1 Timothy 3
Female believers in Pastoral Offices.
The NT unambiguously lists female believers as deacons. In Timothy which notes the qualifications for a deacon you see the phrase “husband of one wife”. How can this qualification be applied to females? Notably this phrase is also used in this text for qualifying bishops. The phrase “husband of one wife” is used in argument to exclude female believers for that service. However it is also included in the qualifiers for deacons and this clearly can not exclude females. So it is reasonable to suggest that phrase does not exclude them as bishops either. Let’s try to understand the reason it does not exclude female believers as deacons and why it does not as elder/bishops as well.
“The husband of one wife” the actual Greek here is literally "of-one-wife husband," with the word "one" (mias) first in the phrase— this order suggests the emphasis is on the “one-woman” aspect of this characteristic. The comment is on monogamy (not as opposed to polygamy rarely if ever practiced) but monogamy as opposed to “wandering eyes.”
Ah! Now when observing the text it no longer stands alone in the list as a “legal status”. But can be seen as one of the characteristics for deacon or bishop. It has often been argued when considering the office of elder/bishop that it precludes that person being female. As further study into the use of this phrase indicates it is simply a phrase suggesting a “one woman kind of man” meaning in our vernacular, not a “womanizer”. So, this requirement for elder is more appropriately seen as another characteristic making one suitable for this service. This being the idea that an elder, bishop, deacon ought to be a monogamous type person. That this type of characteristic can apply to male or female believers is easily understood.
I put before you, my fellow believers that this understanding remains consistent with the “measure of faith” being the only criteria for serving in any capacity. It is widely acknowledged there are no gender restrictions applied to the service of Deacon. And so it is with the service of bishop/elder. One can not justify prohibiting female believers from any office based on this phrase (of one woman-man) and one need not be concerned in concept either as it is consistent with teachings that we are all one in Christ Jesus.
1 Timothy 3
Subtle Influences from Grammar
I believe we often are subtly misled by the masculine use of words in NT text. Please consider the following:
1 The saying is sure: F7 whoever (the Greek word Ei-tis meaning “whoever’) aspires to the office of bishop F8 desires a noble task. 2 Now a bishop F9 must be above reproach, “of one wife husband (monogamous kind of person) F10 temperate, sensible, respectable, hospitable, an apt teacher, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, and not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own household well, keeping his children submissive and respectful in every way? 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how can he take care of God's church? 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may be puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace and the snare of the devil. ____________________________________________________________________
8 Deacons likewise must be serious, not double-tongued, not indulging in much wine, not greedy for money; 9 they must hold fast to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 And let them first be tested; then, if they prove themselves blameless, let them serve as deacons. 11 Women F11 likewise must be serious, not slanderers, but temperate, faithful in all things. 12 Let deacons be “of one wife husband” (monogamous kind of person,) F12 and let them manage their children and their households well; 13 for those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and great boldness in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.
Please take a look at these two sections and note the RED highlighted words in both sections. In the first section the masculine is used through out and in the second section we see neutral/ plural wording. This simple misunderstanding of the grammar of the text has suggested to some that bishops are masculine and deacons allow for both genders.
“Whoever” aspires to the office…“Whoever” is not masculine its just whoever…but this is singular and like in our language one will use “he’ after the gender inclusive “whoever”.
In the second section “deacons” is plural and the correct plural phrasing follows.
Many of our misunderstandings are due to simple things. Often it can be a bit embarrassing to realize that a very small grammatical issue might have played its part in allowing us to adopt profoundly incorrect practices. New insight and better access to information matures our comprehensions. We all make mistakes but we must not allow any embarrassment to make us “dig our heels in”. We must run toward Truth, I am convinced we will never stumble if that is our pursuit.
Straightforward and Simple
In Christ Jesus there is neither male nor female. Interestingly Paul does not use the more common words you might expect, “aner” for male or “gyne for female (meaning either man-woman or husband-wife). However note that he uses two less common words ar’hrane meaning essentially the male of the species and thay- lose the female of the species.
By doing this Paul is making this simple point. In Christ Jesus there is just the “the species” “mankind” not male and female, the two do not have separate designations in Christ. Perhaps Paul is referring us back to Genesis where God pronounced them (male- female) “man” on the day they were created. In the choice of these two words Paul reminds us from God’s point of view there is just mankind. Mankind made up of the male-female but not male and female as two separate kinds of “man”. God sees just “mankind” when he sees us. By not using the words gyne and aner he would eliminate any possibility that one could think there is not husband - wife because “in Christ” or not, there is husband and wife!
