Ecclesiology 43, 1 Timothy 3:8-13
12-9-18 Lesson 43
Father, we’re grateful for today, and grateful for the freedom that we have in this country to worship as You called us to do, without restriction. Of course we commemorated Pearl Harbor this last week and so we reflect upon the great tragedy that occurred there, the many, many lives that were lost and yet how You used that event to allow the United States to beat back what probably would have been worldwide fascism had we not intervened in that war so we acknowledge all of those things and commemorate the many victims. I do ask, Father that You’ll be with us during the Sunday School hour and the main service that follows and the children’s program later on this evening. I ask that in all things Your name would be lifted up and glorified. We ask these things in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said… Amen.
Why don’t we open our Bibles to 1 Timothy 3 verses 8-13. I trust you guys are enjoying this global warming we’re experiencing today. It’s kind of a relief in a way to get some cool weather… amen! Houstonians understand that, as do Texans. As you know we’re continuing along in our study of Ecclesiology, the doctrine of the church, having really taken a look at many, many activities or many, many things related to the church, including its activities, which we saw in Acts 2; it’s model of government, which we believe the best support that you have in the New Testament is the elder model, elder rule model. So if all of that is true there should be some place in the Bible that tells us that a church is to be governed by a plurality of Godly men and what kind of qualifications do those men possess, must they possess to be elders. And so that logically leads into Roman numeral X there, a discussion of church officers. We’ve looked at, first of all the office of elder; its qualification or qualifications for elders, the concept of the plurality of elders, distinction amongst elders, duties of elders, the whole issue of can an elder be removed.
So we dealt with elders and then from there we moved on to deacons and we saw that deacons really their role begins in Acts 6. And the function of a deacon really is to take care of a lot of the day to day operations of the ministry which frees up the elders to pursue their calling which is the ministry of the Word and prayer. And we’ve also seen that just as there are qualifications for elders there are also qualifications for deacons. And those all character type qualifications that we took a look at last time in 1 Timothy 3:8-13.
Now if I was trying to be politically correct and trying to avoid controversy I would have just left out this next session related to elders and deacons because if you’re around Christianity for a while you start to see there’s a lot of controversy on this and it has to do with gender restrictions concerning the two offices. Are there gender restrictions on the office of elder? Are there gender restrictions on the office of deacon? And last time we started kind of looking at that and I tried to make some preliminary comments on it because a lot of people will sort of miss hear what you’re saying.
We’re not saying, number one, that women have no place in the church when we talk about gender restrictions on certain offices and that’s where I referred you to the notes by Thomas Constable who was my professor at Dallas Seminary and he has online seven thousand pages of Bible study notes all of which are verse by verse commentaries through the Bible. And in his 1 Timothy notes, which you can find at Soniclight (all one word) light is l-i-g-h-t, not like lite mayo but light as in physical light, Soniclight.com appendix 2, he lists all of the things that women do in the Bible for God. And I tried to read you some of those things and Old Testament/New Testament it becomes overwhelming that God uses and wants to use women in the church.
So when we talk about certain gender restrictions we’re really talking about a small percentage of total ministry. And we made the point last week that if you took every woman out of Sugar Land Bible Church the church would probably collapse. So women play a great role, not only in our church here at Sugar Land Bible Church but throughout the pages of God’s Word you see God actively using women. So a limitation on some ministry should not be understood as women have no place in ministry.
And we also tried to communicate the point that just because there’s a restriction in terms of a role for a female that is not a statement of her value or her worth before God. And one of the things I tried to use to communicate this point was the doctrine of the Trinity where we believe there’s one God, that He has expressed Himself in three separate personages, God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. And it remains true that God the Son submits to God the Father; He certainly did that, Jesus did, in His incarnation. He said over and over again, I have come not to do My will but the will of Him who sent me. [John 6:38, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.”]
So there was a submission by the Son to the Father. But that submission was in role only, it wasn’t in terms of value or worth, or the fancy word for that would be ontology. So the Son, and I could show you all the passages, even in His submission never relinquished one iota of deity. In fact, the Son, Jesus Christ, said over and over again, “I and the Father are One,” John 10. [John 10:30, “I and the Father are one.”] He claimed to be the great “I AM,” John 8:58, which is a title that only belongs to God. [John 8:58, “Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.’”]
