the weblog of Alan Knox

Spiritual Gifts and Women

Posted by on May 10, 2010 in spiritual gifts | 44 comments

A few weeks ago, a commenter named Marisa asked me if I would write about “women in ministry.” I understand that when people ask questions like this, they usually mean “ministry” in the sense of a professional vocation in the church, or perhaps a certain type of “office” or “position” in the church.

As I’ve studied Scripture, I haven’t seen this kind of designation. “Ministry” is simply service. When we serve people, we minister to them. The act of serving people is ministry. People who serve others are ministers.

So, of course, women are to be ministers… that is, they are to serve others.

One of the ways that we see God preparing us to serve others is through the spiritual gifts that he gives us. Consider this statements from passages of Scripture that include lists of spiritual gifts:

Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them… (Romans 12:6a ESV; list in Romans 12:6-8)

To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. (1 Corinthians 12:7 ESV; list in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10)

But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. (Ephesians 4:7 ESV; list in Ephesians 4:11)

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace… (1 Peter 4:10 ESV; list in 1 Peter 4:11)

In each of these passages, the author (Paul or Peter) tells his reader that God his given spiritual gifts as he chooses to his children so that they can serve others. Neither author makes a distinction based on gender.

The lists that follow these statements are not exhaustive, but are examples of the way that God chooses to work through his children to serve others through manifestations of the Holy Spirit. Peter simply divides the giftings into speaking and serving gifts. Paul, on the other hand, lists specific gifts, such as, apostleship, prophecy, teaching, evangelism, shepherding, serving, showing kindness, helping, giving, etc. Like I said earlier, there is no distinction based on gender for any of these listings.

Now, obviously, there are passages of Scripture that deal with the distinctions between men and women. But, when it comes to spiritual gifts, those distinctions are not discussed. Instead, we see more universal and inclusive language – that is, the authors speak of all believers. For example, in Romans 12, the same people who are to “present their bodies as living sacrifices” and not “be conformed to this world” (Romans 12:1-2) are given gifts such as prophecy, serving, teaching, exhortation, contributing, and leading (Romans 12:6-8). If we continue reading, these same children of God (again, without regard to gender) are to demonstrate unhypocritical love (Romans 12:9-21). It would be difficult to differentiate any of these instructions as applying to men, but not to women.

The same would be true if we read through the passages listing spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12 or Ephesians 4. If we make distinctions when we read these passages, the distinctions do not come from the pen of the authors, but from our preconceived notions of what God would or would not gift a man or woman. Now, certainly, these preconceived notions could have been formed from other passages of Scripture, but that discussion is for another time.

For now, we should realize that when it comes to spiritual gifts, when Paul and Peter listed examples of ways that God manifests himself in the lives of his children so that they could serve (minister to) others, they did not make distinctions based on gender.


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 5-10-2010

    I don’t think the issue has anything to do with gifting at all. Even the most staunch complementarian would heartily agree that women are spiritually gifted in a whle variety of ways. Where it get sticky is when you look at application in the church, because in that respect the Scriptures are certainly not silent and it is in application that the sparks fly.

  2. 5-10-2010

    Can you make the comment box bigger? if you get more than a few sentences it gets smooshed together.

  3. 5-10-2010

    What about 1 Timothy 2:11-14?

  4. 5-10-2010


    I understand what you’re saying. The main problem is the context in which women function as part of the body of Christ. However, we must have a starting point. For example, if I’m correct here, then women can be gifted as apostles, prophets, evangelists, teachers, leaders, givers, servants, tongues speakers, etc.


    In 1 Timothy 2:11-14, Paul deals with how a woman functions as part of the body of Christ, not whether or not she is gifted in certain ways, which is the point of this post. I’ll deal with this passage and others later.


  5. 5-11-2010

    well, f we consider “pastor” as a kind of spiritual gift – can women be “pastors”?

    Reading Snyder’s book Community of the King caused a shift in my think about the so-called “offices” listed in Eph 4:11. I think instead they are spiritual gifts used to edify and bless the church not offices to be used for posturing and positioning in the congregtion.

  6. 5-11-2010

    Interesting. I knew where Brian was going and I looked at the RefTagger link there for Eph. 4:11 and was sorta surprised to see “shepherds” which is how the word poimen is translated every other time it is used in the New Testament (in many translations). I have wondered why the different word “pastors” was used for this single reference (and why man has built so much upon the title).

