Woman’s Work in the Church
October 21st, 1984 @ 10:50 AM
WOMAN’S WORK IN THE CHURCH
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-21-84 10:50 a.m.
And welcome the multitudes of you who share this hour on radio and on television. This is the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled Woman’s Work in the Church. It is the first in a series of messages that the pastor has prepared outlining a new dimension in our church life, a new departure, a new dedication, a new definition. We are with God’s help proposing to expand the outreach, soulwinning, teaching, visiting, caring, loving, sharing ministries of our church to every home in this vast metroplex. It is a glorious thing for our assembly here in the sanctuary of the Lord. We are told in the Bible “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together” [Hebrews 10:25]. On the Lord’s Day, God’s people joyfully, gladly, triumphantly, musically, doctrinally, theologically, scripturally gather together. But the real work of the church ought to be outside these four walls, continuing every day in the week. And for that ministry the pastor has prepared these sermons, the first of which is delivered today.
In keeping with that, the message, Woman’s Work in the Church, is based on a text in Philippians, and comprises an exposition of the second and third chapters of 1 Timothy. First, the background text in Philippians 4, the last chapter, verse 3: “I entreat thee also, true yokefellow” – we do not know who he is, but there is strong possibility that this is Dr. Luke, God’s beloved physician – “I trust thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which labored with me in the gospel. . .whose names are in the Book of Life. Help those women which labored with me in the gospel, whose names are in the Book of Life” [Philippians 4:3]. There are two things that the pastor is proposing to do that will include women. I am going to appoint a pastor’s council, c-o-u-n-c-i-l, a pastor’s council that will include men and women. Because of the biblical interdiction against the ordination of a woman as a pastor or as a deacon, I am going to create in the church a pastor’s council that will include women along with dedicated men. The second thing, and this will be the sermon next Sunday in this series laying the foundation for the vastly expanded ministry of our church, we’re going to organize evangel home groups throughout this vast metroplex. And the purpose of those groups meeting in homes is to invite friends and neighbors into the house, the church in your house, invite friends and neighbors. And there will be a leader in each evangel share group, there will be a teacher in each evangel share group, there will be a secretary keeping an account of all the people that are present and who are won, and those leaders and teachers will be both men and women. I would think that ultimately a majority of them might be women.
So as we begin, we start with the Word of God, which this morning comprises an exposition of the second and third chapters of the Book of 1 Timothy, beginning at verse 8 in the second chapter and continuing through verse 13 in the third chapter. Now, I shall read a part of it, beginning at verse 8, “I will therefore that men,” and he means not men generically, but men andron, men as such:
that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.
In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with humility and sobriety; not with braided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array;
But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.
Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.
For I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.
For Adam was first formed, then Eve.
And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.
Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.
This is a faithful saying, If a man desire the office of an episkopos, a presbuteros, a poimen, he desireth a good office.
For an episkopos, a presbuteros, a poime, poimen, must be blameless, the husband of one wife,
[1 Timothy 2:8-3:2]
And then it continues. Now beginning at verse 8: “Likewise must the deacons.” And then, down to verse 12: “Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife” [1 Timothy 3:8, 12]; then it continues with the deacon.
Now the first part of the message comprises an exposition of that passage. Number one: the passage concerns authority in the church. Beginning at verse 8 of the second chapter through verse 13 of the third chapter, the exposition of Paul concerns authority, leadership, rulership in the church, and especially and particularly with regard to public worship, the assembly of the people in the church [1 Timothy 2:8-3:13].
The key word in the passage – and it’s too bad that they have a chapter heading in the middle of it; it makes you think that one part concerns this and the other part concerns that, when the passage is continuous from verse 8 in chapter 2 to verse 13 in the chapter 3. God never put a chapter heading in it, a man did that. This is one discussion, and the discussion centers around authority, leadership, rulership in the church.
And Paul says, “I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man” [1 Timothy 2:12]. That word “to usurp authority” is the translation of one Greek word: authenteo. It is a Bible word. It is a New Testament word. It is an ecclesiastical word. You won’t find it anywhere else. The only time it is used is here in this one passage: authenteo. And it refers to one thing: it refers to leadership, authority, rulership in the church; to exercise authority in the church, rulership in the church. Now the apostle is avowing that the leader, the ruler, the authoritarian in the church is the man.
