Woman’s Work in the Church
October 21st, 1984 @ 8:15 AM
WOMAN’S WORK IN THE CHURCH
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-21-84 8:15 a.m.
God bless the great multitudes of you who are sharing this hour with us on radio. This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is one of the momentous moments in the long life and history of our congregation. We are beginning today, and this is the first in a series of sermons, we are beginning today a new departure, a new dimension, a new definition, a new dedication in the life of our church. And in order to implement that vast new expanded program, I have prepared these several sermons, the first of which will be delivered today. The title of the message today is Woman’s Work in the Church, and the purpose of the message is to open the door for women in an enlarged ministry and capacity among our people.
In Philippians chapter 4, verse 3, the apostle Paul wrote, “I entreat thee also, true yokefellow,” we do not know who that man was; many commentators suggest it was Luke. Could well have been. But whoever he was, Paul writes in Philippians 4:3, “I entreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which labored with me in the gospel. Help those women who labored with me in the gospel.”
It is a dedication on the part of the pastor because women are not ordained in the ministry and because women are not ordained in the diaconate—according to the Word of God which I shall expound, explain in just a moment—according to the Word of God, we do not ordain women as pastors, we do not ordain women as deacons. But that does not mean they do not have a vital, viable, visible, significant assignment in the work of the Lord and in the congregation of our blessed Savior. So the pastor’s going to do two things. Number one: I am going to appoint a pastor’s council—c-o-u-n-c-i-l—a pastor’s council. And it will include not only dedicated men, but also dedicated women. And they will look at every facet of our church life and will make recommendations to the church, to the deacons, to the staff, to the Sunday school, to the budget committee. We shall look at every area of our church life; that is the pastor’s council.
The other thing: we are going, with God’s help, to try to bring the message of Christ into every home in this vast metroplex. I call them evangel home groups. And that will be the sermon next Sunday, the second sermon, the vast outreach into every home in the city with evangel home groups. And in that ministry, there will be not only men who lead and teach, but there will also be many, many, and I pray ultimately thousands of women who also will lead and teach; the launching of a vast outreach program of our church.
Now in order to understand the biblical basis for these things that I have mentioned, I’m going to enter into an exposition of 1 Timothy 2, beginning at verse 8 through 1 Timothy 3:13 [1 Timothy 2:8-13:13].
First: about the ordination of women. “Why do you not ordain women in the church? Why do you not ordain a woman as a pastor? And why do you not ordain a woman as a deacon?” The passage—and it’s too bad that they put a chapter heading right in the midst of it—the passage is from 1 Timothy verse 8 in chapter 2 through chapter 3, verse 13; it’s all one passage. And it has to do with authority, with leadership in the church, the rulership of the congregation of the Lord. And the key word in it is found in chapter 2, verse 12. “I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man” [1 Timothy 2:12]. That word “usurp authority” is the translation of one Greek word authenteō. And it means “to exercise leadership; to exercise authority, to exercise rulership.” This is the only place that you will find that word. It is a Bible word; it is a New Testament word; it is an ecclesiastical word, and it refers to the leadership, the authority, the rulership in the church. It refers to the direction of public worship. He says, “I suffer not a woman to teach or to usurp authority” [1 Timothy 2:12].
Now there are no men of stature who are great expositors or commentators who would apply that word “teach” to a woman teaching in a Sunday school class or a woman leading in an evangel group. The word applies to the authority in the church. It applies to the leadership in public worship. Now the whole passage concerns that. Now when Paul speaks of that, I look at three things about the woman in the passage. First of all: if a man is ordained as an episkopos , translated “bishop,” or ordained as a presbuteros, translated “elder,” or if a man is ordained as a poimēn, translated “shepherd,” translated “pastor”; all those three words are used interchangeably in the same office, referring to the same leader. He’s a presbuteros; he’s an elder. He’s a poimēn; he’s a pastor. He’s a episkopos; he’s a bishop.
Now Paul says in 3:2, “A bishop must be the husband of one wife” [1 Timothy 3:2]. So the leader of the church, the pastor of the church has to be a man. Now I haven’t run into many women who are husbands of one wife. So we—just following the Word of the Lord: the ordained pastor of the church is to be the husband of one wife.