In the beginning by God’s pronouncement He created “man“(one flesh), and so it is now. This concept taught here is in perfect harmony with God’s view and is now Christ’s command. There is neither male nor female they are seen by Christ as exactly the same. And that’s exactly the same point being made of these three pairings. God and Christ do not see Jews and Greeks, they don’t see slaves and masters they don’t’ see males and females they are all the same to them, “one” before God and in Christ Jesus. Christ and the Father see only faith (or the lack of it) they see no distinction in access to salvation and no distinction as believers in the Ecclesia.
Brethren, if this is the way God and Christ see us then we must eliminate any practices which suggests there are roles based on gender. We would not consider assigning ‘roles” to any believer in the ecclesia based on race or economic/political status or previous religious background. Now we must mature in Christ and shun the practice of making a distinction based on gender. By making a distinction based on any thing but Faith we make this passage void.
Gender is the one of these three pairings which will always exist. However ridding ourselves any remaining gender prejudice in the ecclesia is the challenge for our day. The Jew-Gentile pairing is long lost any sense of being an ecclesial issue and slavery has been abolished in most countries and is of no debate. However in the ecclesia we must rise above the physical and acknowledge our practices sustain this last pairing’s bias. These practices must be neutralized in regard to assigning “roles” based on gender in the body of Christ.
We must come closer to the unity of the body and shun the thinking Christ implores us to abandon. Having eliminated two of these pairing as being significant, what do you think we are supposed to do with the last one?
Ÿ Paul effectively and laboriously taught throughout the NT the Jew had no advantage in Christ over the Greek.
Ÿ The principal is over whelming that no Believer in Christ can claim “ownership” (slave) of another believer who belongs to Christ, by God’s own word .
Ÿ Male believers have no special ‘role’ in Christ’s ecclesia and neither do female believers. How can they? Christ says clearly they are one in Him.
This passage of Scripture is perfectly clear in its intent. This passage is not vague. Regarding other teachings it is in keeping with all other allegories and metaphors. This passage sums up and reflects perfectly Paul’s own practices during his ministry. The problem comes down to the fact that it must be explained or tempered not because it violates other scriptures, but because it is direct conflict with our practice.
We can not we must not make void the word of God by our own traditions. This passage is straightforward and simple to grasp. “We are all one in Christ Jesus” so it must be that we conform our traditional understandings to honor this passage. We must not obscure or diminish this passage’s lesson to fit our traditions.
I was not completely aware that some believers present the idea that verse 28 applies exclusively to “access to Salvation” that in this sense only we are “all one”. So I have added a reminder of the context and offer an opinion as to whether that is the case or not. Please read chapter three before you review these brief comments which I have begun at verse 25.
25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a custodian; 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise.
The exhortation here is not for those who are contemplating access to the Gospel these are believers who have already accepted it! Paul is speaking to those who “have put on Christ”. These are believers who are being persuaded by some to introduce obedience to the Law as a necessary facet of Faith. Paul makes it clear that the regulations of the Law have no place in the lives of believers. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ“(not put on "the law"). Paul is saying: Listen here! Once baptized you have “put on Christ” Don’t you understand you don’t need fig leafs, you don’t need the law, you need faith. Now with Christ “on” (Greek) en-doo-o’ “to sink into (clothing), put on, clothe one's self” 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus”. Right now putting on Christ as your “garment” like a uniform you are to see yourselves in as a unit not as males and females, not as slaves and freemen, not as Jews and Greeks. Because now you are all the same, males and females all wearing the same garment, all “sinking into the same clothing”.
It is in the context of believers operating and living in an ecclesia that Paul says “we are all one”. After the astonishment in Acts where it became undeniable that Gentiles were being invited into the Gospel, after Peter’s exclamation through revelation “I perceive that God shows no partiality” there is no discussion or debate about “equal access” to salvation in the epistles. It seems the question “Do Gentiles really have the right to be here?” never comes up. It appears to be universally accepted that “all” mankind has been called. However we find throughout the Epistles that Paul must combat the idea that those already in the Faith must obey the law. Because of the continued effort of “some” to teach that obedience to Jewish law has a place in Christ Paul must fight this Jew/gentile inequality. Paul’s words “for we are all one in Christ Jesus” is to be the way we look at each other in the ecclesia. While it is true for those seeking God’s Grace as well, it is not the context of Paul’s exhortation to the Galatians – namely, that having put on Christ’s “uniform” they should function as one and conform only (as one unit) to the commands of their Head, Christ Jesus. They owe no other allegiance to the laws and customs and neither do we.