We’re going to break down this subject into three areas. Firstly, we’d like to consider the relatively current crisis that’s been taking place in the Anglican community, there are a number of different things currently, but one of the key strands has been the potential ordination of women bishops.
Then we would like to have a look at what the Bible says about bishops and then we’d like to have a look at what the Bible says about the role of women. Finally we can have a go at weaving all the facts together to come to some kind of conclusion.
It’s important though to understand why we want to know what the Bible says about something. We’ve started with a Bible reading and that’s because we believe that the Bible is the only touchstone for our faith, it’s the only place that we can go if we want to understand the truth as revealed by God. So everything, every question that we have should be tested against the standard of the Bible. Now we are going to look at three verses. The first one comes from the second book of Timothy.
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. (2Ti 3:16-17)
The Bible is God’s word, all of the Bible is God’s word. That word perfect means complete, so everything that we need if we want to be accurate in doctrine, if we want to reproof, if we want to be correct, if we want instruction in righteousness, everything that we need is within the pages of the Bible.
There is also a lovely little phrase, it’s only part of the verse, from Malachi 3,
For I am the LORD, I change not… (Mal 3:6)
You see there are some people that say the Bible was written 2000 years ago and society has moved on, but what the Bible says is that God doesn’t change, society has moved on and society has moved away from God and has moved away from the truth as revealed by God. So if we want to understand about God, if we want to understand about his plan and his purpose which isn’t going to change then the Bible is still the best place for us to look.
Just to finish with and I know this could be interpreted in quite a narrow way and that it only applies to the book of Revelation but I think this can be applied to the whole of Scripture as well, right at the end of the book of Revelation we read..
And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. (Rev 22:19)
What we have in front of us is the word of God, the Bible. As it is complete without any addition, without any subtraction it is the word of God and that’s what we need to base our lives on, it’s what we need to read if we want to understand the plan and purpose of God and it’s where we need to go if we’ve got any questions that we want answered. It’s critically important what the Bible says about bishops and the role that we want to look in this study, the question about women bishops.
Let’s talk about the current problems that the Anglican Church has been having, and they’ve had a whole raft of them and the waters have been quite muddied with a number of different policies. What we’re going to have focus on is one that talks about the ordination of women bishops. On 8 July 2008 the Church of England voted in that the ordination of women bishops would be allowed with further consideration of the matter taking place in July 2010 with the first woman bishop possibly by 2014 once legislation is approved.
There are a number of different factions within the Anglican Communion and we’ll go to those in a moment, but some of those within the Anglican faith that were against the ordination of women bishops suggested some compromised motions and all of those were thrown out. So the liberal view that there should be ordination of women bishops with nothing more than a code of conduct to backup how that process should be rolled out was voted in on 8 July 2008. Now that might make us think it was a done deal but it wasn’t. Here’s a quote from a Synod member who also happens to be a member of Parliament, Robert Key, and he said “this is a good day for the Church of England and it’s a good day for the country because our national church by law established is actually now in step with most of the country and what people feel.” See, what he’s saying is that the Church of England has caught up with society but of course we’ve already established that God doesn’t change and we said society develops and moves on and it’s developing and moving away from God. If the Church of England has to change its practices to keep in step with society it is changing to move away from God.
Now you would have thought it would have been relatively simple, there will be some that are in favour of women bishops and some that aren’t, but it’s a little bit more complicated. There are five different groups within the Church of England that were voting in the General Synod. The Traditionalists are those that say well we have an unbroken line of male priests back to Peter the first bishop and therefore history tells us that we have to have male priests and male bishops. You have the Conservative Evangelicals who look at their Bible and look at passages like the one we read from in our introductory reading from 1 Timothy 2 and say that it says that is not permitted for a woman to teach or to be an authority over man to be silent, therefore we can’t allow women bishops and those first two groups that have been against the motion so far. The remaining three who have been in favour, have been the Activists, those who join the church or whose prime role within the church has been to push forward the advancement of the woman’s role within the Anglican Community and that’s been almost their sole mission within the church and so quite clearly they would be in favour of consecrating women bishops. There have been what are called the Unitists who will be quite happy to have consecrated women bishops but don’t want to do it and create a divide within the Anglican Communion and there are the Liberals who want to see the Church of England in step with modern society, so split from the second one down, the Traditionalists and the Conservative evangelicals are opposed to women bishops and the Activists the Unitists and the Liberals would be in favour of them.
