What about the verses on women in 1 Timothy 2?

I have had others ask that I go into more detail on some of the challenging passages, so here are some thoughts on 1 Timothy 2.  (If you are not interested in the details of this subject, I suggest you skip this post!)  I am no Greek scholar, but I have had an interest in the topic of women in ministry for many years. The book I wish I had written on this subject is called, "Why Not Women" by Loren Cunningham and David Hamilton.  Here is their take on 1 Timothy 2:8-15

 I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting; 9 in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, 10 but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works. 11 Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. 12 And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. 15 Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.

David Hamilton, who wrote his master's thesis on these difficult passages, describes the structure of the passage in 1 Timothy 2 as "particularization and chiasm using an A-B-A-B interchange" (two well known literary devices that Paul used on other occasions). "The overall principle is, God wants to save everyone. The particular examples are what God wants to do with men and women. Within the last example, women, Paul used a mini-chiasm. He began talking about women in general, then switched back to a particular woman, then switched back to women in general." David goes on to diagram this out, and to explain in considerable detail why he concludes this. 

Again I quote from him:
"The structure of Paul's communication has been very clear so far. Paul laid out the general principle–God's redeeming love for all humanity and our need to pray. Then he gave two examples of how redeeming love should look like when it's lived out: first for the men of the church and then for the women. In verse 10, Paul spoke to women involved in spreading the Gospel. As he did so, he remembered one woman who had perhaps played a prominent role in the church at Ephesus. So in verse 11, he stopped speaking in broad, general terms (everyone, men, women) and addressed the case of this one woman. 

How can we say that? This is based on a very clear grammatical shift in the Greek. From verse 11 to the middle of verse 15, the plural nouns are gone. They're all singular: "a woman." "she must be silent" and "she will be saved through childbearing." Then in the second half of verse 15, Paul returned to the plural, "if they continue in faith…" So as Paul spoke to the women again, his grammar formed a small chiasm:
verses 9 -10 "women" (plural)
verses 11-15a "a woman" (singular)
verse 15b "women" (plural). 

"Why did Paul make this dramatic switch from plural to singular and back to plural? I suggest he had a specific Ephesian woman in mind… The context suggests she was a vocal promoter of the false teaching troubling the Ephesian church. Perhaps she was one of the leaders of this heretical group.  

One of the major theses of this entire passage was stopping deception in the Ephesian church. Eve was deceived and so was this woman who was to be silenced.
Hamilton then goes on to describe Paul's response. Again I quote:
"Even though the woman was deceived and had deceived many, Paul gives wonderful, redeeming instructions on how to deal with her.
"Paul's first word was that "a woman should learn." This phrase would better reflect the original Greek if it were translated "must learn." It is not a suggestion but an imperative…the only direct command in this whole chapter. By implication, this woman must be instructed. Timothy was to make sure this woman was given an education.
"What a gracious response toward someone who had been causing so much harm. Paul realized the problem lay primarily in the fact that like all the women of her day, this woman… was at an educational disadvantage…Because Paul understood this, he extended more grace to her than he did to Hymenaeus, Alexander and Philetus who had sinned knowingly…. The antidote to deception is learning the truth. Therefore Paul demanded that this woman be taught…
Paul went on to say how this woman should learn "In quietness and full submission." Again, this qualification was not a rebuke. He was not saying she should just sit down and shut up. The noun used in verses 11 and 12 is related to the word used in verse 2 of this same chapter where Paul said that the goal of all believers was to live "quiet and peaceful lives." 

I highly recommend the book by Cunningham and Hamilton to anyone who is interested in understanding the issues involving women.

Another book I would like to highly recommend is a new one by Jon Zens called, "What's with Paul and Women?" Jon has been a great resource on this subject for years.  He takes a different tack to come to the same conclusions based on the word "authentein."

Another look at the challenging Scriptures on women (part 1)

One of the main reasons that women are so restricted within the church is that certain Scriptures apparently forbid their taking any role of significance.  And all of us, both men and women, want to obey the Bible.  But these challenging verses can, with integrity, be understood differently. 

Let’s take, for example, this passage from 1 Corinthians 14.  At first reading it is quite clear: women are not to speak in church!

Women should be silent during the church meetings. It is not proper for them to speak. They should be submissive, just as the law says.  If they have any questions to ask, let them ask their husbands at home, for it is improper for women to speak in church meetings (verses 34-35).

The first clue that there might be some other interpretation than the obvious one is the fact that nowhere does the Old Testament talk about women being submissive. 

The context of these verses is a letter, a response by Paul to some questions posed to him by the believers in Corinth (1 Corinthians 7:1).  Other passages, however, make it clear that women are not expected to keep totally silent.  For example, 1 Corinthians 11 tells us that women are to pray and prophesy with their heads covered.