Now in the ordination of a deacon, in verse 12 he says, “Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife” [1 Timothy 3:12]. I can see from that, plainly, that the man who is ordained to be a pastor is to be a man. The one ordained is to be a man. And I can see from this that the one ordained as a deacon is to be a man. There is no such thing in the Bible and in these qualifications as ordaining a woman as a pastor or a woman as a deacon. Now there’s another thing I read here in the Bible about the woman. And that is theosebeia, theosebeia. Now there is another word found only in the New Testament. It’s an ecclesiastical word; it’s a biblical word. It’s a church word, and it is translated here “godliness, godliness.” And as a part of that godliness, he speaks of a woman’s dress, how she is to dress [1 Timothy 2:9-10].
Now when you look at that in the literature of the church fathers, well, you will find Tertullian and Chrysostom and many of those men expatiating at length on how the woman dresses. And the reason for it is very apparent. They lived in a day when promiscuity, prostitution, harlotry was universal. And Chrysostom and Tertullian, those men who were expatiating on the passage, would say that a woman is not to dress like a street courtesan, like a street harlot. She is to dress in keeping with the “set of mind,” theosebeia. There will be a difference between the way a Christian woman looks and a woman of the world looks. Now, that’s what the Bible says. And I think if you are sensitive at all, you can tell the difference in the very demeanor and manner of a godly Christian woman and a woman of the street.
If you have ever been to Ephesus, they have dug up that ancient city, and the main street in the city has the most impressive building on it, which is a bawdy house, a house of prostitution. If you’ve ever been to Corinth, the most prominent topographical feature of ancient Corinth is the Acrocorinthus right there, towering over the city. And on top of that Acrocorinthus was the temple of Aphrodite, who was worshiped by immoral prostituted rituals.
Now the apostle says that the Christian woman is to be separated in her dress and manner and set of mind to all of that compromised life that characterized the ancient Greco-Roman world [1 Timothy 2:9-10]. Then he says one other thing here about the woman and this is absolutely one of the hardest phrases to be found in the Bible. After he speaks of the fall of Adam and the fall of Eve, then he says, “Notwithstanding, she shall be saved in childbearing” [1 Timothy 2:15], sōthēsetai dia tēs teknogonias. Sōthēsetai, now that is a future feminine form of sōzō. Sōzō means “to save,” to deliver, to preserve, to keep safely, sōzō. Dia is the word “through,” through. And it has tēs, “the,” the article tēs teknogonias, “the childbearing.” Now what does he mean by that? Well, when you study it at length, it becomes apparent. He’s not using the word sōzō in the sense of evangelistically being saved, to be a Christian, to be converted, to be born again, to be saved. That’s the way we use the word mostly. But he does not use the word, in any sense, that she’s to be born again, she’s to be saved, she’s to be carried into heaven in childbearing; doesn’t even approach that.
What he says is, and he had just mentioned the Fall [Genesis 3:1-6], the earth was cursed for Adam’s sake, and he was to eat by the sweat of his brow [Genesis 3:17-19]. And the curse of the woman was that in travail, in sorrow, she was to give birth to children [Genesis 3:16]. And he is saying that in that curse, the curse and the sorrow and the travail of childbearing, in that, she brings hope and blessing to the race [1 Timothy 2:15]. And she does it in two ways. Number one: she does it as the foundation of the home and of the family. The heart of the home is the mother. There is no such thing as the building of a wonderful home without a wonderful mother. That’s the first thing he avows. And the second thing he avows is that in that mother, in that mother, we also have a fine, noble model and figure of a spiritual childbearing. For example, Paul was unmarried. Yet he refers, in 1 Timothy 1:2, to “my son Timothy.” And in 2 Timothy, he refers, in chapter 1, verse 2, “my son Timothy” [2 Timothy 1:2]. Well, he’s unmarried, and the father of Timothy was a Greek [Acts 16:1]. How is he the son of Paul? He’s the spiritual son of Paul. And that is the figure in which Paul is using the word here in the New Testament concerning the woman. She is also the spiritual mother of—and then you just name it all through the church. There are little children, there are teenagers, there are young marrieds, there are peers who have been influenced and brought to Christ and taught the wisdom and image of God by these dedicated women. They are spiritual leaders.