That’s the sort of current background to them but what does the Bible say about bishops? Bishops are mentioned at a number of different times in the Authorised New Testament. Now the Bible wasn’t originally written in English, it was written in Greek and we’ll be throwing out some Greek words and the first one of those is episkopos which is the word that is translated as bishop everytime that it is used, or a related word on one other occasion, but in effect this is the word that is used and is translated as bishop in our Authorised King James Version. It is translated as bishop six times and overseer a once. The Bible dictionary tells us that it means a man charged with the duty of seeing the things done by others are done rightly, a curator, guardian or superintendent. There is no religious connotation here, somebody that’s in charge of others, somebody that’s overseeing their work and making sure that it’s done correctly.
The second meaning is when it’s used as a title, where it’s actually talking about somebody who is a bishop within a religious community and there’s a particular case and here’s our second Greek word ekklesia and that’s the word is normally translated as church in our authorised version. I’m using the Greek word ekklesia because when we think of Church in these modern times we think of a building with a spire and the nave and lots of stained glass whereas the word ecclesia (anglicized form) doesn’t talk about the building itself but it talks about the group of people that are meeting together and so a bishop or an episkopos is someone who is a superintendent, an elder, or an overseer of an ecclesia, of our congregation, of a group of people.
It is worth noting that quite often overseer is used in modern translations rather than the word bishop to distinguish it from the role of bishop that we think of when we use that word in the English language today. There are some examples of people that are referred to as Bishop’s or as overseers, in Acts 20 the apostle Paul meets the elders at Ephesus and as part of his comments to them he refers to them as the overseers of the ecclesia, or the congregation, in Ephesus so they are referred to as bishops. Paul’s letter to the Philippians is quite interesting because it was a letter that was written by Paul and a couple of other people and the bishops and deacons that are with him at the time and if he’s writing it from Rome it must be the bishops and deacons of the congregation of the ecclesia in Rome.
Holding your mind to the fact that we’ve now got two different roles, we got bishops and we’ve got deacons and we’re going to come to deacons in a moment. In the letter to Timothy, there Timothy is referred to as a bishop in the subscription of the letter and Titus is referred to as a Bishop in the subscription of his letter as well and finally and quite interestingly the Lord Jesus Christ is referred to as an overseer in 1 Peter 2. So we’ve got a range of different people in Scripture that are referred to as bishops. So what is the role of a bishop?
In Hebrews 12 we’ve got a word here which is related to episkopos, it’s not actually the word bishop but it’s the root word from which bishop comes, bishop is the title that refers to the name and this is the word that is related to it. It’s interesting because it gives us an idea about what the role of a bishop is.
Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed. (Heb 12:12-13)
So just from the first part you get the idea that a bishop, with his flock, with the poor people that are walking around about, is prepared to lift those who are sleeping because they are tired, because they are burdened down, they are prepared to put their arms around somebody and help them in the direction that they need to go. Make straight paths for your feet, and you quite often in Scripture get the picture of a pathway, a way that leads towards the kingdom of God and so if we look at that spiritually we can see that a bishop is someone who is there to guide and to encourage somebody along a path which leads towards God’s kingdom. The writer to Hebrews carries on by saying…
Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God… (Heb 12:14-15)
You can see how those two parts of that passage are linked together. There is a similar passage in 1 Peter as well,
The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre [not for money or payment], but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. (1Pe 5:1-3)
You can see there that the role of bishop is one that requires a fine balancing act, the role of an overseer is one where you are fighting between two different things, you’ve got to take oversight of the congregation without constraining them which is why earlier I described that if somebody is in trouble you put your arm around them and encourage them, you don’t get behind them and give them a good kick up the backside. It’s that kind of balance that you’ve got to get right, it’s got to be done willingly, not for payment but because your mind wants to, because your mind wants to lead, not being lords over God’s heritage in providing examples to the flock. It requires a delicate tightrope walk between different temptations in the way that overseeing role has to be carried out.