There are actually three sets of people who are told to be silent (Greek sigao) in 1 Corinthians 14.  In each of the other two situations, the problem is mentioned, they are told to be silent, and then a solution is given.  The first occurs when someone wants to speak in a tongue but there is no one present to interpret (verses 27 and 28).  The solution?  They are to be silent and to speak to God privately.  The second happens when more than one person has a prophecy (verses 29 and 30).  Solution?  The first person is to be silent and the second deliver what God has given them.  However, in the verses about women, Paul doesn’t describe the problem, perhaps because he thought it was obvious from his answer.  Presumably some women were causing a disruption by asking questions loudly in the meeting.  Solution?  Rather than cause a disruption, they were to ask their husbands at home.  No one assumes in either of the first two situations that the instruction to be silent was for every situation and for all time, but these verses on women have been used to keep them silent for centuries.

The verses in 1Timothy 2 can be equally interpreted in a different way.  Clarity comes in the singular and plural uses of the word “woman.”   There are certain instructions given that apply to women (plural), but the challenging verses apply to a woman (singular).  A good explanation would be that there was one particular woman who was causing problems with wrong teaching, and a description of some disciplinary action taken to stop her is described in this passage. 1  This would be similar to the discipline prescribed for an unnamed man in 1 Corinthians 5.

Could it be that the attitude of the church in the West towards women is actually preventing the move of God we all long to see?  Could a fresh look at the challenging passages with an open mind change this situation?

The role of women in revival

In 1983, the insurance money from a robbery gave Tony and me the opportunity to travel to the Far East.  While we were there, we spent four days at Dr. Paul Yonggi Cho’s church in Korea, at that time the largest church in the world with around 350,000 members.  We learned many lessons from our time there.  One morning, we were wandering through the administrative building, when someone approached us offering an interview with Dr. Cho.  During our 20 minutes with him, one of three things he said to us was, “You will never see revival in the West until you are willing to use your women.” 

A small group of women with whom I work closely, recently looked at revivals from the perspective of women.  One of the things that struck us was that moves of God that seem to last for decades rather than being a quick flash in the pan, use women in strategic roles.  Examples include John Wesley and Methodism, Count Zinzendorf and the Moravians, or more recently, the Pentecostal movement that started in Azusa Street.  (Other common features include a small group structure and the development of an infrastructure.)  China, of course, is the same way.   Over 80% of the churches there are started by women.

Could it be that the classic church attitude toward women here in the West is preventing God from moving in power?

An encouragement to Kingdom women from an apostolic statesman

I received this email in response to my first blogs on the subject of women.  Dan Hubbell has been used around the world to teach and encourage leaders.  He is a man of the Word, an apostolic father in the best sense of the term, and one whose opinion I value on any topic!

Felicity, thank you for sharing your heart about the need for the church to release and bless both the sisters and brothers to be all that our Lord called and gifted them to be and do in His Kingdom for His glory! 

As you know, I came from a very traditional Baptist background, and I am grateful for my Christian heritage.  On our spiritual journey we are continuing to learn more and more about God's giftings and ministry of both brothers and sisters. 

The most effective way I have had in encouraging the release of our sisters in ministry is to use the scripture in teaching about the role of women in the life of Jesus as well as with the disciples. 

In addressing this issue with traditional believers, I use the Acts account of what happened on the Day of Pentecost with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon all who were in the upper room which included men and women.  Both men and women were filled with the Spirit and all began to speak in languages as the Spirit gave them utterance.  

Peter, according to Acts 2:16-21, stated that what was happening was based on the fulfillment of the scripture according to Joel 2:28-32, "But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel: And it shall come to pass in thelast dayssaith GodI will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:  And on your handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy…" 

I believe we are a part of those "last days" and God is restoring both men and women in gifting them by His Spirit to whatever ministry He calls them.  As you know, I have traveled to many nations over the past 30 years of mission work and have seen women and men ministering powerfully in their giftings especially in China and India.  

God has, is and will continue to minister through His servants, whether men or women, for His glory in whatever role or gifting He chooses.  He is the giver of the gifts and we as men or women should receive with joy whatever gifts he chooses to bestow upon us.  We also need to learn to gladly receive and encourage one another as men and women to be all that our Lord has designed and called us to be in His Kingdom for His glory.  

So, Felicity, I want you to know that I receive you and encourage you to be all the Lord has gifted you to be and do in His Kingdom, and not allow anyone to discourage or hinder you from fulfilling His calling and gifting on your life, my dear sister!


