The Church—A Model of the Family

God’s intended order for the family should certainly be demonstrated by the church. As I stated earlier, it is important to keep in mind that for the first three hundred years of church history, church congregations were small. They met in houses. The pastor/elder/overseers were like fathers of households. This God-ordained church structure so closely resembled the family, and in fact was a spiritual family, that female headship over it would have sent the wrong message to families inside and outside the church. Imagine a female pastor/elder/overseer regularly teaching in a house church, and her husband obediently sitting there, listening to her teaching and submitting to her authority. That would go against God’s order in the family, and the wrong example would be set.

This is what Paul’s words address. Note that they are found in the very close context of his requirements for elders (see 1 Tim. 3:1-7), one of which is that a person be a male. It should also be noted that elders are supposed to regularly teach in the church (see 1 Tim. 5:17). Paul’s words regarding women quietly receiving instruction and not being allowed to teach or exercise authority over men are obviously related to the proper order in the church. What he describes as being improper is a woman, in part or whole, fulfilling the role of an elder/pastor/overseer.

This is not to say that a women/wife could not, under the submission of her husband, pray, prophesy, receive a brief teaching to share with the body, or speak in general during a church gathering. All of these she could do in the church without violating God’s divine order, just as she could do all those things at home without violating God’s order. What she was forbidden to do in church was nothing more or less than what she was forbidden to do at home—exercise authority over her husband.

We also note from later verses that women could serve in the office of deacon just as well as men (see 1 Tim. 3:12). Serving in a church as a deacon, or servant as the word actually means, requires no violation of God’s divine order between husbands and wives.

This is the only way to harmonize Paul’s words in 1 Tim. 2:11-14 with what the rest of Scripture teaches. In every other scriptural instance we’ve considered of God using women, none serve as models of the family as does the church, and thus none violate the God-ordained order. In none do we find an improper model of wives exercising authority over their husbands in a family setting. Again, picture a small gathering of several families in a house and a wife being in charge, teaching, and overseeing while her husband passively sits and submits to her leadership. This is not what God desires, as it goes against His order for the family.

Yet for Deborah to be a judge in Israel, for Anna to tell men about Christ, for Mary and her friends to tell the apostles about Christ’s resurrection, none of these send a wrong message or in any way improperly model God’s order in the family unit. The regular church gathering is a unique setting where danger exists for the wrong message to be sent if women/wives exercise authority and regularly teach men/husbands.