Then he describes who that man is. He is the episkopos, sometimes referred to as a presbuteros, sometimes he’s referred to as a poimen. That’s one; and the other is a diakonos.
Now because he uses the word, “I suffer not a woman to teach” [1 Timothy 2:12], speaking of the authority in the church, there are those who don’t understand the Scripture, who think that prohibits or interdicts a woman from being a teacher in a Sunday school class, or, say, as I am getting ready to build here, a teacher in an evangel group in the home. It has no reference to that at all. There’s not a learned, scholarly commentator or expositor in the world who would suggest a thing like that as the meaning of the apostle Paul. To teach in the class, to lead in these many, many ministries found in the church, the Word of Paul does not even approach such an interdiction; it’s not even suggested. What he’s talking about is the rulership, the authority, the leadership in the church. And that is to be the bishop, the elder, the pastor, or, with him, the deacon.
Now what he says here that spells that out, that it is to be a man, when he speaks of the qualifications – and those three words are used interchangeably in the New Testament to refer to the same leader. Sometimes, he is called an episkopos; Literally, it means an “overseer.” It is translated in the Bible a “bishop.” Sometimes he is called a presbuteros, an “elder.” Sometimes he is called a poimen, a “pastor.” But all three of those words, bishop, elder, and pastor are used interchangeably in the New Testament to refer to the same officer.
We use in our church the word “pastor.” Now the pastor must be a man; for it says in the third chapter, and the second verse: “An episkopos,” then a pastor, a bishop, an elder, “must be blameless, the husband of one wife” [1 Timothy 3:2]. That would surely refer to a man. I have never seen a woman yet who was able to be the husband of one wife. Even a lesbian has a hard time being the husband of one wife. So, he is a man. His qualification is to be “the husband of one wife.”
When I turn in the same chapter to the deacon: “Likewise the deacon must be,” now I read verse 12, “Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife” [1 Timothy 3:12]. Therefore, according to the Word of God, your ordained minister is to be a man; and your ordained deacon is to be a man. If I listen to the Word of the Lord, that is the principle of the organized life of a New Testament church. Now, we can have any kind of a church beside, but if it is a New Testament church, this is the role of the man and the authority, the rulership, the leadership in it: it is in the man, it is in the pastor, and, with him, the deacon.
All right, a second thing that Paul speaking about the woman, speaking about the woman, he uses another New Testament, ecclesiastical church word, found nowhere else but this. In speaking of that woman in the church, he says that she must profess theosebeia, theosebeia. Theo immediately identifies it as God; sebeia is reverence. She is to be a reverent woman. And that reverence for God is to be found in her demeanor, in her dress. When you look at her, he says she is to be adorned with theosebeia [1 Timothy 2:9].
Well, why does he go out of his way to speak of that? When you look – and anybody can – when you look at the culture of the day in which Paul was writing, it becomes very manifest. When you read the literature of the church fathers, you will find them expatiating on this at great length. Men such as Tertullian and Chrysostom, they speak of the manner and the appearance and the demeanor of the appearance and apparel of the Christian woman.
Well, I say when you go back to the culture of the day in which Paul is writing it becomes very apparent. If you have ever been to Ephesus where they have unearthed that great Greek, Asian city, and look at it, the main street of the vast city of Ephesus had a most impressive building on it, very impressive, you know, those beautiful Greek buildings. And it’s a bawdy house: I mean the main building in that vast city on its main street is a bawdy house, a house of prostitution. If you have ever been in Corinth, dominating the topography of the city of Corinth is the Acrocorinthus. It sweeps up from the sea, right there, and it towers over the city. And on top of that Acrocorinthus was a temple of Aphrodite. And they worshiped her with licentious rites of promiscuity and prostitution. That was the common life of the culture of that day.
Now Paul says that the Christian woman in her looks, and in her demeanor, and in her apparel, and in her appearance, is to live and move in an altogether different world: she is to appear theosebeia; she is to appear godly, modest. Just look at her and you can tell the difference between her and a heathen, pagan woman.
Well, I think part of that ought to be true today. When a woman dresses, she can do it in one of two ways: she can dress most suggestively, most so; or she can dress beautifully, modestly. And that is the appeal of the apostle Paul: a godly woman in her appearance.