I said we’d have a look at deacons, we’ll come back to bishops in a momen, diakoneo?s is the Greek word that is translated minister 20 times, servant eight times and deacon three times, it’s one who executes the commands of another and quite often refers to somebody who is in service but when it’s used as a title it refers to somebody who is a deacon or a servant of the ecclesia, or the congregation, because of the office they hold has particular duties to carry out for the congregation or ecclesia. We have a number of examples of people who are referred to as deacons, Phoebe and you will notice that is a female there, but more on that in a moment. We have Paul and Apollos mentioned in 1 Corinthians 3, and Paul a lot of times refers to himself as a deacon, not just in that one chapter but throughout his letters he refers to himself as a servant, as a minister or as a deacon serving those congregations that he went round to visit. Timothy is referred to as a deacon and that’s interesting because he was also referred to as a bishop. In the letter 1 Thessalonians which is one of the earliest letters that we have in the new Testament he’s referred to there as a deacon, in others, servant of the ecclesia and later on when is referred to as a bishop in 2 Timothy which is virtually the last letter we have in the new Testament. So you can see the younger Timothy was a servant, the older Timothy was an overseer. He started off as a deacon and he became a bishop and then the Lord Jesus Christ is also referred to as a servant, one who came to minister, in effect one who was a deacon as well. If you have a look in 1 Timothy 3 we can start having a look at some of the qualifications for bishops and also for deacons as well.
This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. (1Ti 3:1-7)
Now there is a similar list of qualifications to a bishop which is included in Titus 1. We can see how similar they are,
If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate; Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers. (Tit 1:6-9)
You can see there that the two lists are very similar and was a very wide and quite high standard required for somebody who was in a position to carry out the role of an overseer. Carrying on in Timothy just have a look at the next few verses…
Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre; Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless. Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things. Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus. (1Ti 3:8-13)
It’s a similar list but the standard isn’t quite the same. I’ve had a go at comparing some of the key points, in particular in relation to our subject. The episkopos, the overseer compared to the diakoneo?s, the overseer rather than a servant. The bishop should be more experienced for it says not a novice. The deacon can be less experienced and the comparison there between Thessalonians and Timothy is in the two different titles given to Timothy himself when younger he was a deacon and later on when he was older he was a bishop. I say less experienced is not inexperienced because look at 1 Timothy 3:10, speaking at deacons: that these also first be proved then let them use the office of the deacon being found blameless. So both have a certain level of experience within the congregation, within an ecclesia, and with the deacons being slightly less experienced and the overseer needing to be more experienced. Both are described as being the husband of one wife which would suggest perhaps that you had to be male. With a bishop you only have examples of males whereas with deacons you have this example of Phoebe the servant of the congregation at Cenchrea, who is given the title of deacon so we have a male and female example of diakoneo? so we need to be a little bit careful with that phrase the husband of one wife and perhaps that is talking more of the standard, and less focusing on the fact that you have to be a husband rather than a wife to carry out the role. There’s an interesting detail that we just need to be aware of when we’re thinking about this subject. There was one of the Greek word I’d like us to have a look at and that’s the word presbuteros which is translated generally as an elder and we come across it quite a few times already in the passages that we’ve read. It is translated as elder 64 times, old man one time, eldest once, elder woman once and it’s meaning is physically in terms of elder in terms of age, or in terms of rank or office and is sometimes associated with people that are called overseers or bishops but never with somebody who was called a deacon or a servant of the ecclesia.