    This site says the ESV still uses the word “pastors” in Eph. 4:11:

    I guess old habits are hard to break?

  7. 5-11-2010

    Brian and Eric,

    Exactly. We put emphasis on certain types of spiritual gifts, while Scripture includes them all together. A “pastor” is simply someone who is “shepherding” someone else or other people.


  8. 5-11-2010

    except women shepherding men….

  9. 5-11-2010


    What do you mean? Does Scripture indicate that women should not shepherd men?


  10. 5-12-2010

    Interesting comments. I’m often stretched when I read this blogsite. Well ‘women in ministry’ … my understanding of the subject (though I’m open to correction) is that God indeed distributes His gifts equally among men and women. However, when it comes to serving others in the capacity as elder (which the Bible appears to use interchangeably with the terms pastor, overseer , shepherd and bishop) the Bible appears to reserve this gift for men alone. Now, I’m not saying I’m right, I’m just saying this is my current understanding; and if I’m wrong I’d love to hear about it.

    I base my current belief on Ephesians 5:22 onwards and 1 Corinthians 11 where we are told that the man or husband is the head in the marriage relationship. Since the husband’s role in marriage is the same as Jesus’ role as head of the church, I’m gathering that the husband, like Jesus via His Holy Spirit, is responsible for guiding the wife into all truth, for guarding her spiritual welfare. Over in 1 Tim 2 we read that Paul doesn’t permit a woman (wife) to teach or have authority over a man (husband) because of the way that Eve the first woman was deceived. I’ve heard it taught that this is a reference to women being more vulnerable than men to spiritual deception. Hence, Paul seemed to teach that husbands were given authorisation from God to oversee the spiritual welfare of their wives. Also when Paul says he doesn’t allow women to ‘teach or have authority over men’, he wasn’t saying two things – namely, she must never teach a man nor must she ever have authority over a man – because other passages of Scripture clearly show that women are used by God to instruct men (Acts 18:24-26; 1 Corin 14:31). Rather, what Paul meant by this phrase was that he doesn’t permit women to funtion in the role of ‘authoritative teacher’ – in other words in the gift of servant-leadership where continuous teaching comes with the territory so to speak (1 Tim 3:1-2).

    Consequently, if a wife functions as a servant-leader when the body meets (i.e. if she has responsibility for teaching others, which elders are indeed given, 1 Tim 3:2) that would cause the woman to function as head in the marriage relationship because she would be the one taking the initiative to teach and oversee her husband’s spiritual welfare. Wouldn’t it?

    If this isn’t the case, then I don’t understand what it means for a husband to function as head in the marriage; and I don’t understand why Paul wouldn’t allow a woman to take the main responsibility for teaching in the marriage (1 Tim 2:12). There’s loads I’d love to say on this, but I’m conscious of space and time.

    At the moment I gather that God gifts women with all the gifts except servant-leadership (Rom 12:8) because this would require a woman to take responsibility for continuously teaching and overseeing the spiritual welfare of men in her care, which Paul appears to teach is for men alone in that he is to function as head, just as Jesus is head in the church. If anyone knows any different, that would be great. I’d love to hear.

  11. 5-12-2010


    Thanks for your comment, and thanks for encouraging me to write about this topic. Here are a few things to think about. First, Scripture doesn’t make a distinction between the “service” (i.e., ministry) of elders and the “service” (i.e., ministry) of other believers. They may be different, but all are to minister, and one kind is not more important than the other.

    Also, while I agree that elders are to lead, shepherd, teach, etc., this does not mean that ONLY elders are to lead, shepherd, teach, etc. I wrote about some of the confusion in these terms in my next post in this series, which is called “Spiritually Gifted Women.” Notice, for example, that the gifts of leading and teaching (often combined) are actually separate gifts in Romans 12.

    Finally, I think Paul explains what he means by “head” in Ephesians 5. Interestingly, he does not say that the man is the head of the wife and therefore should exercise authority over his wife. Just some food for thought…


  12. 5-12-2010

    Hi Alan,

    I agree that no one ministry is more valuable than any other ministry. I also agree that leading and teaching are separate gifts (Romans 12), (although, as you know, it’s impossible to serve as servant-leader/elder without also being gifted to teach, 1 Tim 3:2).