So over and over again you see Jesus representing or communicating the fact that he is still 100% God, 100% man. So it’s a very important thing to understand that in His submission to the Father He never gave up one iota of deity. The submission was not ontological or value based; the submission was in role only. And I think this is a very helpful model to understand when you get into this subject of gender restrictions on some offices within the church and the fact that within marriage the woman is called upon to submit to her husband. What is happening is when people hear that in our culture, which has become very feminized as you know, they think it’s a statement that women have no value or are less valuable than the man. And that simply isn’t true.
Just as the Son’s submission to the Father is in role only the female submission to the male is in role or function only because when you go back to the beginning of God’s Book, Genesis 1:27 you learn that men and women together are both co-image bearers of God. Genesis 1:27 says, “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” So both genders have the same ontology or value or worth in terms of creation. They both have the exact same ontology or value or worth in terms of redemption because I showed you this passage from 1 Peter 3:7 which says the woman is “a fellow heir of the grace of life.” [1 Peter 3:7, “You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.”]
So a woman is saved just the same way a man is. So a woman and a man together in Christ, not only do they have the same value in terms of their creation, as co-image bearers of God but they actually have the same value or worth in terms of salvation.
And beyond that, when you start to make comments about certain offices having a gender limitation on them people start to ask can a woman run a Fortune 500 company, and can she run for office and would you ever vote for a female for the President of the United States. And my answer is well, it depends on the female I guess, this last election cycle I don’t think I would have done that. But there are a number of female leaders that if I had the chance to vote for them I would. One of my favorites in history, going back a few decades back, is Margaret Thatcher. Had I lived in her jurisdiction and that time period I would have voted for her over and over again.
So these comments that Paul makes are really related to the church only, that we’re looking it. You should extrapolate concerning female business owners, CEO’s, leaders in education, etc. etc. etc. So let’s not make more of these gender limitations than what are actually there.
But those remarks having been made it’s very clear that when you survey the passages related, first of all to elders, there clearly are gender limitations on those roles. I gave you several last time so I won’t rehash all of them but you see the repetition of “he” or “him” in 1 Timothy 3:1-2, and Titus 1:6 talking about elders. [1 Timothy 3:1-2, “It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do.  An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach.”]
And it also says in those passages that he must be “the husband of one wife,” you know, even in our transgender (gender surrender culture) I think it’s very difficult to rewrite that. I don’t know how a woman could be the husband of one wife, I guess we could talk to Bruce Jenner about that or Kaitlin Jenner or whatever. But I think God is pretty clear on this concerning gender limitation. And one of the passages we looked at last time was 1 Timothy 2:11-14 where Paul, and again these are all part of the pastoral letters. [1 Timothy 2:11-14, “A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness.  But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.  For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve.  And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.”]
There are three books of the New Testament that we call the pastoral letters meaning that they’re written to tell pastors how to be pastors. And so many people want to build their philosophy of female leadership from Deborah, or whoever, in the Book of Judges. Well the Book of Judges was written during a completely different dispensation. The point of the Book of Judges is Israel needs a king because everyone did what was right in their own eyes over a three hundred year period of perpetual cycles of disobedience leading to bondage. I think there’s seven cycles there. So are we really going to go to Judges to build our philosophy of church government? No, Judges is a wonderful book but that’s not why the book was set up. You know why the book was set up, because you get to the end of the Book of Judges and it says “there was no king” there was at least three times, maybe four, “in Israel in those days and everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”
So we’re not going to go to Judges to develop a philosophy of female leadership. That’s what you call descriptive material, not prescriptive. And probably you should learn the difference between descriptive and prescriptive. There are things happening in the Bible that are describing what is happening but they’re not prescribing what we are supposed to do. So we have a description of David’s adultery and murder. Now should I go out and commit adultery and murder because it’s right there in the Bible? NO, that is describing a sin of somebody, it is not prescribing what we are supposed to do.
So to figure out what is supposed to be normative in the age of the church and what is normative in the church you go to the right text for that, and books, and you build your case primarily on the pastoral letters. Those are 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy and Titus. 1 Timothy written by Paul between Roman imprisonments from Macedonia to Timothy in Ephesus showing Timothy how to be a pastor. And 2 Timothy written from Rome in Paul’s second Roman imprisonment, also written to Timothy, a pastor in Ephesus teaching him again how to be a pastor. And then of course you have the book of Titus, written between the two Roman imprisonments of Paul from a place called Nicopolis, to Titus on this little island (actually we were just there on our trip) called Crete where he was put in charge of organizing house churches on the island of Crete.