So what you have here is a number of different terms that refer to different roles in the congregation, you’ve got the idea of somebody who is an elder, somebody who through experience of age is in a position of authority but then you’ve also got two very specific roles of bishops and deacons and it’s interesting that these two roles are only really spoken about in congregations or ecclesias where there aren’t established apostles. You see after the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ the disciples that were a witness to his death and his resurrection took the title apostle and so in the ecclesia in Jerusalem, the elders there are referred to as apostles but when you get to Ephesus, the elders are referred to as overseers so I think the terms we’ve been looking at are ones that were applied where there wasn’t an apostle, somebody who was a direct witness of the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ where there wasn’t anybody that was there that was over the ecclesia or congregation and so these titles are used mainly in the Greek and Macedonia areas and across into Rome as well. Within that band of people that are described as elders you’ve got some that are apostles and some that are bishops or overseers. Then you’ve got the people who are described as servants of the ecclesia or as deacons and they are based in Jerusalem and in the Greek ecclesias as well. That gives us an idea about the role of a bishop, that it is somebody who is an overseer there to guide and to encourage the congregation of believers and there were no examples of a female bishop whereas there are female deacons. If you know anything about the hierarchy of the Church of England or the established churches you’ll probably being saying at this point, well hang on a moment what about the role the priest because you haven’t spoken about that at all. The reason I haven’t spoken about that at all is that men are not referred to as priests in the new Testament, in the new Testament there is a description of one person who was a priest and I could spend an entire study talking about that but I’m trying to keep this part very brief, it’s the Lord Jesus Christ. In Timothy we read in our reading, for there is one God and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus, and in the letter to the Hebrews Jesus is described in this way: Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. So we have one priest, one mediator between God and man, one person who carries out what we see as a priestly office and that’s the Lord Jesus Christ and we don’t appoint priests as the Bible doesn’t talk about ecclesias or congregations appointing priests, instead they have servants and overseers, they have bishops and deacons.
Now the role of women, what does the Bible say about that? When it comes to the ability of women to obtain salvation through the work of the Lord Jesus Christ and to find a place in God’s kingdom which is the culmination of the purpose of God, then there is an equality that we see between men and women, and this equality starts right at the beginning of the Bible in Genesis when Adam and Eve are created. The record in Genesis 1 says :
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. (Gen 1:27-28)
Now the Hebrew word behind the word that is translated God in Genesis is the word Elohim and is talking of the angels, so the angels created man in their own image, in the image of the angels created they him, male and female they created them. There’s nothing in the description of the creation of Adam and Eve, of men and women, that says that there is any hierarchy at this point. They are created equal before God and that carries through into the New Testament as well because when believers are baptised and when they join the ecclesia, when they join the congregation, when they take on the saving name of the Lord Jesus Christ then they have an equal chance of getting into the kingdom, they have an equal ability of giving God the glory, they have an equal ability in serving God and in spirit and in truth, to as many as you who have been baptised into Christ said the apostle Paul when writing to the Galatians, have put on Christ, there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither male nor female, but ye are all one in Christ Jesus. In terms of the opportunity that men and women have there is a complete equality in the Bible. That’s not the full picture however, you see there’s a passage here from 1 Corinthians 11 where the apostle Paul said:
But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God. (1Co 11:3)
So we’re beginning to get a hierarchy here so although there’s an equality of opportunity in terms of serving God something different is going on here and there’s another passage to show this is not isolated, 1 Corinthians 14.
Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church. (1Co 14:34-35)
In Ephesians 5:
Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. (Eph 5:22-24)
So although there’s an equality of opportunity there is a difference here in the balance because women are told they have to stay silent in the congregation of believers and are not allowed to speak and have to submit to their own husbands. Have a look at Titus 2, because Titus talks about the way a range of different believers have to serve.
