Exercising Authority – Cultural or Timeless?
by Kristi Meyer
A woman should learn in a quiet manner with full submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man. Instead, she is to continue in a quiet manner. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but it was the woman who was deceived and became a transgressor (1 Timothy 2:11-14, EHV).
One of my pastors is growing his hair out. I don’t mean he’s going from a buzz cut to something slightly longer. I mean it’s been about three years since he’s had a haircut, and his hair is now well past his shoulders. As far as I know, no one has reported him to the district president for violating 1 Corinthians 11:14. In contrast, we still hold to Paul’s prohibition found in 1 Timothy 2:11-14: a prohibition on women exercising authority in the church. Why? What’s the difference?
Throughout this devotional series, we’ve talked about the importance of distinguishing principle from application, and 1 Corinthians 11 and 1 Timothy 2 are no exception. Separating principle from application can be difficult. To do so, we need to consider hermeneutics: the science and art of biblical interpretation. In particular, we need to view Scripture through two lenses. Scripture is history, written at a particular time and in a particular place. And Scripture is literature, written using artistic structure and rhetorical techniques.
Looking at the context of a Scripture passage—both the wide and the narrow context, both the verses and chapters surrounding the passage and all of Scripture as a whole—is particularly important in viewing Scripture as literature. In 1 Timothy 2, we see Paul refer back to what is sometimes known as the “order of creation”: Adam was created first, then Eve. As we’ve seen previously, this does not mean that Adam was of greater worth or value or importance than Eve.
Instead, the “order of creation” encompasses the sense of order and organization that God put into his perfect creation: the relationships that exist among all objects, animals, and people, including the relationship between Adam and Eve. And although the fall into sin tarnished these relationships, we cannot set these relationships aside simply because we live in a fallen and imperfect world.
Instead, the “order of creation” encompasses the sense of order and organization that God put into his perfect creation: the relationships that exist among all objects, animals, and people, including the relationship between Adam and Eve.
As mentioned earlier in the summer, it is too strong to say that sin came into the world mainly because Adam and Eve stepped outside of their unique callings. However, Eve did listen to the serpent instead of submitting to the authority of Adam, and Adam did fail to exercise his headship role in his relationship with Eve. The ultimate evil came into the world when—not necessarily because, but when—Adam and Eve stepped out of their God-given callings as male and female.
With this context in mind, we can more easily see Paul’s line of thought in these verses from 1 Timothy 2. He is reminding Timothy that the men and women of his church should take care not to follow Adam and Eve’s example. Rather, they should strive to live out their unique callings—callings that are intended to bring blessings both to individual believers and to the church. Since Paul bases his prohibition of women exercising authority on the order of creation—an order that continues to exist today, albeit imperfectly—we also still hold to this prohibition.
A question remains, however; the question that we asked the very first week: What roles can a woman fulfill in the church without violating Paul’s prohibition on exercising authority? We have now moved into the realm of applications—applications that require us to view Scripture as history, to consider the time period in which Paul was writing. As has been our practice throughout this devotional series, we’ll consider these applications in more depth later this week.
A question remains, however; the question that we asked the very first week: What roles can a woman fulfill in the church without violating Paul’s prohibition on exercising authority?
For now, we do well to remember that the principle at play still holds. God has established unique callings for men and women—callings that reflect the order instilled in a perfect creation, callings intended to bring us blessings, callings that we strive to live out joyfully in our lives—callings that are intended to begin the conversation on applications, not stifle the conversation or shut it down.
For Further Reflection
When a baseball game is played, everybody is in their appropriate place: pitcher, catcher, umpire, etc. There are also certain “things” that are in their appropriate places: the pitcher has the ball, the hitter has a bat, the field has foul lines marked and base bags placed. If these placements are disrupted—for example, if the center fielder is standing behind home plate—order is lost and chaos ensues. Meditate on or write about how this analogy demonstrates the relationships that exist within and are encompassed by the phrase “order of creation.”
Lord God, you established unique callings for men and women at the very dawn of time. Although these unique callings have been fragmented and fractured by sin, we thank you that they still reflect the perfect relationships you originally created. Give us guidance and wisdom as we seek to faithfully serve your church to the fullest of our ability in a way that respects your order of creation. Amen.