Now that leads me to the great avowal of the sermon this morning. Our faith has been so largely shaped by those spiritually-minded and spiritually dedicated women. As a dipper holds and shapes the water, they have shaped the faith of our Lord in this earth.
I haven’t time to expatiate upon the influence of Jochebed, the mother of Moses. He was reared in the court of Pharaoh. But in the providence of God, Pharaoh’s daughter hired his own mother to nurse the child, and to teach the child, and to care and bring up the child for her [Exodus 2:1-10]. And she taught him the faith of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It was Jochebed who framed and shaped the faith and life of Moses. I haven’t time to expound upon Mary as she taught the Savior of the world, the Lord Jesus. I haven’t time to expatiate upon Eunice who was the mother of Timothy, and Lois, Timothy’s grandmother, who the apostle Paul says taught the boy the depth of the wisdom of God in the Holy Scriptures [2 Timothy 1:5]. The faith has been shaped by them. Nor do I have time to expatiate upon the women in the Bible: Deborah, who was a judge of Israel in the fourth chapter of the Book of Judges, delivering Israel [Judges 4:4-15]. And in the fifth chapter, a long whole chapter, it’s her song of victory and triumph, the song of Deborah [Judges 5:1-31]. And I haven’t time to speak of Ruth. And I haven’t time to speak of Samuel.
I haven’t time to speak of Elizabeth or the prophetess Anna. I haven’t time to speak of the women who ministered unto Him, who are named Mary, the other Mary, Susanna, all of those dedicated women who also stood at the cross. And I haven’t time even to speak of the first one who saw the resurrected Lord, who was a woman named Mary of Magdalene. Nor do I have time to speak of Dorcas or of Lydia, the first convert in Europe. Nor do I have time to speak of Philip and his four virgin unmarried daughters who were prophetesses in the church. Don’t have time to speak of Phoebe who was a servant of the church, and I don’t have time to speak of first, in the Book of Acts, Aquila and Priscilla, and in the next book, the Book of Romans—it’s Priscilla and Aquila, not Aquila and Priscilla, but Priscilla and Aquila.
And I don’t have time to speak of the passage that you all read together this morning, that elect lady and her children to whom the apostle John addresses the second letter. Oh, I wish I had hours to speak of the marvelous, wonderful faith of these women who have molded and shaped the faith of the Lord from the beginning, and still do.
I have to close; it seems to me, just as I get started up here, time is to quit. I close with one thing. You don’t realize it, nor does anybody that I’ve ever talked to, you don’t realize that there was a time in the history of the world when it looked as if they whole earth would be worshipers of Mithra, M-i-t-h-r-a, Mithra, Mithra. Mithra was an Indo-Iranian, Persian god. You find his name Mithridates, Mithra, Mithridates. You find his name in the kings of Persia, in the kings of Armenia, in the kings of Pontus, Mithra! And it looked as if the Roman Empire, the Greco-Roman Empire would become devotees of Mithra. He is a god in the Hindu books of Vedan, and he’s a god in Zoroastrianism, and he was “the” great god of the emperors and the soldiers in the Roman Empire. Several of those emperors were Mithraites. Nero, Commodus, Aurelius, Diocletian, Galerius, Julian were all devotees of the god Mithra.
The great French philosopher Renan says, without exaggeration, without exaggeration, I quote: “We may say that if Christianity had been arrested by some moral malady, the whole world would had been Mithraistic.” The whole world! Mithraism parroted or duplicated Christianity. The birth of Mithra and Christ were celebrated on the same day, December 25. Both were born in poverty in a cave. Both worshiped the God on Sunday, on the first day of the week. In both, there was a sacrifice for the race, the purifying power of blood. In both, there was regeneration, the second birth. It was central and fundamental in both of them. Both observed the ordinances of baptism and the communion, the Lord’s Supper. Both of them did. The church fathers, such as Justin Martyr and Tertullian were astonished at the resemblances, and they could explain them only by the thought that the observances of Mithraism were the cunning parodies devised by Satan to discredit the holy things of God, and to reduce the souls of men from the true faith by a false and insidious imitation of it.
