Women as ministers?

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Nederlands Dagblad (“Workgroup sees women ministers as Biblical”, 16 October 2015), reported that a new 14-member workgroup calling itself “Man, Woman, Church” is seeking to provide a Scriptural basis for having women in the offices of ministers, elders and deacons. The workgroup is made up of both men and women drawn mainly from the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (RCN/ GKv). The findings can then be used, for example, by women who want to enter the ministry as material to lodge a basis for asking the RCN synod of 2017 review a synod decision made in 2014 which had declared that men and women have differing responsibilities.

According to the news report women in office is a sensitive issue within the RCN. Throughout the centuries only men have filled the offices in the church. However, since 2005 the RCN have officially engaged in studying the matter.

This led in 2013 to the surprising recommendations of synod deputies, who had been appointed to study the matter, to open up all the offices to women. They argued that Paul’s injunction that women should keep silent in the churches was culturally determined. However their argument met with opposition.

The new workgroup has distanced itself from this argument. Instead, it wants to open up the office to women on the basis of Peter’s sermon at Pentecost in which he says that “your sons and your daughters will prophecy”.

Unfortunately the writer of the news item gave no Scriptural answer, unlike the late Piet Jongeling, once a long time EIC of Nederlands Dagblad, who saw it as his task to help the reader understand what God’s Word has to say about the issues of the day. One misses this sort of reformed direction in Nederlands Dagblad today.

The Bible is very clear about women not being office bearers in church: “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence” (1 Timothy 2:12 NKJV).

This does not mean that they may not teach at home or at school or in their contact with others, as Priscilla did. For we all share in Christ’s anointing as prophets, priests and kings, and as prophets are to “confess His name” in our daily walk of life (LD 12). But the special office in church is clearly restricted to men (see also 1 Cor. 14:33-35, 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1).

As Calvin says in his commentary on verse 1 Tim. 2: 12:

“Not that he [Paul] takes from them the charge of instructing their family, but only excludes them from the office of teaching, which God has committed to men only… If any one bring forward, by way of objection, Deborah (Judges 4:4) and others of the same class, of whom we read that they were at one time appointed by the command of God to govern the people, the answer is easy. Extraordinary acts done by God do not overturn the ordinary rules of government, by which he intended that we should be bound. Accordingly, if women at one time held the office of prophets and teachers, and that too when they were supernaturally called to it by the Spirit of God, He who is above all law might do this; but, being a peculiar case, this is not opposed to the constant and ordinary system of government.

He adds — what is closely allied to the office of teaching — and not to assume authority over the man; for the very reason, why they are forbidden to teach, is, that it is not permitted by their condition. They are subject, and to teach implies the rank of power or authority… “

And Hendriksen and Kistemaker, commenting on 1 Timothy 2:13-14, say:

“In forming or molding (cf. Rom. 9:20) the human pair, God first made Adam; afterward Eve. Not only that, but he made Eve for the sake of Adam, to be his helper (Gen. 2:18-25), and his glory (1 Cor. 11:7-9). Neither is complete without the other (1 Cor. 11:11). But in his sovereign wisdom God made the human pair in such a manner that it is natural for him to lead, for her to follow; for him to be aggressive, for her to be receptive; for him to invent, for her to use the tools which he invents. The tendency to follow was embedded in Eve’s very soul as she came forth from the hand of her Creator. Hence, it would not be right to reverse this order in connection with public worship. Why should a woman be encouraged to do things that are contrary to her nature? Her very body, far from preceding that of Adam in the order of creation, was taken out of Adam’s body. Her very name – Ish-shawas derived from his name – Ish (Gen.2:23). It is when the woman recognizes this basic distinction and acts accordingly that she can be a blessing to the man, can exert a gracious yet very powerful and beneficent influence upon him, and can promote her own happiness, unto God’s glory.”

J Numan