    I’ve looked at Ephesians 5 again and I agree that the function of ‘head’ is identified in the passage. However, Paul also says that wives should be subject to husbands in ‘everything’ (v 24). Does ‘everything’ mean ‘everything’? Consequently, if a husband says that he’s taking responsibility for establishing and upholding right doctrine in the marriage, and if he says he doesn’t want his wife serving as a leader-teacher when the church meets, does this mean his wife must submit to him? This, I think, could get complicated because over in 1 Peter 5:5 everyone is required to be submissive to everyone else. But, I suppose, in the event of a disagreement between a husband and wife, the husband has the responsibility of making the final decision because Scripture clearly identifies him as being the head. And in the physical realm, it is our head – the hairy knob on our neck – which sets the direction for the body. In other words, the hand doesn’t tell the head what to do – under normal circumstances. Instead it is the head which takes the lead, so to speak, by directing the body parts in the ways they should go.

    From this viewpoint it seems safe to say that as a ‘head’ the husband is indeed the one who sets the direction ‘in everything’ (Eph 5:24) – which must include spiritual matters. This doesn’t mean that the authority (or authorisation) he has from God for functioning as a head is a whip-wielding dictatorship, as you know, just as Jesus’ role as head over the church isn’t whip-wielding. But as its head, Jesus has the right (the responsibility) to set the direction for the church to go in, and if she’s wavering off course, Jesus has the responsibility to call her back to the Scriptures, for example. I know that this is the duty of everyone in the church, not just of husbands and servant-leaders. Nevertheless teachers in the church (which will include elders) are perculiarly held more accountable than those who aren’t gifted as teachers (James 3:1). Consequently, if teachers are more accountable, then teaching carries more responsibility than the other gifts. I’m not saying that teaching is more important than other gifts, but it appears to carry more responsibility.

    If the above view on ‘heads’ is correct, then it fits in nicely with Paul’s prohibition on women serving as leader-teachers of men (1 Tim 2:12); which means that women are free to teach men (Acts 18:24-26), but not to teach continuously because if she taught continuouly she would be functioning as a head, i.e. as one who leads in spiritual matters. Spiros Zodhiates points out that the term ‘teach’ in 1 Tim 2:12 is in the continuous tense in Greek, meaning Paul doesn’t prohibit women from teaching, but he does prohibit women from teaching continuously (Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible (1991) Page 1497).

    Also I think it was David Guzik on the Blue Letter Bible website (or maybe Ray Stedman) who points out that in the Bible as well as in life in general a greater responsibility is given to the firstborn to oversee the younger; with age comes responsibility. This too appears to be what Paul is alluding to in 1 Tim 2: 13. Adam was created first therefore he has greater responsibility for caring for Eve’s welfare. Also, since Eve was the first one to be deceived (verse 14), Eve – or women in general – are not to take the lead when it comes to teaching in the church. Yes, they can teach, but not be responsible for overseeing right doctrine.

    Again, I’m not saying these views are accurate, but they’re the ones that make most sense to me at the minute. If they aren’t correct, then I haven’t got a clue what it means for wives to submit to husbands in ‘everything’ (Eph 5:24), something never said to men in respect of women. And I haven’t got a clue what 1 Timothy 2:12-15 means.

    Incidentally, I don’t have any axe to grind. I think (in myself) that it would be great if women could be servant-leaders/elders – but I just can’t see, at the moment, where this view is supported by Scripture given the teachings in 1 Tim 2:12-15 and Ephesians 5: 24. In fact, I’ve just read this last verse again. It says “Therefore just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.” (NKJV) I can’t imagine for one minute the church giving Jesus doctrinal instruction, nor of her being responsible for His spiritual welfare. So how can a wife be responsible for her husband’s spiritual welfare when she is required to cooperate with him in the same way that the church cooperates with Jesus? We all know what happened when Eve took the lead in spiritual matters back in the garden (1 Tim 2:14); so maybe Paul’s prohibition a few sentences earlier against women serving as leaders is intended to minimise the risks of deception entering the church.


    P.S. I love your blog. You give lots of food for thought and help straighten out tricky issues.