Why did it fail? Why did it fail? When it had back of it the power of the Roman emperors and when it had back of it the power of the Roman army, the Roman legions, why did it fail? It failed for one simple reason. It excluded women. No woman could be in the devotion of Mithra, and it failed because it excluded women. Contrariwise, the Christian faith is my mother’s faith. The Christian faith is the faith of the home. The Christian faith is the faith of godly women. And they are the ones that made it regnant and triumphant in the world!
And that is in keeping with the great message of the gospel of Christ in Galatians 3:28, “In Him, in Christ, there is neither Jew nor Gentile.” All of us are precious and elected in the sight of God if we will just open our hearts heavenward. “In Christ, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither slave nor the owner of a slave.” We’re the same in the sight of God. “In Christ,” the apostle says, “there is neither male nor female” [Galatians 3:28]. In His sight, we’re all precious and dear.
That is the Christian faith. And when we begin our program of outreach, soulwinning and worship of the Lord, there will be men who will be helping us. There will be women who will be helping us. And the blessing of God will rest upon us just as the blessing of God rested upon those primitive churches who literally swung the Roman Empire on hinges in a direction toward Jesus, our everlasting Lord and Savior. As I say, this is just the first of the series on the great outreach of our church, in which there will be involved the women of our church, the men of our church, asking God to bless His saving grace, the preaching and teaching of the gospel under His hands and ours.
Now we’re going to sing us a song. And as we sing our hymn of appeal, a family you, to put your life in the fellowship of our dear congregation, a couple, a just you, in the balcony round, down the stairway, on the lower floor, down one of these aisles, “Pastor, the Lord has spoken to me. And I’m answering with my life. I want to take Jesus as my Savior, want Him to come into my heart [Romans 10:9-10]. I want to give my life in a new and a deeper way to the wonderful Savior.” As God shall press the appeal to your heart, make it now, “Here I am, pastor.” God bless you; angels attend you as you come, while we stand and while we sing.
WORK IN THE CHURCH
the first sermon in a series on the tremendous expansion of our work
Entails a new dimension, new departure
Two things the pastor is proposing to do that will include women
A pastor’s council including men and women
teachers of Evangel groups will include men and women
II. Exposition of chapters 2 and 3 of
and leadership in the church(1 Timothy 2:8-3:13)
– to exercise authority in the church
avows that the leader in the church is the man
Episkopos, presbuteros, poimen, diakonos
One of the qualifications for pastors and deacons is that they be “husband of
one wife”(1 Timothy 3:2, 12)
Her demeanor and dress to reflect theosebeia, “reverence for God”
and Chrysostom speak of the manner and appearance of the Christian woman
The difference between the Christian woman and those of the common culture of
– “saved through the childbearing”(1 Timothy
“Saved” doesn’t mean alone a man delivered from sins – sozo can refer to
“deliverance” or “perseverance”
the fall, the curse to the woman was sorrow, travail in childbearing(Genesis 3:16-19)
Paul says God will preserve and keep the woman in the travail of childbearing
Through her come blessings of the human family – physically and spiritually
Foundation of the home is the mother, the woman
Building the family
Article on Jewish feminism and its effect upon Israeli women
Paul and his “son” in the ministry(1 Timothy
1:2, 2 Timothy 1:2)
II. The work of women in the church
faith so largely shaped by them, as a dipper holds and shapes the water
the mother of Moses (Exodus 2:1-4, Hebrews
the mother of Jesus
and Lois, mother and grandmother of Timothy(2
the mother of Constantine
grandmother of Vladimir, first czar of Russia
The women of the Bible
Deborah, judge in Israel (Judges 4, 5)
The women who ministered to Jesus (Luke 8:1-3)
The women at the cross (Mark 15:40-41)
Mary Magdala, to whom the Lord first appeared after the resurrection (John 20:18)
Lydia, Phoebe, and Philip’s four daughters(Romans
16:1, Acts 21:8-10)
Priscilla (Romans 16:3)
The “elect lady and her children”(2 John 1-5)
worship of Mithra
because it excluded the woman
Christianity conquered the civilized world because of the ultimate meaning of