So if you want to figure out what is God’s philosophy of leadership for the church those are the passages you go to. And you’ll notice that all of these passages that I’m quoting here come from those pastoral letters. And in 1 Timothy 2:11-14 I think Paul is very clear, he says that a woman is not to teach nor to exercise authority over a man. [1 Timothy 2:11-14, “A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness.  But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.  For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve.  And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.”]
And people say well, you know, that was just the culture of the day and they make all these sort of cultural arguments. I call it the cultural copout, and the reason I think it’s a copout is because when you study 1 Timothy 2:11-14 (really 11-15) very carefully you’ll see that Paul anchors his whole case of why a woman is not to teach nor exercise authority over a man within a church to pre-fallen creation, which is transcultural. It has to do with how God has made the woman and how God has made the man. And Paul there makes the point that it was the man who was created first but it was the woman who sinned first. The man was created first demonstrating his headship over her. And that’s why God allowed Adam to name Eve in Genesis 1 and 2. And beyond that when Eve sinned first God called out to the man, Genesis 3:9. [Genesis 3:9, “Then the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, ‘Where are you?’”]
Now why would he call out to the man? Because when Enron goes belly up you go out to the CEO, you don’t go after someone lower on the chain. See that? So this concept of male headship is something that existed before the fall and that’s very important because we have today what’s called evangelical feminism. Evangelical feminism is basically trying to abolish all gender roll distinctions between men and women and they’re trying to make the point that those gender restrictions only came into existence because of the fall. Now when you actually study this out you learn that that’s not true at all; these gender roll distinctions, in terms of male headship, existed prior to the fall. In other words, this was God’s original design.
So when the Apostle Paul makes a statement in 1 Timothy 2:11-14, which should carry a lot of weight to us because this is a pastoral letter, and he says a woman is not “to teach or to exercise authority over a man.” [1 Timothy 2:11-14, “A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness.  But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.  For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve.  And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.”]
When you study that passage, and we looked at it last week, Paul’s whole point is anchored in pre-fallen creation which transcends any cultural argument you can think of. It’s not a cultural Paul is dealing with here because pre-fall predates all cultures. See that?
And we tried to make some balancing comments last time because people say well, I guess a woman can’t teach at all in the church. Well, that’s not true either because you have 2 Timothy 1:5 and 2 Timothy 3:15 where young Timothy was taught the Scriptures from infancy by who? Lois and Eunice. Well who are they? That’s mom and grandma. [2 Timothy 1:5, “For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well.” 2 Timothy 3:15, “and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”]
[1 Timothy 2:11-14, “A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness.  But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.  For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve.  And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.”]
So Timothy became the person that he became because he was inculcated with the Scripture at a very early age so that opens up the door clearly for a woman to teach youth. And then you have Titus 2:3-4 where it talks about how a woman, an older woman should be teaching the younger women. [Titus 2:3-4, “Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good,  so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children,  to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.”] So clearly there’s a place within the church for females to teach other females.
And then you have a situation in Acts 18:24-26 where Priscilla and Aquila, a husband and wife team, took the very gifted Apollos aside and taught him the way of the truth more accurately. [Acts 18:24-26, “Now a Jew named Apollos, an Alexandrian by birth, an eloquent man, came to Ephesus; and he was mighty in the Scriptures. This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he was speaking and teaching accurately the things concerning Jesus, being acquainted only with the baptism of John;  and he began to speak out boldly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.”]
So Apollos up to that point in time is what we would call an Old Testament saint; he had a knowledge through John the Baptist of a coming Messiah but he didn’t know the name Jesus and he didn’t know much about the baptism of the Holy Spirit and all of these other kinds of things that had started a few decades back in the age of the church. So he’s kind of a transitional figure, this man Apollos; a very gifted orator, very gifted debater.