Now he says one other thing about the woman. And I’m frank to say that what he has written here is about as hard a word to understand as any in the Bible. But when you study it and study it and study it, finally it will become very apparent what the apostle is delineating. Now the passage is: “Nevertheless,” this is verse 15 of chapter 2, “Nevertheless the woman shall be saved in childbearing” [Acts 2:15]. Well, what in the earth, “She shall be saved in childbearing, sothesetai, sothesetai“? That’s a future feminine form of sozo, “to save”; dia, “through”; tes, and it’s got a particle there, tes, “the”; teknogonias, teknon is the word for “a child,” and gonias is the word for “to bear a child.” “She shall be saved through the childbearing.” Well, what does that mean? What confuses us is, to us the word “save” means to be born again, to be delivered from our, the judgment of our sins, to go to heaven. That’s what “saved” means: this man is “saved.” There were people saved at the service at 8:15 this morning. What we mean by that, they found the Lord, their names are now written in the Book of Life [Revelation 2:15].
Well, does that mean saved, she is saved by bearing a child? That would be so contradictory to anything in the Bible until it becomes apparent he’s saying something else. Well, what he is saying, if you study it, becomes, I say, very lucid. “Saved” doesn’t mean alone a man is delivered from his sins and his name is written in the Book of Life. That word sozo is a vastly used word in the Greek language. Sozo can refer to “deliverance”; it can refer to “perseverance,” to preservation through any trial, or any sorrow, or any trouble. It can refer to a saved way, a blessed way.
Now he has just said in the verse before about Adam’s fall and about Eve’s fall. Now, for Adam, the world, the ground was cursed, the earth was cursed, so that God said, “He will eat bread by the sweat of his brow. The ground is cursed for his sake” [Genesis 3:17-19]. And the curse to the woman was that, “In sorrow and in travail she will bring forth children” [Genesis 3:16]. Now Paul says here that for her, this godly woman, this Christian woman, that God will, first, He will preserve her, and keep her, and bless her in the travail and sorrow of childbearing, teknogonias. That’s one thing. And he says in that same meaning, he says that through her, in her, comes the benedictory blessings of the human family: both domestically, naturally, physically; and, second, spiritually, in the family of God [1 Timothy 2:15].
Now I want to take a moment to expatiate upon that. The foundation of the home is the mother, the woman. Like that placard I used to see sometimes in old-time families: “What’s a home without a mother?” You don’t have a family without a mother, without a woman. She is the basis of the home.
I was looking at the last issue of “The Jerusalem Post,” and what caught my eye was a very long, full newspaper article on Jewish feminism and its effect upon Israeli women. Now, I will read one paragraph out of it:
What about woman as Jew? Conflict certainly exists between Judaism and feminism. But this author, Lou Greenberg, repeatedly reminds us that by undermining Jewish family life, feminism can undermine the survival of the Jewish people. She points to the low birthrate among Jews to homosexuality and intermarriage, which, in a few generations can make the Jew a species in danger of extinction.
Well, that is very apparent. To me, if the woman ever decides that her place is going to be different from what God said of her, that she is the center and heart and core and keystone of the home, if that ever ultimately becomes repulsive or repugnant to the woman, there is no future for – and then name any section of society that you want to name – there’ll be no future for the Jew; there’ll be no future for us, either. It is the people who build homes to whom God gives the future.
Now it applies also in the spiritual family of God, this woman Paul is talking about: through her the spiritual kingdom of our Lord. Paul was unmarried. He never had a wife, he said. Yet, Paul addresses Timothy, in 1 Timothy 1:2, “My son, Timothy.” The same thing in 2 Timothy, 2 Timothy 1:2: “My son, Timothy.” Well, the Bible, the Book of Acts, says that Timothy’s father was a Greek [Acts 16:1]. Yet Paul refers to Timothy as “My son, Timothy.” The word of that is very apparent to us: Timothy was Paul’s son in Christ, in the ministry, in the work of the Lord. And that is the second great assignment for the woman.
Some of our women, in God’s providence, are mothers: they build the family. Some of our women are spiritual mothers: they build up the family of our Lord. These little children, and these teenagers, and these young people, how much of their lives is molded by the dedicated, consecrated women in the church! You see them in every area of our church life. That is what Paul is avowing concerning the woman.