  13. 5-12-2010

    I believe the marriage relationship is a different context because of the covenant that is made between the husband and wife. How do we exhort the unmarried brethren with these scriptures as to their roles in the assembly?

    A “Scripture As We Live It” (special Women In Ministry edition) possibility?

    Husbands (love) be the head of your wives even as Christ also (loved)is head of the church (and gave himself for it) Eph. 5:25.

  14. 5-12-2010

    Hi Eric,

    I’ve tried to think about that one (though I don’t know if my conclusions are correct), but I gather that what is true in the marriage relationship has impact when the church meets together. For example, if the Biblical definition of ‘head’ includes the idea of the husband being a servant-leader, then a wife cannot function as a servant-leader when the church meets because that would make her the head of her husband.

    The main reason why I currently view ‘head’ as being synonymous with servant-leadership and not just synonymous with the term ‘love’ is because the Bible uses creation, the physical world, to describe spiritual truths; e.g. the wind tells us something about the Holy Spirit; the dawn, the rising of the sun, tells us something about the resurrection of the Son. Similarly the physical head, the hairy knob on our neck, tells us something about the relationship between Jesus and the church and the husband and wife.

    Therefore, since the hand never tells the head what to do, instead the head sets the direction for the body, and it oversees the body because it is set at the top of the body, then neither should the church set the direction for Jesus (lead Jesus or oversee Him), nor the wife set the direction for the husband (lead and oversee him).

    Not only is this applicable for the married woman, but it applies to single women also for the following reasons:

    – God created man first, not woman (1 Tim 2:13). And woman was created to be a helper for man not the other way round. Also, since the older people in Scripture are given responsibility for caring for the younger, then man – as the older of God’s human creations – has greater responsibility for caring for the woman.

    – and secondly because Eve, not Adam, was deceived by the serpent (1 Tim 2:14) suggesting that women are more vulnerable than men to spiritual deception. Therefore, rather than women having responsibility for oveseeing right doctrine in the church, God gives this responsibility to men.

    Thus, Paul’s prohibition appears to be against ‘female’ leaders – both single and married – not just against women who are married.

    Please note – I’m not saying these views are correct. I’m only saying they make most sense to me at the minute until someone can show me differently.


  15. 5-12-2010


    I agree that the husband is the head of the wife. That’s what Paul said in Eph 5:23. But, Paul does not say that man is then head of the church, but always says that Christ is head of the church. So, the man/wife relationship does not automatically carry over in the church relationship. However, I do understand and agree with your concerns about a woman exercising authority over her husband. Of course, I also don’t think that any person has the right to exercise authority over any other person, but that’s for another discussion.

    By the way, as far as I can tell, I agree with much of your interpretation of the passages dealing with women serving in context, and I agree with your application.


    Yes, even though the husband is “head” of the wife, he does not demonstrate his “headship” by exercising authority, but by loving, just as Christ loved the church.


  16. 5-12-2010


    Yes, if man is the head in the marriage relationship and if, as head, he has responsibility for overseeing his wife’s spiritual welfare – e.g. via teaching right doctrine and helping her to understand how to keep the Word in context etc – then we know that when the husband and wife go together to meet up with other Christians, the husband doesn’t suddenly cease being the wife’s head. The husband is still responsible for overseeing her spiritual welfare. Thus the husband’s role as head indeed carries over into the church because he is still responsible before God to function as her head.

    Consequently, it doesn’t make sense for a wife to function as leader-teacher in the church because if she did, this would put her in a place where she was responsible for overseeing her husband’s spiritual welfare, which Scripturally speaking seems to be one of the responsibilities that comes with being the head.

    However, even if we work on the assumption that servant-leadership in the church should be male only, this doesn’t mean that men function as head over the church, but only as head of women – i.e. other men are excluded. Men are never the head of other men. The oversight and shepherding responsibility therefore follows this pattern: God the Father is the head of Jesus, Jesus is the head of the church, of both man and woman (He is the overseer/carer/direction setter), and husbands are the head of their wives – which is indeed the pattern set out by Paul in 1 Corin 11:3.