So Priscilla and Aquila, that’s a husband and wife together, took Apollos aside, Acts 18:24-26 says they taught him the way of truth more accurately, they filled in the gaps for him. And that meant Apollos, who was effective before now became even more effective with the full knowledge of God’s truth. And it was again a husband and a wife team doing that. So there’s obviously a place in a non-congregational setting where a husband and wife can teach somebody else. So you have to look at all of the verses on this rather than just one or two verses.
But having said all of that I think the case is pretty crystal clear that you can’t have female elders nor can you have what we would call female… today we use the vernacular female senior pastors. A female or a woman should not be behind the pulpit teaching a mixed audience.
And what I’m going to so id I’m going to cover deacons, the deacon issue real fast and I know you all have probably lots of questions so I’m going to try to stop early for a change and entertain whatever questions you may have. But that’s basically my best understanding of gender restrictions on the office of elder or what we would call teaching pastor. So that’s office number one in the church.
And what about office number two, the office of deacon? I don’t think the case is as open and closed as I used to think it was. So if a church wants to place a gender restriction on the office of deacon I think I can completely understand that, that’s the way Sugar Land Bible Church operates. But if a church, on the other hand doesn’t want to do that I can understand their position as well. And I’ll try to explain why I think that.
So this is an area that I would call a gray area in the Scripture. I’m all in favor of being dogmatic where God Himself is dogmatic. But there are some areas of the Scripture that really aren’t as dogmatic as we think they are and I’ll try to present that to you. So I’m less likely to use the “H” word, heresy against churches that have female deacons. I used to use that word to them quite a bit but I don’t do that anymore because I think there’s some ambiguity there. And by the way, I’m not on any big crusade to change anything at Sugar Land Bible Church. Our doctrinal statement and constitution says what it says, I don’t think we’re doing anything wrong by the way we do things here. I just want us to recognize that the clarity on this may not be crystal clear and I think that should of soften our attitude maybe a little bit towards other churches that do things differently, not so much on elders of senior pastors, I think that’s crystal clear, but on the office of deacon. So here we go.
Should there be female deacons and of course we would call them a deaconess. A lot of people say there should not be female deacons, there should be a restriction on the office of deaconess. Why do they think that? Well they have some good reasons for thinking that. The first reason they think that is Acts 6:3. Acts 6:3 is the beginning of the office of deacon and what does it say there? “Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven” what’s the next word, “men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task.”
So you notice that when the first deacons were selected there were no females. Now how binding is that? Well, that’s the Book of Acts; the Book of Acts is describing a lot of things which are a description of history that we don’t necessarily see as binding in the church today. For example, in the Book of Acts you’ll find folks in Samaria believing in Christ, Acts 8, but not receiving the Holy Spirit until hands were laid upon them. So there’s a difference in time between trusting in Christ and receiving the Holy Spirit. Now that is something happening in the Book of Acts that is descriptive but it’s not normative today. There was a particular reason why that happened; it was to avoid the Jewish-Samaritan conflict which existed for seven hundred years and it’s to avoid having a schism in the church right out of the gate. And so the Spirit was delayed so that the Jerusalem saints could understand that Samaria now belonged to Jerusalem and Jerusalem belonged to Samaria, and Samaria belonged to Jerusalem and vice versa.
It also talks about in Acts 2 about people who sold their property to have resources on hand to share with out of towners who had gotten saved on the day of Pentecost, to learn more about apostolic doctrine so does anybody here own a home; are we violating God’s will because we own a home and the Book of Acts says they all sold their homes? No, because the Book of Acts is basically giving history which is descriptive. If you’re going to say something in the Book of Acts is prescriptive you can’t just find it in the Book of Acts because there’s a lot of abnormalities taking place in the Book of Acts. You also have to find it in the epistolary literature.
So when people build their case here on male only deacons from Acts 6:3 I look at that and I say well, that’s very interesting but it’s the Book of Acts and the Book of Acts is a wonderful book but it’s a book of history and not necessarily designed to be a book of binding doctrine.
When you go to 1 Timothy 3:8 and verse 10 and verse 13 you see some more evidence as to why many people with a clear conscience believe that there should not be a deaconess, deaconesses in the church. And Paul there in 1 Timothy 3:8-13 is laying out the qualifications for a deacon and if you look at verse 8 what does he say? “Deacons likewise must be” what? “men of dignity. And then if you go down to verse 10 what does it say? “These” what? “men must also first be tested…..” And then when you go down to verse 12 it says, “must be” the what? “husbands of only one wife,” so there are three times Paul seems to indicate that deacons are males. So those would be the arguments for placing a limitation on females for being deacons or deaconesses. Acts 6:3 which I don’t think is entirely persuasive but also 1 Timothy 3:8, verse 10 and verse 12.