And that leads me into the second part of my message; having expounded the Scriptures in this brief moment, now concerning the work of the woman in the church. The faith of our Lord is molded and shaped by the woman in the same way that a dipper will hold and shape the water. She does it. And if I had hours and hours to speak, I would speak first about Jochebed, the mother of Moses. In the providence of God, Pharaoh’s daughter hired Jochebed to take the child and to bring up the child for her [Exodus 2:1-9]. But when Jochebed taught the child, she taught the child Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; so much so that when Moses came of age he refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy all of the emoluments, and glory, and pride, and honor of the throne of Egypt [Hebrews 11:23-26]. That was Jochebed! Jochebed taught that child! And when the day came for the great decision, he chose his mother’s faith!
Nor do I have time to speak of Mary and the little Child Jesus, that the Lord entrusted to her loving care and her motherly guidance and teaching. I could speak of Timothy. Paul addressing Timothy in 2 Timothy and the first chapter speaks of the fact that the lad knew the Holy Scriptures from his childhood, taught by Eunice his mother, and by Lois his grandmother [2 Timothy 1:5] – not by his father, he was a heathen, pagan Greek [Acts 16:1], but by Eunice and by Lois – Timothy!
I wish we had time to speak of Helena, who was the mother of Constantine. And in 300 AD, when Constantine became the emperor of the Roman Empire, he chose the Christian faith because of his mother, Helena.
I wish we could speak in history of Vladimir, the first czar of Russia. He was taught by his grandmother, Olga. And Olga, in that heathen world, was a humble, devout child of God; she was a great Christian. And she taught that little grandson, Vladimir, the faith of the Lord Christ. And upon a day, a great day, when decision was made in Russia, he chose the Christian religion. It is amazing; it is unbelievable how the woman has shaped the course and destiny of the Christian faith.
I wish we could speak of Deborah. She was a judge in Israel. She brought Israel deliverance in the fourth chapter of Judges. And the entire fifth chapter of the Book of Judges is the song of Deborah, her marvelous paean of praise and victory and triumph – Deborah.
I wish we could speak of Ruth, the most beautiful story in literature; Ruth, the great-great-grandmother of David [Ruth 4:13-22]. I wish we could speak of Hannah. Dear God! what a beautiful story: Hannah praying for the little boy, then she said, “I will lend him to the Lord all the days of his life” [1 Samuel 1:11, 23, 28]; the mother of Samuel.
What could we say of Elizabeth, in the New Testament [Luke 1:5-80]; of Anna, the prophetess, who blessed the Child when the little Baby was brought to be consecrated to the Lord, as we do here with our babies? [Luke 2:36-38]. What could we say of those women who ministered to the blessed Jesus in His days of preaching? Look at the Word: “It came to pass, that the Lord went through every city and village, preaching and showing the glad tidings of the kingdom; and the twelve were with Him” – comma – “and the twelve apostles were with Him” – comma – “and certain women: Mary called Magdalene, and Joanna, and Susanna, and many others who ministered unto Him of their substance” [Luke 8:1-3] – the women.
And I don’t have time to speak of the women who were at the cross, who stood by the Lord [John 19:25]. When all of the disciples and all of the apostles fled away [Matthew 26:56], they stood by the cross! They stood by Him.
Nor do I have time to speak of Mary of Magdala, to whom the Lord first appeared, raised from the dead – to a woman, to a woman [John 20:11-18]. Nor do we have time to speak of Dorcas [Acts 9:36-41], or of Lydia [Acts 16:14-15], the first convert in Europe. Nor do we have time to speak of Phoebe, who was the servant of the church in Cenchrea; or of the four virgin maiden daughters of Philip, who were prophetesses the Bible says [Acts 21:9]. Nor do we have time to speak, in the Book of Acts, of Aquila and Priscilla [Acts 18:24-26]; and in the next book, the Book of Romans, it’s Priscilla and Aquila [Romans16:3-4]; she first, teaching Apollos, the great Alexandrian; teaching Apollos the fullness of the faith.
And we don’t even have time to mention that beautiful passage that you just read out of 2 John, addressing “the elect lady and her children,” her spiritual children [2 John 1]. That’s the woman in the church.