    This headship pattern remains true both when the church meets together and when individual Christians are getting on with their lives individually. In other words, a husband doesn’t stop being the head of his wife when they fellowship together in church. Thus, it’s possible for men to function as ‘heads’ in the church without displacing or replacing Jesus’ overall headship responsibility.

    We are so limited by human language, and I’m discovering that it’s almost impossible to explain what we really mean without taking months to do so, but for what it’s worth … maybe it is too misleading to refer to men as head in the church. However, whether we use that term or not – and maybe it’s best not to, to avoid introducing more confusion to the pot – it still appears true to say that servant-leadership in the church is given to men not to women on the basis of what Paul says in 1 Tim 2:11-15 (i.e. the elder is responsible for the younger and because women are more easily deceived than men) and because if a woman did serve as leader this would give her responsibility to oversee her husband’s spiritual welfare, which is really the service required of man.

    I know the subject of ‘authority’ isn’t one for discussing here, suffice to say that when I think about authority in the church, I usually understand it in terms of someone having ‘authorisation’ from God to function in a certain role, i.e. someone gifted by God, and therefore, authorised by God to use that gift for the benefit of others. It isn’t authority to dictate, but authority to serve.


  17. 5-12-2010


    Thanks for continue to explain your understanding of this topic.

    I’d love know how you’d respond to my next post “Women Serving in Context.”


  18. 5-12-2010


    I will wait with baited breath.

    Meanwhile it’s 6.20 pm here in England so I’m off to make some chicken nuggets before I starve to death.


  19. 5-12-2010

    I guess I didn’t realize you support women as pastors.

  20. 5-12-2010


    I’ve attempted to keep my own position out of this discussion, although it has come out in certain places. I believe that women can have the spiritual gift of shepherding. However, I do not think the spiritual gift of shepherding is the same was being an elder nor is the same as being what is commonly called a pastor today.


  21. 5-12-2010

    Oh, I didn’t realise you made a distinction between shepherding and the gift of elder/pastor.

    Interesting. The plot thickens.


  22. 5-12-2010


    In my understanding, “shepherding” or “pastoring” is a spiritual gift, like “teaching,” “apostleship,” “prophecy,” etc. (Eph 4:11; Rom 12:7-8) An elder or overseer is someone appointed or recognized by the church. (Acts 14:26; 1 Tim 3:1-7)



  23. 5-13-2010

    In my understanding, when I looked up the word ‘pastor’ (Eph 4) it meant ‘shepherd’. So I deduced that a pastor was the same as a shepherd. Then when I looked in the Bible for a definition of an elder I discovered that an elder was required to shepherd and oversee the flock (1 Peter 5:1-2; Acts 20:17 and v 28). So I deduced that an elder was the same as a shepherd who was the same as an overseer, which is exactly what Peter says.

    In 1 Timothy 3:1 we see another reference to overseers which – according to Peter’s definition – is a reference to elders (pastors/shepherds) because the job of an elder is to oversee (Acts 20:17 and v 28; 1 Peter 5:1-2).

    Therefore, it seems to me as though an elder is the same as a shepherd (pastor) who is the same as an overseer (sometimes called a ‘bishop’ in some English Bible translations) – because the Bible uses the terms interchangeably.

    At the moment I can’t see where there’s a difference between serving the church as a shepherd (pastor) and serving the church as an overseer (an elder) because an overseer has to be gifted as a shepherd in order to serve and vice versa. I’ll keep looking, though, I could be wrong.


  24. 5-13-2010


    I think I understand what you’re saying. In Acts 20:28 and 1 Peter 5:1-2, elders are told to shepherd – the verb – they are not called “shepherds” or “pastors”. In the same way, elders are also said to teach and lead (1 Tim 3:2, 1 Tim 5:17), but this doesn’t mean that being an elder is the same as having the spiritual gifts of teaching or leading. Can elders have the spiritual gifts of shepherding, teaching, leading, and other spiritual gifts? Certainly. Does having one or more of those spiritual gifts equate to being an elder? No, I don’t think so.


  25. 5-13-2010


    You say that “elders are told to shepherd – the verb – they are not called “shepherds” or “pastors” “. But if someone cooks food we call them a cook, if someone gardens we call them a gardener, if someone prophesies we call them a prophet, so if someone shepherds we call them a shepherd. Even though the Bible specifically refers to them as elders or overseers, it will be equally valid to refer to them as shepherds if we see them shepherding the flock. Indeed elders have to shepherd the flock (1 Peter), this is one of the roles of an elder. So it must be true to say that every elder is gifted with the gifts of teaching and shepherding because 1 Tim says they must be apt to teach, and Peter and Paul say they must shepherd the flock.