But what about, as Paul Harvey used to say, the rest of the story. I mean, why do so many churches seem to believe you can have a deaconess? Do they have any grounds for it? Well one of the verses that they use is Romans 16:1. So you might want to jump over there just for a minute. Romans 16:1, Paul is writing to the church at Rome, and he says, “I command to you our sister, Phoebe,” Phoebe obviously is female because she’s referred to as a sister, and then Paul says this, “who is a servant,” now the word for “servant” there is διάκονος (diakonos), which is the same word for deacon. Isn’t that interesting. “…who is a servant of the church which is in Cenchrea.
So many people will use this verse to say well there it is, right there in the Bible, you’ve got Phoebe who is clearly a servant or a deacon because the word translated servant is the same word we use for deacon. And to that particular argument I would say not so fast on that because a lot of people will look at this and say well, it doesn’t say she held the office of deacon, what it says is she was simply serving or was a servant in the church.
And I have this quote for you from the NET Bible, The New English Translation, and they make this comment on Romans 16:1. Concerning Romans 16:1, ““Or ‘deaconess,’” they say, “It is debated whether διάκονος (diakonos) here refers to a specific office within the church. One contextual argument used to support this view is that Phoebe is associated with a particular church, Cenchrea, and as such would therefore be a deacon of that church. In the New Testament some who are called deacons, or διάκονος are related to a particular church, yet the scholarly consensus is that such individuals are not deacons,” in other words, they don’t hold the office of deacon, “but tather are ‘servants’ or ‘ministers’ (other viable translations for διάκονος).” And the NET Bible says these are other translations of diakonos.
The NET Bible goes on and it says this: ““For example, Epaphras is associated with the church in Colossians and is called a διάκονος in Colossians 1:7, but no contemporary translation regards him as a deacon. In 1 Timothy 4:6 Paul calls Timothy a deacon, or a διάκονος; Timothy was associated with the church in Ephesus, but he obviously was not a deacon. “ Now why wasn’t Timothy a deacon? Because he was a what? He was an elder, he was what we would call a teaching elder, pastor-teacher. “In addition, the lexical evidence leans away from this view: within the New Testament the διακον word group rarely functions with a technical nuance. In any case, the evidence is not compelling either way. The view accepted in the translation above is that Phoebe was a servant of the church, not a deaconess, although this conclusion should be regarded as tentative.”
Now what is a technical nuance? A technical nuance is the idea that a word, every time you see it means the same thing. And most people really don’t understand how language functions. Rarely do you have a word that’s technical; rarely in the New Testament or in language in general do you have a word which always means the same thing every time it’s used. Take for example the word apple. How many meanings can you generate from the word apple? It could be a piece of fruit if I’m eating. Or it could be a computer if I’m working on my word processor. Or it could be New York City, “The Big Apple.” Or it could be the pupil of one’s eye, the “apple of the eye.” Take the word run, how many meanings can the word “run” be generated. My car was running, a lady might say I have a run in my stocking, I ran down the street to the grocery store.
So what I’m trying to demonstrate is words mean many, many different things. And so how in the world would you ever determine what a word means. You have to look at it according to its context. The three rules of real estate are location, location, location. The three rules of Bible study are context, context, context. So my point is simply seeing the word deacon in the text doesn’t seal the deal at all because yes, it could refer to an office holder, and it does in some contexts. Or it could refer to someone who’s just serving in the church without an office. And the NET Bible is sort of the persuasion that that’s how it’s being used here in Romans 16:1. That’s what they mean when they say, “the word group rarely functions with a technical nuance.”
And you have to watch people very, very carefully, particularly systematic theologians, because they’ll try to sell you on a theological system. And with each of their points they’ve got a bunch of verses that back up their points. Seeing verses quoted under a point doesn’t prove anything because you have to look at those verses in their context and try to determine is that verse really supporting the point the systematic theologian is trying to promote. And it was James Barr who called a practice illegitimate totality transfer, ITT for short, that’s how I remember it, Illegitimate Totality Transfer where you develop the meaning of a word from another context, same word, and then you read it back into your present context when the present context may not support it.