Did you know, did you know that there was a time in the history of Western civilization, there was a time when it looked as if the entire whole expanse of the civilized world would be under the aegis and worship of Mithra? Mithra, you never heard of him, Mithra. You never heard anybody talk about him, discuss him, Mithra. Yet, Mithra, at one time it looked as if the whole civilized world was going to be under Mithra. Mithra is the name of an Indo-Iranian, Persian deity. He is in the Hindu religion, in the Vedic hymns, and he is in Zoroastrianism; and he was in the civilized world as the great deity toward which the entire cultured world moved. You will find his name in Mithridates: that’s a whole group of kings in Persia, in Iran; a whole bunch of kings in Armenia; and a whole succession of kings in Pontus. Mithridates, Mithridates, the names of the kings named for Mithra. Finally, the religion of Mithra, coming from the East out of Indo-Europe, out of Persian, out of Anatole, finally into the Roman Empire. And many of the great vigorous emperors were Mithraites: they belonged to the Mithraic religion. Like Nero, Commodus, Aurelius, who was the greatest of the emperors, Diocletian, Galerius, Julian: they were all worshipers of Mithra. And the Roman soldiers worshiped Mithra.
The great philosopher, Renan, says – without exaggeration – he says, quote, “We may say that if Christianity had been arrested by some mortal malady, the world would have been Mithraistic.” The whole world, Renan says; and he’s one of the greatest philosophers who ever wrote. The whole world would have been worshipers of Mithra, had it not been for the Christian faith.
Now Mithraism parodied or duplicated Christianity. The birth of Mithra and of Christ were celebrated on the same day: December 25. Both were born in poverty in a cave. Both regarded Sunday as their day of worship. In both, there was a sacrifice for the race: the purifying power of blood. In both, regeneration, the second birth, was central and fundamental. Both observed the ordinances of baptism and the communion of the bread and of the cup.
The church fathers, those first Christian leaders back there in those first centuries, church fathers, such as Justin Martyr and Tertullian, were astonished at how Mithra resembled and parodied our Lord Jesus Christ. And they could explain it only by the thought that the observance of Mithraism was the cunning parody devised by Satan to discredit the holy things of God and to seduce the souls of men from the true faith by a false and insidious imitation of it all.
Why did it fail? Why is it that the civilized world today does not worship Mithra? Why is it that the whole story of Western civilization is not Mithraistic? It had back of it the power of the Roman emperors. It had back of it the force of the Roman legions. And it had back of it the cultural acclamation and accolade and acceptance of all the Greek and Roman temples and the temple worship.
Why did it fail? It failed for one simple reason: namely, it excluded women. It excluded the woman. It was a man’s religion. It was an emperor’s faith; it was the soldier’s faith; it was a masculine faith. And it failed because it excluded the woman.
Why did Christianity conquer the civilized world? Why did it swing the Roman Empire on its very hinges into a direction antithetical to temple worship, idolatrous worship, Mithra, why? Because of the ultimate Christian meaning in Galatians 3:28: “In Christ, in Christ, there is neither Jew nor Greek.” We are all acceptable, and elected, and chosen in His sight: “Neither Jew nor Greek.” “There is neither bond nor free.” In a society where three men out of every five were slaves, in the house of God there was no such thing as a slave or as a freedman. They were alike in the presence of the Lord. And, “In Christ, there is no male or female.” We’re the same in His sight, in His presence. That woman, however degraded she may have been in Greek and Roman culture and society, in God’s sight she was a queen and a princess. “There is neither male nor female; but we are all one in the Lord, in Christ.” That is the Christian faith.
Here in this church, in our public worship, according to the Word of God, the service has a set form. And in those churches in your house, we can witness, we can testify, we can have a part, all of us. And we can help one another, encourage each other, and care for each other, watch over each other. That’s the church of the New Testament; it’s the church of the Bible. And I’d love to have that kind of a communion and congregation here in the heart of this great city of Dallas.
The Lord be good to us now as we begin. Don’t know what the end of it is; I’ve tried to see it through to the end and I can’t. I just know the Spirit of God is in it, and the Holy Scriptures of the Lord reveals it to us. And when we follow in the way, God is going to be our strength and our wisdom. He is going to guide and help us. We’re going to praise His name for the blessing.
Now, we’re going to sing us a song of appeal. And while we sing the song, a family you to come into the fellowship of our wonderful church, if you’re in the balcony there’s time and to spare, down one of these stairways, welcome. A couple of you, you and your wife, you and a friend, or just you, “Pastor, God has spoken to me today. God has spoken to my heart, and I am answering with my life.” To accept the Lord as your Savior, looking up to Him to keep us now, in the hour of our death, and to heaven; accepting the Lord as Savior, or to answer some appeal He has pressed upon your heart, as God shall lead, you follow after. And may angels attend you as you come, while we stand and while we sing.