1 Timothy 2:12 Women In The Church


In the context of just having released women to learn it was only natural that after a time of learning some of these women would become quite competent to teach. When they did, the question would naturally arise? If God wants his daughters to learn, doesn't that mean they should also be teachers? The answer to that question is a resounding yes as long as they teach within the boundaries that God has created for them. Titus 2:3-4 instructs us that The older or more mature women are required to teach the younger women. Here in 1 Timothy, however, Paul gives us another guideline. A woman must never be the authoritative teacher of a man.

What I have just said goes hard against the grain of our culture. But I was not the first to say it. It is a principle stated by Paul which has as it's root the order of creation. Sadly it is one more example of why Satan has decided to attack Genesis. If we lose Genesis we lose the authority upon which Jesus and Paul and almost every other New testament author taught. This doctrine in particular is so unpopular today that it is outright ignored in a growing number of churches and denominations. “Surely,” they reason, “God could not have meant what he said!” It is, however, characteristic of the sin nature to reject what God offers and to demand something different.

If you haven't already done so, return in your Bibles to 1 Timothy 2:12-15 and read that together with me.

Now you remember the context. Paul has just stated that women are required to learn. God wants his daughters in Christ to become – as it were – Bible scholars together with the men. That common growth is the point of Ephesians 4:11-12 God gave different teachers and authorities to the church so that the church as a whole would attain maturity in the knowledge of the faith so that we're not tossed about with the lies of the world like little toy ships on the ocean waves.

If God's daughters are required to learn with the men, is there a time when it becomes appropriate for those women to teach men? Look at what Paul says, “But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.”

The Authority of Paul


Let's start with the question of Paul's authority. Notice that Paul says, “I do not permit…”

Right out of the gate the egalitarian interpreters are shouting that this is Paul's concept of women in the church not God's. Therefore , they argue, we can ignore these verses as irrelevant outside of first century Ephesus because they are only Paul's personal opinion.

Is that true? What is significant about Paul's assertion that "I" do not permit as opposed to him saying, "God does not permit”? Ultimately we must realize that if Paul is indeed speaking for God, which – as an author of scripture he is, then whatever Paul writes here is binding as though he did say, "God does not permit…" Yet the fact remains that he says, "I". What effect then does the pronoun have on the interpretation of this verse? None whatsoever.

Remembering that Paul writes as the official Apostle to the Gentiles and that Timothy is part Gentile, while the Ephesian church is most likely almost completely gentile, the directive takes on an authoritative content because of the messenger.

Moreover, Paul does not base his teaching in this passage on personal1 opinion2 but rather upon the created order before the fall and the culpability incurred as part the fall. The parallel passage in 1 Corinthians 14:34 links the prohibition directly to the Law, presumably the very same passage to which he refers here. Paul's “opinion” – if we must use that word – is fashioned by the words of God recorded for us in the first chapters of Genesis. Therefore when Paul says I do not permit, it is not a mere personal opinion which we can reject as being distinct from God's it is rather a doctrine which he practices in response to God's word; and which is therefore binding on all Christians.

The Scope of Authority


Paul wasn't speaking this into a vacuum either. When he says, “I do not permit” it becomes evident that he is not allowing someone to do what they want to do.3 Thus there were apparently women in Ephesus trying to get into teaching positions where they would be teaching men. And it's not just that they would be teaching but WHO they would be teaching that is at issue here. In fact there are two issues: Teaching and Authority.



Teaching means more than leading by example it means authoritatively proclaiming God's word. Teaching men is out. That distinction is important because women were indeed permitted (even commanded) to teach in certain circumstances. There are a few other passages that warrant some discussion.

In Acts 18:26, Priscilla together with her husband Aquila took Apollos aside (Presumably to their home) in order to explain to him the way of God more accurately. This passage is widely argued as a contradiction to the complementarian interpretation of this passage. However there are unique circumstances in the acts passage which negate those arguments. It was a private session – a unique circumstance and we may be fairly certain that in keeping with the rest of scripture any instruction which Priscilla provided in that session would have been under the authority of her husband; moreover there is no certain way to state that she did or did not actively teach Apollos on that occasion. Since husband and wife were both there, it is most likely that proper gender roles were upheld in the Acts text.

In Titus 2:3-4 the older women are commanded to teach the younger women. It is reflected as a good thing that women (his mother and grandmother) taught Timothy when he was a child (2 Tim 1:5; 3:15). Thus women are indeed permitted to teach doctrine, but not to teach doctrine to men. The very fact that women are commanded and permitted to teach under appropriate circumstances is a death blow to the tired argument that women are somehow more susceptible to being lead astray than men.

The teaching and authority issues have nothing to do with gullibility but rather proper understanding of gender roles within God's created order.

The Second issue is that of authority



The meaning of the word translated as “authority” here is perhaps one of the most important discussions for this particular verse. What does it mean to "exercise authority" over a man? At face value it's meaning seems obvious and after lots and lots of study it still is: Any position which would place a woman in a position of authority over men in the church is contrary to God's purpose in creation which we will discuss next week. Paul doesn't let any woman teach a man or exercise authority over a man. By faithfulness to God's word, we shouldn't either.

Given the framework of Paul's argument and the rest of scripture, I think we can readily say that no woman should teach in the general assembly from this pulpit, nor in the adult Sunday school classes which meet here or in the fellowship hall because in each of those three situations there are men here who would be sitting under her authority. But if we were to form a women's bible study – the more mature women should be teaching, indeed must be teaching the younger women. In the children and youth Sunday school classes we fall in line with Timothy's example and there is no problem when a woman teaches children.

But in the general assembly where in Paul's day various Christians would rise to deliver a short instruction,4 she is to remain quiet in terms of that instruction.

The Attitude Towards Authority


This is the same word I talked about last week, Quiet means she possesses an attitude of peacefulness.

This is basically a reiteration of the prior statement from a new direction. A woman must learn the scriptures; and she must do so quietly which most certainly means she is not teaching the men in the church.

The application at this point begins to be quite clear. No woman should be permitted to preach authoritatively from the pulpit or in the Sunday school room where men are present and sitting under her tutelage. To do so is a violation of God's created order and design. The mandates elsewhere to teach the other women provides a more than ample outlet for women with the skills and gifts and the calling to teach an opportunity to exercise her God given gifts in a God honoring way.

It’s Time For The Men To Be Men And Take The Role Which God Has Given Them Seriously.

Lead your Family towards Christ, Lead the Church by following Christ.

That is the ministry which we are all called to.

Questions For You:

  1. Should a Christian woman seek the presidency, or a congressional seat? Or to make it more common, should a Christian woman seek management positions when she will obviously have authority over men in that role?

  2. In the reverse: What does this indicate for having a female boss, congresswoman or president?

  3. What about women as worship leaders?

  4. What about the argument that women pastors have been called to pastor?

  5. What about the argument that in some denominations the woman pastor is under the authority of her male bishop?

  6. What about the argument “If men won't take charge the women must”?

  7. What about women at home ruling over their Marvin Milquetoast husbands?


1For further discussion regarding the meaning of "I" confer WBC volume 46 on the verse. William D. Mounce, vol. 46, Word Biblical Commentary : Pastoral Epistles, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 2002), 121.

2George W. Knight, The Pastoral Epistles : A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids, Mich.; Carlisle, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 1992), 140.)

3MacArthur, John. 1 Timothy. Chicago: Moody Press, 1995. p86

4George W. Knight, The Pastoral Epistles : A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids, Mich.; Carlisle, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 1992), 141.