So if I am writing a text about a computer and I see the word ‘apple” and all of a sudden I throw into that word apple an understanding of fruit, as one of the fruit groups, then I just committed illegitimate totality transfer because I’m reading into the word “apple” a foreign idea that the context doesn’t support even though the word “apple” may mean that elsewhere. Do you see that?
And people will do this to you all the time in theology. For example, there’s one group of people, called five point Calvinists, and they basically believed Christ did not die for everyone; He died for the elect. And then you say well wait a minute Mr. Five Point Calvinist, my Bible doesn’t say that. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world,” well, they’ll run over to John 12:19 where Jesus is coming into Jerusalem on the Triumphal Entry and everybody early on was embracing Him and the Pharisees say if we don’t stop this He’s going to become very popular because look, John 12:19, the whole world “has gone after Him.” [“So the Pharisees said to one another, “’You see that you are not doing any good; look, the world has gone after Him.’”]
And the five point Calvinist will say well, see, there it is in John 12:19, the word “world” doesn’t mean the whole world, it means just the people in Jerusalem that were embracing Christ. And the response is that’s illegitimate totality transfer. You just defined the same word “world” which is the Greek word cosmos, which has multiple meanings, you just defined it from a foreign context and you that read that into the present context in John 3:16. The word “world” may mean that in John 12:19, that’s not what it means in John 3:15. See that! So if you don’t learn anything else in this church just learn that context is king and people do this a lot with diakonon, concerning Phoebe and they want to make her a deacon in the church when in reality the word deacon may mean an office holder in some context but it could just mean a common servant.
So the NET Bible says, “In any case the evidence is not compelling either way. The view accepted in the translation above” that’s the NET Bible, is that Phoebe was a servant in the church and not a deaconess, although the conclusion should be regarded as tentative. So when someone is using Acts 6:3 to support male only deacons I’m a little bit hands off on that because it’s the Book of Acts only. When someone is using Romans 16:1 to argue that there should be in the church a deaconess I’m a little bit hands off on that because the passage could very well be saying that Phoebe was not necessarily an office holder but she was a mere servant in the church.
However, the one that sort of changed my perspective on this was 1 Timothy 3:11. 1 Timothy 3:11 right there in the middle of Paul giving the qualifications for deacons, right there in the middle of the passage says this: “Women” that’s the Greek word [gynē] “must likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things.” In other words, he’s talking about deacons, a man, a man, a man, a man, and then right there in verse 11 he throws in the word a woman.
So what in the world do you do with that? Well, there’s two views on it. View one is that verse is just talking about the wife of a deacon, not opening the door to the office of a deaconess, it’s just talking about the deacon’s wife. Well the question is can gynē be used to describe a wife? Yes it can, in Ephesians 5:22. [Ephesians 5:22, “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord.”
Who holds this view that it’s not opening the door to the office of a deaconess because it’s talking about merely the wife of a deacon. No less of an authority than Charles Ryrie holds this view. But is there a problem with that view. There is a problem with it and here’s the problem. Why would Paul give qualifications to the wife of a deacon in 1 Timothy 3:8-13, and yet he never did that for an elder in verses 1-7. Isn’t that kind of strange. In other words, if he is giving qualifications for the wife of a deacon that seems kind of odd because he never did that for an elder. And so that’s sort of the problem with the Charles Ryrie view on this as best I can tell.
Which means maybe there’s another possibility here; maybe verse 11 is opening the door for a female office holder, a female deacon that we would call a deaconess, in this case the word gynē does not mean wife but it just means woman. And you say well does the word wife, or does the word gynē can it mean woman? And it can. Matthew 9:20, and many other passages we could cite. [Matthew 9:20, “And a woman who had been suffering from a hemorrhage for twelve years, came up behind Him and touched the fringe of His cloak;”] So this is what makes this whole thing very perplexing is that Greek word gynē could mean a wife, deaconess, a wife of a deacon rather, or it could mean just woman opening the door to a deaconess.