The Hemiplegic Bride (part 2)

A continuing look at women in the New Testament:

Phoebe was a valued minister in the church in Cenchrae, one whom Paul commended to the church in Rome (Romans 16:1).  In fact, of the twenty-seven different named people in Rome mentioned in that chapter, eight are women.   Six of them are described as laboring in some way with Paul.  One of them, Junia (verse 7), is even singled out as being an apostle.  Her name has sometimes been changed to Junias, a man’s name, to avoid the issue of her gender.  According to British theologian, Martin Scott, in his book about women For such a Time as This, Junia was a very common woman’s name at that time.  Quoting Lampe in World Commentary Series by James Dunn, he states that there are over 250 contemporary references to Junia (a female name)—not a single one to Junias.

What about women teaching?  Priscilla and Aquila instructed Apollos in Ephesus (Acts 18:26), Priscilla’s name being mentioned first in the original Greek manuscript.  Actually, in four of the six times that Priscilla and Aquila are mentioned as a couple, Priscilla is named first—unusual in a time when women were often not even counted if the number in a crowd was being assessed.  She may well have had the more dominant role of the two of them in the church.  When Jesus chastised the church of Thyatira in Revelation 2, it was not because a woman was teaching, but because she was promoting immorality. 

I am thankful to John Walker for some additional insights on this subject:

A glaring example of this (a male bias because of church hierarchy) is found where Paul provides us with a list of the spiritual gifts which are distributed amongst the members of the Body of Christ. The NIV translated it as follows:

“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.” (Romans 12:3-8)

The Greek for this passage, however, is completely gender neutral. The NIV translators have actually inserted the words “man’s” (once) and “him” (7 times) where there are no equivalent words in the Greek. The word translated “his” is a general purpose word used thousands of time and is translated in hundreds of different ways, both feminine and masculine as well as neuter. In the later version, “Today’s NIV,” this error is corrected and the passage is rendered as gender neutral. It is quite clear that in the distribution of these gifts (which include teaching, leadership and prophesy) no distinction is made between men and women. The other two passages which list spiritual gifts, 1 Corinthians 12:7-11; 12:27-31, are both gender neutral in the Greek and are so translated in the NIV.

Society is often prophetic for the church.  Think, for example, of the business trend towards a much flatter and participatory leadership style, and compare that with the simple/organic church movement that the Lord is using throughout the world.  Nowadays women function as doctors and lawyers, business executives and politicians.  Any group that prevents women from functioning in leadership because of their gender will be dismissed as archaic and irrelevant by today’s world. 

What could happen if women took their rightful place co-laboring alongside men in the Kingdom?

The Hemiplegic Bride (part 1)

Handicap sign

The body of Christ in this country is frequently hemiplegic.  Hemiplegia is a medical term used to describe a paralysis of one side of the body, as for example, after a stroke.  The voice of the female half of the army has been silenced. Obviously there are notable exceptions to this, but in general women are not allowed to develop to their full potential within the church. 

It has not always been that way.

In the ministry of Jesus, women played an important part.  Some women traveled with him and helped to support His ministry (Mark 15:41; Luke 8:1-3).  A woman anointed him for burial (Matthew 26:12).  The women did not desert him at His crucifixion (Matthew 27:55).  After his resurrection, the first people Jesus revealed Himself to were not the disciples, but a group of women; He entrusted the message of His resurrection to them (Luke 24:1-11). 

Jesus did not treat women as second-class citizens.  Some of his most strategic conversations were with women.  These were not dumbed-down monologues.  They were deep, theological discussions.  Think, for example, of Jesus’ conversation with the woman at the well in John 4, or his dialog about the resurrection with Martha in John 11.  Jesus treated women as valued equals—in a day when most people regarded them as mere possessions.

Women were included in the gathering in the upper room after Jesus’ ascension (Acts 1:14).  Joel’s prophecy in that context specifically mentions that the Holy Spirit will be poured out on both men and women and they will all prophesy (Acts 2:17-18).  Phillip’s four daughters were examples of this (Acts 21:9).

A phone call to remember (part 2)

In many churches, women are limited in what they are allowed to do.  They can make the coffee, (actually a specifically male role as exemplified by the book of He Brews) and teach a children’s Sunday school class.  But it is what women are NOT allowed to do that is the problem.  In many situations, women are not allowed any role that carries “authority.”  For example, I have a close friend who has been trained to teach a disciple-making course.  But sometimes, when a church hears that one of the presenters of the course is going to be a woman, they refuse to allow her to come.

God has given me (and many other women) certain desires and gifts that have always led me to be a strategic thinker.  I love listening to God, particularly in the context of a group that is seeking His face for what He is doing within the Kingdom.  As a physician, I was capable of making life-and-death decisions, but for years I was not allowed to take any kind of leadership role in church because of my gender.  This was a huge source of sadness for me.