But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine: That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience. The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed. Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded. In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, Sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you. (Tit 2:1-8)
And so that passage lists different roles for aged men, for aged women, young women and young men as well. I want to focus just for a moment on the roles of women as described in that passage and that the aged women teach the young women and the young women are to love their husbands and children and to be keepers at home and be obedient to their own husbands and so we’ve seen already the commandment that the women aren’t to teach in the ecclesia or in the main congregation but the aged women are to teach and they are to teach the younger women presumably outside the congregation and the younger women have a role about loving their husbands and children and being keepers at home and being obedient to their own husbands and see what you have here is the beginning of a picture of a balance between the ecclesia, the congregation and the home and in the ecclesia, we’ve seen that Christ is the head of the ecclesia whereas the husband has to act out Christ’s role in the home, he has to be head of the home. Only men are allowed to teach in the ecclesia and while men are also supposed to teach at home as well, women may teach the younger women and children and men are to be bishops and overseers and women are to be keepers at home and there is a similarity involved, just in two different spheres and all have to be obedient to Christ in the ecclesia and wives have to be obedient to their own husbands and there is a balance of roles and it’s really interesting that when ever you look at what were commanded to do whether we’re men or whether we’re women that the Scriptures don’t put any weighting and on it at all, our weak human minds seem to think that some of the roles that are described for members of the ecclesia are more important than others but the Bible doesn’t make that distinction at all so we need to be very careful that were having a look at the balance that we have here between these two sets of roles, between men and women. It’s interesting as well that’s having seen that balance and meshing between the role of the man and what the man has to act out within the congregation, within the ecclesia, and the role of the woman and what she has to act out in the home that they mesh so nicely together, that they complement each other and that works really well with a passage in Genesis 2 where Eve is created and God said it is not good for the man to be alone I will make a helper suitable for him; but the roles work well together in a Bible context. So why is it that men and women should carry out different roles in the congregation? Why different roles in serving the Lord God and the Lord Jesus Christ? That’s why we read 1 Timothy chapter 2 as our introductory reading because I think the answer comes out nicely here. It’s interesting that the chapter starts out…
I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; (1Ti 2:1)
Now we could say hang on a moment does that mean we shouldn’t pray as women? But when you have a look at the Greek word behind that word men it means people, it talks about men and women, so I exhort therefore first of all supplications prayers intercessions and giving thanks be made for all people, for Kings etc, in verse two. Then have a look at verse three,
For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. (1Ti 2:3-4)
So is that saying that it’s actually all men to be saved and God isn’t willing at all that women are to be saved? Were beginning to get the hang of what this chapter is talking about and the Greek word behind that word men in verse four talks about people as of course we would expect it to be because we know there is an equality of opportunity for men and women if they want to be part of the kingdom of God who will have it that all people should be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth, for there is one God and one mediator between God and man. We can then turn to verse eight and we can think we know what this chapter is talking about and this is where the Greek and the translation to the English isn’t inspired as the original Greek.
So we say we know this means that is talking about people, but it’s not, it’s a different Greek word and it is talking now specifically about the men and women separately and it says:
I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting. In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided 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. (1Ti 2:8-11)
Everything we are reading in this chapter fits with what we’ve already seen with the two contrasting roles of men and women in the congregation. Verse 12 – I suffer not a woman to teach nor to usurp authority over the man but to be in silence. Now why is that? Verse 13 – I think is the first answer to that question. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. Why is that significant? Why is a significant that it was Adam that was first formed and then Eve? Come across to Genesis 2 and we need to have a look at what happened in the intervening time between Adam and Eve being created. So right at the beginning of our Bibles, Genesis 2 starts with God resting on the seventh day and then talks about the creation of Adam:
And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads. (Gen 2:7-10)
It carries on with a description of the garden and verse 15:
And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. (Gen 2:15-17)
So after Adam was created and before Eve was, God gives the commandments that they are not to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and then immediately after that in verse 18:
And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. (Gen 2:18)
God creates the animals at that point and none of them are found to be suitable and then in verse 21 And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; (Gen 2:21)
And just notice the location that God uses to take the material for woman, it’s not from Adam’s foot, he has to have dominion over her, but it’s not from his head either. Rather, she is taken from his side about halfway down and she is to stand at his side as a helper suitable for him, that they might work together because there are commandments as we’ve already seen from chapter 1 in verse 28 and God blessed them and said unto them, be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth and subdue it, they are to work together as a team to do that so it’s entirely appropriate that’s woman is taken out of man’s side not out of his foot or his head and so what you’ve got between Adam being created and Eve being created is this commandment being given to Adam. It’s not reiterated again, so Adam’s job was to teach Eve the commands that God had given him as to which fruit they could eat and which fruit they could not and we know that from the beginning of chapter 3 that it is Eve who was talking to the serpent and it is Eve that is tempted by the serpent and it is Eve that takes the fruit of the tree of knowledge and eats of it but it’s interesting to think where Adam was at that particular point. Well have a look at verse six of Genesis chapter 3:
And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. (Gen 3:6)
Actually the Hebrew is a little bit more enigmatic and stronger than that, it’s not just that she gave to her husband with her but she gave it to her husband beside her. You see when Eve was talking to the serpent about the commandment of God which Adam had taught her, it seems Adam was stood beside her and he remained silent.