Now who holds the deaconess view? No less of an authority than Thomas Constable, I graded for him, he was my dissertation reader, he’s written a lot of Bible study material, so now I’m having to choose between Ryrie and Constable. What a terrible position to be in. BUT, just like there’s a problem with the Ryrie view there’s a problem with the Constable view. What’s the problem. Ryrie talks about this in his note in verse 11, I’m not entirely sure you have this quote in your handout because I added this the last minute. But if you’re a reader of the Ryrie Study Bible, which is the Bible Version of all Spirit-led Christians, [laughter] you’ll find it there.
And he says this, verse 11. “Most likely a reference to the wives of the deacons, rather than to a separate office of deaconess, since the qualifications for deacons are continued in verse 12. If he had a different group in mind, it would seem more natural for Paul to have finished the qualifications for deacons before introducing the office of deaconess.” So what is Ryrie’s point? If Paul is opening the door for a deaconess there in verse 11 it seems like kind of a disruption of the flow of thought because he continues on with male deacons in the subsequent verses and if Paul was opening up a brand new office why would he just kind of abnormally disrupt the passage the way it does?
And you say well, Pastor, what’s the answer. Here’s my answer—I don’t know if I have an answer to this! I can see Ryrie’s view, the Ryrie view is the view of Sugar Land Bible Church, and I’m no big crusade to change it. But at the same time I’m looking at the Ryrie view and I’m seeing a big problem with it. Well, then there’s the Tom Constable view and I can see his point but at the same time I’m seeing a problem with Constable’s view. So what am I saying? I’m saying in matters of ambiguity like this you have to be gracious in tone and spirit, that’s what I’m saying.
You know, being a fire breathing fundamentalist is fine when God is crystal clear on something, and my only point, and I’m obviously not a feminist and trying to crusade or change anything, I’m just sort of trying to be an intellectually honest objective Bible reader and if a church wants to place a limitation on the office of deacon I can go for that. If I’m in a church and they don’t want to place a limitation on the office of deacon and open it up to deaconesses I guess I’m fine with that too. In other words, I’m not going to leave a church over that issue.
Now if it moves into, well now we’re going to have female elders, now that’s a different story because I think the Bible is clear on that where it’s not really that clear on what I’m talking about. And if you have a woman getting into the pulpit and teaching a mixed audience of men and women then I have a problem with that and I would leave a church over that. But I’m not going to leave a church over something that I think is somewhat ambiguous. So should there be a gender limitation on elder and pastor? Yes! Should there be a gender limitation on deacon, if a church wants to do that go for it but if a church doesn’t want to do that I can kind of see their point too. So I think this is an area that needs some liberty and some grace for reasons that I’ve explained.
So therefore that competes our discussion of elders and deacons and that very thorny question of gender limitations. The conclusion if you haven’t tracked with it is yes, there’s a gender limitation on pastor, elder and maybe a gender limitation on deacon.
And from there we will get into next week ordinances or rituals in the church that the Lord has prescribed. Those would be communion, baptism, and oh my gosh, we have a question mark by one, foot washing. Have you ever been to a foot washing service. It does smell a little bit but my wife was raised in the Grace Brethren denomination where they had regular foot washing just like they had regular communion. I have to admit, it’s a very humbling experience to be in one of those services. And if a denomination wants to do that I don’t see why they can’t, but is that something that we should all be doing, and saying “thus saith the Lord, if you’re not doing a foot washing service then you’re out of the will of God just like not taking communion regularly. So we’ll get into that subject.
And then the last thing that we’ll talk about under Roman numeral XII there is purity. How does the church keep itself pure in an impure world practically? Well, the Lord has given to the church two vehicles for that: one is something called church discipline, which is rarely practiced in North America, and one is a practice that’s really not practiced correctly so we’ll get into that subject. And then there’s another tool that God has given to the church to keep it pure and that’s the doctrine of separation. The big push today is ecumenism, we all need to come together and I’ll try to make a biblical case that you don’t come together with people that have a completely different theology and worldview than you do. And there’s a case in the Bible for Christians to separate from other so-called Christians over doctrinal issues. It’s the exact opposite of the way people think today because the big push today is “the urge to merge.” But when you merge with someone with a deficient doctrinal system the church has the potential of becoming doctrinally, practically impure. So I’ll show you the passages that reveal the doctrine of separation. That’s the two areas that we’ll be covering now that we’ve finished the church offices.
Now I’m going to stop talking at this point and if you all have comments or questions would be preferred, we can entertain those.