    The Bible then appears to tell me that elders (overseers) will also be gifted with teaching and shepherding, and if they aren’t they don’t meet the biblical criteria to serve as elder.

    Also, if elders (1 Tim 3) who engage in shepherding are not the same as shepherds (Ephesians 5), then what is the role of an elder? What’s the point in having an elder?

    Your perspective is quite radical. I’ll continue looking into it.


  26. 5-13-2010


    I’m not trying to be radical. I’m simply trying to explain what I see in Scripture.

    Yes, an elder should be able to teach, and therefore can be called a teacher. But, that doesn’t mean that every teacher is also an elder. Now, replace the word “teach” with “shepherd”: An elder should be able to shepherd, and therefore can be called a shepherd. But, that doesn’t mean that every shepherd is also an elder.

    The problem is that elder and shepherd/pastor have been considered interchangeable for a long time, so its hard for us to think about the terms any other way.


  27. 5-13-2010


    I understand what you’re saying. To agree with you requires quite a different shift in my mindset – which I’m happy to make after I’ve re-examined my beliefs and given myself time to check and digest the new information.

    If your interpretation is correct, and the church awakened to it, I imagine they’d still be problems afoot in the church as it sought to give women freedom to serve as shepherds, but not as elders. The brain boggles. What is the difference between someone who serves as a shepherd and someone who serves as an elder?


  28. 5-13-2010

    Excuse above typo it should read ‘there would’ not they’d on the fourth line.


  29. 5-13-2010


    Oh, yes, there will still be problems in the church… the church is people, right? Then there will be problems. 😉


  30. 5-13-2010

    What I find odd about discussions of the “fivefold” ministry or offices of Ephesians 4 is that these five people are not supposed to be leaders in their “task” – instead they are to be equipping others to perform these tasks – to “equip the saints for works of ministry that build up the body of Christ” – There’s a huge difference between performing and equipping others to perform. To me therefore these are not elders, rulers, controllers, governors – whatever you want to call them, equippers don’t wield power or govern by how I define equipping …

  31. 5-13-2010


    You said, “The problem is that elder and shepherd/pastor have been considered interchangeable for a long time, so its hard for us to think about the terms any other way.”

    If you mean that everyone with the gift and using the gift is not necessarily in a recognized role (one can teach without being an elder), I’m with you. But as far as using these terms to refver to a role/function, aren’t they the same (elder, bishop, pastor)?

    1) Elder = overseer, Acts 20:17,28
    2) Elders = bishops, Titus 1:5,7
    3) Elders = shepherds (undershepherds), I Pet 5:1-5 “chief” Shepherd is “arch” poimen, similar to “high” priest and “chief” tax collector. So they are, by inference, “plain” or “under” shepherds (poimen). Pastor (poimen) is a shepherd or tender of flocks, as are overseers & elders in the above verses. see poimen, Eph 4:11; Matt 9:36; Jn 10:2, 11-16

  32. 5-13-2010

    I believe the elders are the older men. They have a responsibility to oversee. But this same word is used as a verb in Hebrews 12:15 (See to it…). I don’t think that instruction is only for the men, the older men or the older men apt to teach. These qualifications for elders are marks of maturity we should recognize when we see them. It doesn’t mean that we are exempt from them (well, except I suppose the ladies cannot be the husband of one wife) because we are not recognized by the assembly, or someone else already is.

    Re: the Elder = bishops. From Titus 1:7:
    “An overseer, as God’s steward…”
    Elder = bishop = overseer = steward
    1 Cor. 4:1 Apostles=stewards = servants
    Acts 6 servants = deacons

    Therefore: Elder = bishop = steward = apostle = servant = deacon … 😉

  33. 5-14-2010


    I understand the Word the same way you do.


