To accurately define the word “pastor” today, you have to address the issue of whether women can be pastors. In our culture, the topic is not one that can be avoided. Instead of appealing to one passage of Scripture as the definitive word on this issue, I’d like to trace a biblical case for the following claim: men are created and called by God to be leaders, especially in the home and in the church.
The case for this claim begins not long after the beginning, in Genesis 2. We find that Adam was created before Eve (2:7), he was given responsibility over God’s creation (2:15), and Adam was given specific commands by God concerning how he should live in the garden (2:16-17). But God declared that it was not good for Adam to be alone, so God created Eve as a “helper fit for him” (2:18, ESV). From that point forward, the man and the women were united as one flesh (2:25), with the man as the leader and the woman as his helper.
Not surprisingly, we find this God-ordained order marred in Genesis 3. Eve was deceived by the serpent, who convinced her to eat from the forbidden tree, and she gave some of the fruit to Adam who ate it with her (3:1-6). And so sin entered the world with its far-reaching consequences. One consequence of the fall was a disruption in the created order between men and women. Part of the curse of God on Eve was that her desire would be for her husband, but that he would rule over her (3:16). This statement has led to many interpretations, but one author stated it this way, “The ‘desire’ of the woman is her attempt to control her husband, but she will fail because God has ordained that the man exercise his leadership function.”
So because of the fall, God’s divinely established order for men and women was corrupted, but it was not removed. The rest of the Old Testament bears out this claim that God’s continued plan was for men to be the leaders of his people. It is no accident that Abraham and Moses and David were all men. There are of course exceptions to this rule of male leadership in the Old Testament, both good (Deborah) and bad (Athaliah). But these exceptions do not disprove the rule, but they are indications of the broken and sinful world in which we live.
On the one hand, men can fail to lead in their God ordained roles, which can lead to faithful women like Deborah serving in the midst of the chaos of the book of Judges (Judges 4). On the other hand, wicked women like Athaliah can seize authority for themselves (2 Kings 11). Either way, the consistent claim of the Old Testament is that when God’s people were living faithfully before him, they were led by faithful men, whether prophets, priests, or kings.
Does this same pattern hold in the New Testament? Based on the evidence of the Old Testament, we should not be surprised that Jesus selected 12 disciples, all of whom were men. Women played an integral role in Jesus’ ministry, traveling with him and even supporting him financially (Luke 8:1-3). Several of Jesus’ female disciples were faithful to follow him to the cross where he died (Matthew 27:55-56) and to care for his body after his death (Mark 15:47-16:4) even when his male disciples had run ran away. But when Jesus chose the disciples whom he would sent out to preach and to teach on his behalf, he chose men.
Paul emphasized in numerous ways the priority of men as leaders in the home and in the church. He taught that wives were to submit to their husbands as to the Lord, and he drew a parallel between the church’s submission to Jesus and the wife’s submission to her husband (Ephesians 5:22-24). Paul argued specifically that woman came from man and that woman was created to be man’s helper (1 Corinthians 11:8-9). So it is no accident that when Paul gave the qualifications for church leaders they were written for men (1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9). Not was it an accident that Paul appealed to the created order when excluding women from serving as authoritative teachers for the church (1 Timothy 2:11-15).
We will save for later the question of whether women can preach, but the point here is to establish the principle that God ordained certain roles for both men and women. These roles are not a result of the fall, but they are a part of the goodness of God’s creation. Certainly this order has been marred by sin. Sinful men can be overbearing, cruel, and wicked. But men can also sin by failing to lead. In the same way, women can seek to dominate men, whether in the home or in the church. They can refuse to lovingly submit to their husbands, or they can seek to usurp God’s created order by claiming leadership positions in the church that thwart God’s created intentions.
I am not claiming that every woman is called to submit to every man. Nor am I claiming that no woman can ever teach a man anything. In fact, there are a host of things I am not claiming. But I am claiming that in God’s wisdom, he ordered his creation with the intent that men lead both in the family and in the church. And if the church desires to thrive and grow, it is always best to submit ourselves to the good plans and purposes of God.