Thankfully the Holy Spirit is beginning to change all of this.  There is an increasing understanding that the Scriptures do not prohibit women from leadership roles.  God is using women all over the world to extend His Kingdom.  Women have started over 80 percent of the house churches in China.  A similar situation exists in Dr Yonggi Cho’s church in Korea where again women lead over 80 percent of the cell groups of the largest church in the world.  Think of Heidi Baker, who with her husband, Rolland, is responsible for more than 10,000 churches in Mozambique and other African countries.  In India, recently, I met a middle-aged housewife who, with the team she has trained, has started more than 6,000 churches.

What can God do with a woman who is yielded to Him? 

A phone call to remember (part 1)

Tony and I were enjoying a weekend lie in when
his cell phone rang.  It soon
became apparent from his end of the conversation that the person the other end
was interested in publishing a book called An
Army of Ordinary People
that I wrote some time ago.

“Put it on speaker,” I whispered to Tony, eager to hear what
was being offered.

The conversation continued.  Then the person the other end said, “Of course, we’ll put
both your names on the front cover. 
This book is far too important to have been written by a woman!”

It was at this point that I lost my sanctification.  It wasn’t that I minded Tony’s name on
the book—we’ve written together before. 
It was the insinuation that a woman could not write anything of
significance that frustrated me.

(Thankfully, An Army
of Ordinary People
has been rewritten and updated and is being republished
by Tyndale House Publishers on May 3rd .)

Sadly, even in these days when our society generally
recognizes women as equals, the attitude towards women in the church is often
medieval.  Over the years, I
remember being told:

        A woman can lead—she just does it through her

        A woman is equal to a man.  It’s just that her role is different and,
by implication, not as     important. 
Kind of like George Orwell’s “All animals are created equal but some            animals are more equal than others (Animal Farm).

              God will use a woman—but only when there is no
man available to do the job (my                          personal favorite!)

has long been patriarchal in nature. 
For the most part, I don’t believe this is deliberate misogyny.  A patriarchal interpretation of the
Scriptures has led to the belief that women cannot hold any position of
strategic leadership within the body of Christ.  For some women (as for some men), this does not matter to
them.  However, God has placed in
the hearts of many of us women a longing to hear His voice, to think
strategically and to lead out—not in any lording it over sense, but in humble
service to His body—to be of significance.

A Woman Church Planter (Part 3)

The final part of the interview with "Mary," a church planter in India.

When asked to tell more about prayer walking, Mary says

“When I go prayer walking we go as a group.  It’s not just going for a walk in the
morning.  We are entering into
battle.  We have to go fully clad
with spiritual armor—the name of Jesus, the blood of Jesus, the Word of Jesus,
fasting, praising and prayer. 
Whoever we take with us, we teach. 
First we submit ourselves to God and then we have battle with

“Each city is divided into voting divisions which contain a
number of colonies.  We prepare
many prayer warriors and divide them up so that each colony is covered. My city
has 2,000 slum areas. The basis for prayer walking is the word of God.  Jeremiah 29:7 says And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into
Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will
determine your welfare.”
are to pray for the city and work for the city.  The colony where I live is my responsibility.  Every person is responsible to prayer
walk the area where they live.  We
have a special strategy at certain times of the year.  Whenever there is a Hindu festival, we prayer walk around
any big temple every morning and evening before the festival.  We get good results from this.

“The same is true at election time.  We surround the election booth with
prayer.  We appoint people to pray
that there shouldn’t be any corruption or bad events.  The government is very anti-Christian but because of prayer
they don’t do any damage to us.”

For more information and on-going news of global and regional house
church summits and training events please visit www.222foundation.org

A Woman Church Planter (Part 2)

Continuing the story of "Mary," a church planter in India.

Mary and her team believe that there should be a house
church in every language and people group.  There are 20,800 villages in Chhattisgarh, and they have
reached 1,800 of them with 6,000 house churches (some villages have more than
one if there is more than one people group in that village.) The house churches
meet every day, not just on Sundays. 
Each day they share fellowship, intercede, have teaching and take
communion.   The team keeps teaching in a church
until a leader emerges from that group.

Bindu is the coordinator of the women’s ministries
and Mary is one of her master trainers. 
There are six levels of leadership in the work:

  1. Working at a
    grass-roots level by starting a house church.  These people are given the vision of taking their own
    village and nurturing the people there.
  2. Leading a cluster of
    house churches in a block of 150 villages.  They have vision for their block.
  3. Leadership of several blocks
    of house churches.
  4. Master trainers at a
    district level—these are more mature leaders.
  5. Master trainers at a
    state level—they are responsible for all the training that goes on in a
  6. Master trainers at an
    international level.


Mary is training to be an international master trainer.  They use different teachings for
different levels of trainer.  
New believers are not trained with the same teachings as those who are
more mature.