    I used to understand the Word the same way as you describe above but the other day I was challenged by Alan’s comments on it. I looked at it again this morning, and I can see where he’s coming from. As I look at it with new eyes, it seems as though ‘elders/overseers’ (1 Tim 3) are appointed by the church to serve. Therefore, as long as someone fulfils the character and lifestyle criteria of 1 Tim 3, any man could serve as elder. Either the church could appoint someone if they recognise he has these qualities; or a man himself could put himself forward because the Word says ‘if a man desires the position of an overseer he desires a good work (1 Tim 3:1). In other words the desire has come from him … and that’s OK. However, the church cannot appoint, neither can any man or woman put themselves forward to serve as apostle, prophet, evangelist, shepherd (pastor) or teacher (Ephesians 4) because these are gifts to the church, and only God not man can distribute His gifts among the body.

    Thus, an elder/overseer/bishop will definately need and have the gifts of leading (Rom 12) and teaching (Rom 12; 1 Tim 3:2) and the gift of shepherding (Eph 4:11: 1 Pet 5:1-2) – otherwise he isn’t equipped to serve as elder. However, other Christians in the body may have the gift of shepherding also (pastoring: Eph 4:11) without being an elder. After all, what does it mean to be a shepherd? Doesn’t it simply mean to care for, to help nourish, to feed etc … and don’t we all do that to help disciple new converts in the body of Christ?

    The key thing for me to help me understand is to see that elders/overseers can be appointed by man (i.e. an elder is not a gift to the church, in fact it’s never listed as a gift to the church, instead it’s a good work which uses other gifts to help meet people’s needs), whereas the gifts are distributed by God alone … and those people with gifts won’t have any oversight responsibilities unless they’ve been appointed as elders also.

    It seems to me that the modern church uses biblical words, but puts different definitions on them. For example, we refer to people who speak in church as ‘preachers’. But, again, as Alan pointed out the other day, the only occasions where Christians in the New Testament engage in preaching is when they preach the message of salvation to unbelievers. The Bible never uses preaching to describe oral communication within the body of Christ. Instead, the Bible refers to us encouraging, exhorting and edifying one another etc. This is an example of the modern church using the same words that the Bible uses, but putting a different definition on them.


  34. 5-14-2010


    Hello! You say that “Elder = bishop = steward = apostle = servant = deacon …”

    I don’t see how this works because ‘apostles’ are gifts to the church (Eph 4), but an elder/bishop isn’t a gift. Also, it’s possible to be an elder (1 Tim 3:1-2), without being a deacon (1 Tim 3:8-13). Thus an elder isn’t the same as a deacon. Is it? :-/


  35. 5-14-2010

    I’m afraid I’ve led this off topic. It might help to understand what I’ve said if you know I don’t see the roles in Eph 4 as gifts but as people (just as elder isn’t a gift, but a person). Some do consider them as gifts. (I’ll still eat fried chicken with everyone on any side of this topic.)

    Unless a separate topic is started, I’d rather not get into why or why not. I’m OK we see these things differently.

  36. 5-14-2010

    Sorry, I included the *wink* face up there to indicate I was being facetious on the second part- just having some fun with Art.

    P.S. I like original recipe better.

  37. 5-14-2010

    Ack! Eric! (I am a bass not a trout *sigh* I bite at everything.) I am so glad to hear your “new math” version of these gifts/roles was just in good fun.

  38. 6-16-2011

    Thought-provoking article from Frank Viola.

    He also goes into an exploration of the “authority and submission” passages of the epistles in The Untold Story of the New Testament Church.

  39. 6-16-2011

    Also, the discussion of “function” versus “office” by Frank Viola in Reimagining Church (as well as in Pagan Christianity) contributes something to understanding the “definition” of the gifts of apostles, prophets, evangelists, teachers, and the distinction between pastors, elders, etc. These are not so much titular roles as they are functions. All gifts are chosen and bestowed by the Spirit for the building up of the ekklesia. The gifts are not a matter of “who rules over whom” but of the Lord’s leadership in shaping His body. I’ve come to prefer the use of the word pastor as a role, as in “pastorING” rather than as an “office”, as in “the pastor”. When we concentrate on the “one anothers” gender pretty much becomes a non-factor. The daughters of Philip prophesied. Prophecy is a gift for edifying the entire church.

  40. 6-16-2011


    Thanks for the links and info. I appreciate much of what Frank writes. I agree that the idea of office heavily influenced how people interpreted (and continue to interpret) these passages about spiritual gifts.


