The Role of Women in the Church


In the modern era of the church, the subject of a woman’s role in the church is about as controversial as it can get. While most male Bible teachers maintain that church leadership is reserved for men, the modern feminist movement calls the idea misogynistic. The researcher will seek to show a biblical perspective of a woman’s role in the modern church.

Male Leadership Divinely Appointed

In 1 Timothy 2:12, Paul told Timothy that he does “not allow a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.” Paul made the same kind of comment to the church at Corinth (1 Corinthians 14:34). In both places, the context is church order. The primary implication is that men are to be the leaders of the organized church assembly.

Paul gives evidence of divine order for gender roles in the church in 1 Timothy 2:13 with Adam being created before Eve. It is clear from the context of Genesis 2:15-20 that God had given man a leadership role. It is also clear that Eve was formed to be a “helper suitable for him,” in the man’s headship role of ruling as God’s representative over God’s creation. It is important to note that the role of the woman was to be a helper to the man. Not a subservient worker for the man.

The Fall Did Not Change God’s Divine Institution of Leadership

The second line of evidence that Paul gives in 1 Timothy 2:14 for male leadership of the church is that it was not Adam that was deceived but Eve. One cannot assume that Paul means that women are more easily deceived than men. Looking back at the account of the fall of man in Genesis 3:1–6, the deception of Eve could have occurred because Eve was not properly instructed because her responses to the serpent did not line up with what God had instructed to Adam. Guthrie says this interpretation is “somewhat forced.”[1] Kent says that Eve was deceived,

“By taking leadership over the man, she ate first and then gave to her husband to eat. Thus the Fall was caused, not only by disobeying God’s command not to eat, but also by violating the divinely appointed relation between the sexes. [The] woman assumed headship, and man with full knowledge of the act, subordinated himself to her leadership and ate the fruit.”[2]

Constable says that “God entrusted Adam with leadership responsibility over his wife. Eve was not responsible to God for Adam in the same senst that Adam was responsible for Eve.”[3] The headship of men is a clearly established doctrine and accepted by most Protestant Evangelical Bible teachers.

The only position in the church not open to women is the leadership position or office of elder/bishop. While the role of the deacon is an important role, it is not exclusive of women. In Paul’s instruction to Timothy concerning deacons in 1 Timothy 3:8-13, it seems as though Paul is teaching that women can be deaconeses. Paul’s statemen that “Women must likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things” cannot dogmatically be connected to being the wives of male deacons. The Greek word for deacon is διάκονος and it means “an attendant, a servant, a waiter.” There are certain ministries involving issues with women that men have no business being involved with. While this statement is true, the women involved are under the leadership of male elders within the church.

A Woman’s Biblical Role in the Church

Paul lays the initial foundation of a woman’s role in the church in 1 Timothy 2:15 “But women will be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint.” This verse is controversial over the term Paul uses for “bearing.” The context indicates more than just having babies. It means to be a godly mother that raises godly children. Paul made this even more clear in 2 Timothy 1:5, reminding Timothy of his grandmother and mother who had raised such a godly son as Timothy.

One biblically defined role of women in Paul’s day and in the modern church is the care of widows. Paul gives the criteria for consideration as a widow in 1 Timothy 5:9–10. Then, verse 16 says that “If any woman who is a believer has dependent widows, she must assist them and the church must not be burdened, so that it may assist those who are widows indeed.” This verse clearly states that one of a woman’s duties is to take care of widows. It is not clear if Paul means within her family or within the local church. Guthrie states that “Paul is here particularly concerned with widows not eligible to be enrolled”[4] as a widow so that the church is not financially responsible for an ineligible widow.

In Titus 2:3–4, Paul gives Titus a list of duties to perform, however, that list has to do with women at home and not in the local church assembly. There are examples of what women do within a local body of the church. One such example is Priscilla, along with her husband Aquila who, “explained to him [Apollos] the way of God more accurately” (Acts 10:26). Therefore, women can be teachers of doctrine. They just can’t hold the office of the elder/bishop over a local body of the church.


The Biblically defined role of women in the church has never changed. From the beginning the leadership of the man was and is a Divinely established order. God intended for men to be His representative leaders in the home and in the assembly. While the role of women has been subverted or overstated depending on culture, God’s Word does not change. It is a woman’s responsibility to recognize the authority of God’s Word in the area of leadership. It is just as much a man’s responsibility to assume the role of a godly leader. Men have not been taught to be the godly leaders they should be. It could be that way because women have not submitted to the authority of God’s Word when it comes to male headship/leadership in the family and the church. Men are just as much to blame for not assuming the God-given role as leaders.


Constable, Thomas. 2017. Thomas Constable’s Notes on the Bible. Vol. 10. 12 vols. Tyndale Seminary Press.

Guthrie, Donald. 2009. The Pastoral Epistles: An Introduction and Commentary. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, v. 14. Nottingham, England : Downers Grove, Ill: Inter-Varsity Press ; Intervarsity Press.

Kent, Homer Austin. 2001. The Pastoral Epistles: Studies in 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus. Winona Lake: BMH Books.

  1. Donald Guthrie, The Pastoral Epistles: An Introduction and Commentary, Tyndale New Testament commentaries v. 14 (Nottingham, England : Downers Grove, Ill: Inter-Varsity Press ; Intervarsity Press, 2009). page 91
  2. Homer Austin Kent, The Pastoral Epistles: Studies in 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus (Winona Lake: BMH Books, 2001). page 109
  3. Thomas Constable, Thomas Constable’s Notes on the Bible, vol. 10, 12 vols. (Tyndale Seminary Press, 2017). page 259
  4. (Guthrie 2009) Page 119


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