Paul’s Instructions for Women Who Would Teach (And What it Means for Men)

There’s been a lot of talk lately about women teachers, especially after John MacArthur’s ‘strange fire’ directed toward Beth Moore.

I suppose some of the thinking by MacArthur on this comes form 1 Timothy 2:8-15, which reads,

Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension. 9 Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, 10 but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness. 1A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. But women will be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint.

Based on the fact that Paul seems to clearly allow women to teach in other contexts such as in Titus 2:3 where he explicitly instructs women to teach:

Titus 2:3   Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good.

Priscilla and Aquilla instructed Appollos, and as many a commentator has noted, that her name comes first is undoubtedly indicative of her having a primary role:

Acts 18:26 and he began to speak out boldly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.

Junia was named as an apostle by Paul (Rom. 16:7), a role that in every instance indicates participation in Gospel proclamation and teaching, as in Acts 2:42 “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostlesteaching…”

Consideration of Paul’s argument in 1 Timothy points us to the thing he mentions in vs. 8, “without wrath or dissention.” It seems that wealthy women, noted for their ostentatious display of their wealth in what they wore and in how they dressed, were asserting their power and authority in a church setting where it was inappropriate, since they had not yet learned enough to become instructors.

Paul’s allusion to Adam and Even focuses on Eve having fallen into deception, and likewise Paul is warning against women become deceived by their cultural authority and attempting to transfer that same authority to their roles in the church.

This then, understood in this way, becomes an injunction against not only women, but men who would assume that their wealth or position in society ought to translate into some type of authority in the church. Paul in the strongest terms possible puts a halt to this because, as with Corinth, such behavior becomes highly divisive and destructive to the kind of community the church ought to be wherein the Spirit unites all people to Christ and to one another based on their mutual need of redemption.

The whole point then is not whether women can teach, but whether anyone can teach simply because they have cultural clout. And Paul answers with a resounding ‘No!’

3 thoughts on “Paul’s Instructions for Women Who Would Teach (And What it Means for Men)

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