to the disciples. They didn’t instruct the disciples, counsel them, correct them, or provide commentary to them. They were simply reporting on what they had seen.
This is also a good time to add that evangelizing is not equivalent to preaching from a pulpit, either. Ephesians 4:11-13 says this:
“And He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”
There is a clear distinction between evangelists and shepherds and teachers, otherwise known as pastors. Throughout Paul’s writings, the roles and qualifications of a pastor are explicitly described. There should be no confusion here as to whether or not a pastor and evangelist are one in the same. A pastor holds authority in shepherding the flock God has entrusted him with, and an evangelist fulfills the Great Commission by sharing the message of the gospel to all who have ears to hear.
The fact that it was women at the tomb who went to anoint Jesus’ body, only to discover that they would be the first to spread the message of His resurrection, is a testament to how highly esteemed women are in the eyes of God. If it has not been clear yet until now, God’s role for women is not one that is less than. It truly is a special, honorable, specific, and high calling to be a woman who embraces biblical femininity.
Let’s not use this story to add to Scripture and assume that it means women can defy the rest of God’s Word to hold authority over men.
Priscilla and her husband, Aquila, traveled with Paul for a short time. In Acts 18, they went to Ephesus, and Paul left them there while he went to reason with the Jews. Later, in 1 Corinthians 2:1-16, Paul described his preaching to them:
“For I am determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”
Notice that Priscilla and Aquila traveled with Paul, but Priscilla never did the teaching. She wasn’t a pastor or elder or an apostle — all roles specifically reserved for men.
When most egalitarians reference Aquila, though, they often resort to Acts 18, when Priscilla and Aquila confronted Apollos, a zealous, bold Jewish man who was “competent in the Scriptures” but had a few gaps in his understanding of the gospel as he “knew only the baptism of John.” He began evangelizing in the synagogue.
“Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.”– Acts 18:26
Priscilla and Aquila took Apollos aside in a private setting to speak to him and correct him.
Priscilla, with her husband by her side, was fulfilling the believer’s call to correct one another in love, to sharpen one another, and to build one another up in Christ so that we may be further sanctified. Women can do this without holding leadership over or teaching men publicly. And we see that by the end of Acts 18, the Lord used Priscilla and Aquila to deepen Apollos’ understanding of the Scriptures so that he was able to “powerfully [refute] the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus” (Acts 18:28).
It is so important that women have a biblical understanding of God’s high calling for them. It is not degrading to women to say they are unqualified to preach. It is, in fact, a relief that they do not have to bear the burden of shepherding a flock. And yet, God gave women children and other women to teach, to disciple, and to witness to.
Like Esther, God uses women to draw His sheep to Himself. Like Phoebe, He uses women to serve His church. Like the women at Jesus’ tomb, He views women as highly-esteemed, honorable, and made in His likeness. All of these stories of women in the Scriptures reveal how God used them to bring glory to Himself. They were obedient servants of Christ whom God raised up. They exemplify God’s role for women without contradicting what He has laid out in Scripture, and, in many ways, they teach us how to do the same.
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