It has often been said, “There’s no such things as a lone ranger Christian.” This is true. A believer who lives outside the Covenant Community, who lives outside of a local church is not biblical. Rather, biblically believers are marked by their participation within a local church, the local manifestation of the Covenant Community. Biblically, believers live in and participate in the Covenant Community through the local church not para-church organizations. Biblically, believers are marked by their submission to the elders of a local church.
As Paul wrote to Timothy for the first time he indirectly writes to the Ephesian church again. In 1 Timothy and the Pastoral Epistles as a whole, the controlling metaphor is the Church as the household of God (1 Tim 3:15). As God’s household, His Covenant Community excels for the glory of God. He has given the Church the ordinances which express the gospel to not only believers but to the world. He has given individuals spiritual gifts for the sake of edifying the Covenant Community. Furthermore, He has given godly men to the Church to manage His affairs as stewards in the household of God. Godly elders and deacons function to equip the household of God for the work of ministry. Have you placed yourself under the authority of a local church, to a group of godly elders who will “keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account” (Heb 13:17)? Are you active within the Covenant Community (Heb 10:24-25)? We have to be actively involved within the Covenant Community! We have to submit to the leadership that God has established for His Covenant Community!
What Does Scripture Say about Leadership in the Church?
Paul clearly instructs Timothy of the importance of godliness and instructs Timothy to put the household of God in order. The Bible is the only authority and is the final authority on all theological controversies. Whatever God says about an issue is the final authority in the Church because the Church is God’s household. The Church is the household of God and is thus governed by God’s authority. The household/estate metaphor, namely in the Pastoral Epistles, can not be overlooked, as the Master of the house, God has appointed stewards to oversee His affairs (for a full discussion of the household management/stewardship metaphor see F. Alan Tomlinson’s chapter in the book Entrusted with the Gospel).
Within God’s household, He has established male leadership. No one denies that women are smart and have the ability to teach. Priscilla had an instructive role as she and Aquila “explained the way of God to [Apollos] more accurately” (Acts 18:26). It should be noted that they “heard him, they took him home.” Thus Priscilla did not act in this instructive role without her husband Aquila. Lois and Eunice raise Timothy with knowledge of the Scriptures (2 Tim 1:5; 3:14). Titus 2 informs older women that they are to teach younger women (Tit 2:3-5). Women had some role in public prayer as is mentioned in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16. Scripture contains no example of a woman teaching or instructing an assembled group in public. Furthermore, Scripture prohibits the practice. Deborah sat under a tree while people came to her for judgment (Judg 4:5). Barak, not Deborah, led the armies into battle. Deborah’s judgment was along the lines of Priscilla’s private instruction. There is no example in Scripture of a woman teaching publicly.
Paul himself does not appeal to culture or even to the situation in Ephesus but he appeals to Creation when he states “I do not allow a woman to teach or to have authority over a man” (1 Tim 2:12; cf. 2:13). Within the Pastoral Epistles, Paul writes as God’s chief steward to put the household of God in proper order. Timothy and Titus are instructed to: (1) establish godly men as elders who manager the household of God; (2) establish godly men as deacons who are servants in God’s estate; and (3) define the vital role women have in the household of God.
Elders: Godly Men who are Managers in the Household of God
There are three predominant passages that limit the role of elder or pastor to male leadership (1 Tim 3:1-15; Eph 5:22-33; 1 Tim 2:9-14). In 1 Timothy 3 Paul lists the qualification of office of elder. Surely a woman can “be above reproach…self-controlled, sensible, respectable, hospitable, an able teacher, not addicted to wine, not a bully but gentle, not quarrelsome, not greedy” (3:2-3). But there are two qualifications that a woman cannot fulfill: (1) the husband of one wife (3:2); (2) one who manages his own household competently, having his children under control with all dignity (3:4). It goes without saying that a woman cannot be “the husband of one wife.” Secondly, men are to manage their own household well and this demonstrates that they can manage the household of God. Although women do have some role in managing their household (1 Tim 5:14), the Bible clearly presents men as the leaders of their own household. Peter wrote, “In the same way, wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands…Husbands, in the same way, live with your wives with an understanding of their weaker nature yet showing them honor as coheirs of the grace of life” (1 Pet 3:1,7; cf. Eph 5:22-24). A woman cannot be a leader in the church because it would be contrary to God’s design for marriage. Furthermore, it would be antithetical to the gospel itself. As the Church submits to Christ, wives submit to their husbands. First Timothy 2 has the clearly prohibition against women serving as pastors in the church. The context of 1 Timothy is the local church (3:15). First Timothy 2:9-14 clearly proclaims that women cannot have a teaching role over men in the church. Therefore it seems natural within the context that Paul refers to any area of the church over men. Some believe in a functional egalitarianism where women cannot hold the office of elder or pastor but can teach under the authority of the senior pastor. Such a view is antithetical to Paul’s statement, “I do not allow a woman to teach or to have authority over a man” (2:12). The office of elder and pastor is reserved for men only and for women to serve as elders or pastors is antithetical to the gospel itself.
Titus was in Crete to put elders in charge of God’s household (Tit 1:5-16). Paul’s practice after preaching the gospels was to establish elders in a church. Titus was sent to Crete to establish them. Cretans were said to be “liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons” (v.12). The leaders of the household of God were to be completely different. Paul’s point is the character of the man reflects the household of God and vica versa. The elder must manage his own household well, (v.6), not be characterized by sin (v.7), must be characterized by righteousness (v.8), and must be a teacher (.9). Paul concludes that the elder must be pure and not “detestable, disobedient, and disqualified for any good work” (1:16).
We experience the Covenant Community through the local church, not through para-church organizations. We live within the Covenant Community as we submit to godly elders whom He has given to the local church. Elders foster and lead the local church, the manifestation of the Covenant Community that we find ourselves in. Are marked by our submission to and prayer for a group of godly men within a local church, the manifestation of the Covenant Community?
On Monday, I will publish part 2 and consider the role of deacons and women within the Covenant Community. Have a great weekend and enjoy the Covenant Community this weekend as we celebrate Lord’s Day as a community.