The Ordination of Women

by J MW

The Ordination of Women

by John Quinlan Terry CBE

I take as my text a few verses out of the second chapter of the first epistle of Timothy.
There are well known chapters in the Bible, which are in the lectionary, known by heart and are popular with preachers. And there are other chapters, often in prominent places in the New Testament, like this one, which are virtually unknown. I would go further, there are a number of paragraphs which the church in this age would like to blot out of the Bible altogether, because they are completely contrary to modern worldly trends. And unless we make it our business to study the whole Bible, rather than confine ourselves to the parts that we like; we shall only know half the truth—and half-truths are more deceptive than lies.

Let us look again at these unpopular verses:
Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, not to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety. (I Timothy 2, 11-15)

Before we look at these words let me say that this epistle is one of the three pastoral epistles, I & II Timothy and Titus, and they occupy the next 10 pages of our pew bibles. They are written to direct Timothy and Titus in the first place, and all ministers of the gospel ever since, on how to behave; and they give advice on preaching, public prayer, government, qualifications for leadership and so on. Together they form the most perfect direction we have in all scripture on how to govern the church. So, if the church in our day really want to know how to govern itself, it should not be seeking the majority view of the clergy and laity; it should go straight to the pastoral epistles for guidance. It is all here; the trouble is that we don’t like what it says.

As I read these words I try to picture how the early church conducted its meetings. One can only assume that Paul would not have written these words unless there were some women, emboldened by their new-found faith—emboldened by the truth that in Christ Jesus there is neither male nor female—to take this equality with men before God to mean that women are the same as men in every other respect. Paul has to use similar words to the Corinthians, I Cor 14/34 where he says this: Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.

Why must women not be in charge? Why is it a disgraceful thing for them to speak in church? The answer is that men and women, according to Christian teaching, have different vocations. They are also separate matter, both in the Creation and in the Fall—which is why St. Paul goes on to talk about Adam and Eve in the next three verses of our text. Such a doctrine is not an embellishment to Christian theology, but a fundamental part of our religion. Paul contends, in effect, that the different tasks for men and women were clearly defined at the beginning. Man is to work and woman to be his help-mate and to bear children.

A man’s task and vocation is to work by the sweat of his brow—he must provide for his family: it says later in this same epistle (I Tim 5/8) if a man provide not for his own house, he has denied the faith and is worse than an infidel. In 2 These 3/10 it says If a man will not work neither should he eat. A lazy indolent man is a disgrace to his family, and a lazy Christian is a disgrace to his church. But a man’s task is not only to provide: he is also to guide and rule his family. And he is to do this because he was and is less easily deceived by Satan.

A woman’s calling is entirely different and almost exclusively concerns the family and the bringing up of children. If she goes out to work, like a man, and leaves the children to bring themselves up, she must not be surprised if she cannot influence them when they are older; and she may suffer endless remorse in old age as she wishes she had put her family before her job. If a husband and wife really want to be blessed and happy, they must each live the way God has made them.

You may say—Ah! That is the Apostle Paul and he hated women. So let us leave Paul and turn to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. What was His teaching on leadership in the church? We all know the list of the Apostles, and that they were every one of them men! If Christ had selected one woman the position would be entirely different. As it is, there is surely abundant evidence that Christ, in His own actions, deliberately reserved His priesthood to men.

Some people say that He was a child of His time, and that with the changing times (like today) He would have chosen a woman apostle. But if you say that Jesus spoke to his generation only, you might as well say that he died for his generation only. For the Christian He was and is God. He knew the future—He could foresee the turmoil of the 20th century—when He chose his apostles; and He caused all Holy Scripture to be written for all time. We reduce the Son of God to the level of a timid politician when we say that that is why He did not choose a woman apostle. There is therefore no foundation whatever, in the Bible, for the ordination of women.

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