  41. 3-17-2012

    I hope to keep this brief. We will see if I can accomplish this.
    First, Great topic! Second, God first knew me before He formed me (Jer 1:5) Third, He predestined that I should be called(2 Tim 1:9) and next, He is no respecter of persons (Galatians3:28).

    The same Spirit that raised Christ (Romans 8:11) from the dead dwells in me, and that Spirit compels me to do the will of God (Acts 2:17). Go ye therefore and preach the gospel (Matt 28) . If I were to disobey that calling, if I were to stop teaching and preaching the word because of my gender, which God does not see anyway, (He looks at the heart) then I would be calling God a liar, and He is not a man that he can lie!
    So to me, the bible is clear, women are called, and those God calls, He equips. If the idea is to have an organic church, one that grows from the love of God and the move of God only, not man’s pre-conceived notions of what church should be, then what are we limiting the body for? Judge not by your ideas, not by the gender, but by the fruit of the person pastoring, teaching, preaching, laying hands on the sick, speaking in tongues, etc… Taste and see if the Lord is good…

  42. 9-14-2012

    Marisa (apologies for the late comment – only just caught up with the postings).
    We often have a problem with inserting our (western) understanding of a word when it is not what the writer and the context have in mind. Such a word is “head”, we often think of “the boss”, when the Greek thought is source or fountain head. e.g the man is a source of life and inspiration for the wife. Christ is the source and life of the Church.
    Yes, the wife should submit loving “laying down his life” care from the husband. It has nothing to do with authoity over another. And of course, the husband needs to submit to the wife, too.

    And when we get to 1 Tim 2:12, the verb is present active indicative. It is not a blanket ban, it is beter trnslated as; “at present I am not permitting a woman to teach”. Once they have learnt correctly, go for it.

    Of course Eve was deceived, Adam sinned because he received the instruction directly.

    I found Dr Gilber Bilezikian’s book “Beyond Sex Roles” most helpful in this area.

  43. 10-16-2013

    I am a woman with a strong gifting of prophecy (I believe), and likely teaching as well. God has called me in a unique way. Ever since I was a little girl, I have been fascinated with writing stories. I catered my education in that direction, and became a published author. At the time, I was a backslidden Christian, writing worldly stories.

    The Holy Spirit took me to task and convicted me about three years ago, and I retired for the glory of God. Ever since then, I have been compelled to learn, learn, learn the Word of God, and share what I learn via FaceBook and my blog. This is what I believe the gift of prophecy is, not a foreseeing of the future (as the Canon of Scripture is complete), but rather, interpreting the Scripture we have to the Church. God has shown me fantastic things in His Word, which has brought Scripture from a “flat image” (to describe it in my limited understanding) to 3D, with amazing breadth and depth.

    You could say I teach, however, I do not have authority over anyone. If a man chooses to read my blog, I have no authority over him, I don’t even know him. In this way, I could even show my male friends a thing or two in the Bible, but that still doesn’t mean I have “authority” over them. I have no power to tell them how to live or how to follow Christ. I could give suggestions, just as I give my own husband suggestions, but I have no authority over him either. Women are helpers, and in that way, I help.

    It’s the same kind of idea when you watch a preacher on YouTube (John MacArthur for example) and learn a few things, but he’s not your spiritual head, he has no direct authority over you. He is the authority over HIS own congregation, surely, but as a listener of his podcast or what have you, he doesn’t have any direct authority over you.

    In order to have direct authority over a person, you would have to be a preacher of their specific congregation, or maybe their teacher in a theology class. I don’t see how reading a blog post or a FaceBook update could possibly be considered having “authority” over anyone. In that light, I agree with Dayna above, if that were the case, women would have to be silenced completely in order to fulfill the “no teaching” clause in Timothy, which would violate the Great Commission given by Christ Himself.

    Therefore, Paul must have meant it in a stricter sense rather than a broad one, that women shouldn’t be in direct positions of authority over men, yet they’re still allowed to proclaim the Gospel from the rooftops.


  44. 10-16-2013


    Thank you for sharing part of your story. The idea is authority is definitely a touch subject among the church today, and, in my opinion, is so much different than what we read about in Scripture.



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