So in the Garden of Eden God created Adam, he gave him a commandment and he created Eve and the role that they had to carry out in the Garden of Eden was Adam was to teach that commandment to Eve and Eve was to learn it and that didn’t happen properly in the garden of Eden, so from that time forward God has said that the right role should be that the man has to teach and the woman has to be the one that’s learning from him when they are working together in an ecclesia. That’s why you have those two different roles there. Notice that has nothing to do with ability, it’s not saying that men have a natural ability to teach in any way that a woman hasn’t got an ability to teach and in fact it is despite any ability that we might have to do a role that is prescribed to us in the Bible, we still have to follow those same roles. If you apply that the 80-20 rule that 80% of men have abilities which are appropriate to the role that they have to carry out and 80% of women have abilities which are appropriate for them to carry out – that balance that God has prescribed can be seen in the natural characteristics that he has given us, but we’re not doing those separate roles because of that, we’re doing those separate roles because that is how God has decreed how we ought to live.
So when we come back to our question we can understand then that when the Bible talks about overseers it doesn’t talk about them as women but it talks about them and gives us examples of overseers as being men, and then the servants of the ecclesia are those that can be men and women as well. So when we have a look at the answer to the question of what does the Bible say about women bishops? It’s quite clear that we have different roles to play in our service to God and those roles are prescribed quite carefully by the Lord God for some very specific reasons and he’s given us the tools ourselves to carry out those roles to the best of our abilities and so we should try in our lives not to think, well I’d quite like to do that instead but instead how can I use the abilities in the role that God has given me, to give him the praise and the honour and glory that is due to his holy name?
I would like just to say one thing in conclusion though, there’s one little verse in 1 Timothy 2 that says the woman shall be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety. I think it’s quite interesting when you start to look at one of the roles of women that starts off with Eve and carries through like a golden thread throughout the scriptures and that’s the role of women in bringing the Lord Jesus Christ into the Earth, in the curse at the beginning, in Genesis 3
And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. (Gen 3:14-15)
So in this picture we see our first prophecy of the Lord Jesus Christ and this person here is referred to as the seed of the woman, it is the seed of the woman not the seed of Adam and Eve that’s refers to the Lord Jesus Christ. Let’s have a go at building on that. Adam called his wife Eve because she was the mother of all living, actually that’s taken from Genesis 3 at the end after the curse had been put on them and she was actually the mother of everybody who was going to be dying on the Earth but Adam could see beyond that and he called his wife’s name Eve all living because she was the mother of all living.
Jumping a little bit further forward to the prophecy of Jeremiah, he said the LORD hath created a new thing in the earth, A woman shall compass a man. And this is talking about something that we know in this passage much better, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son and shall call his name Immanuel. And when it says a woman shall compass a man it’s talking about the fact that Mary was able to give birth to the Lord Jesus Christ without the involvement of a male partner. Then for our final passage we’ll have a look at Luke 1, this is a time when the angel Gabriel comes to visit Mary.
And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. (Luk 1:28)
And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: (Luk 1:30-32)
It’s through Mary and it’s through a woman that’s the Lord Jesus Christ was born and so we have different roles to play when we’re trying to serve the Lord God in our lives, but those roles if we can follow them and if we can do our best to give him the praise and the honour and the glory that is due and to his holy name, he will give us the opportunity to serve him in spirit and in truth in the kingdom that the Lord Jesus Christ will establish at his return.
We believe that time is very soon and if you want a part of that kingdom, if you’d like eternal life, if you’d like to serve God there, then you need to open your Bible and try and understand God’s plan and purpose and try and understand what role and what duties he wants you to carry out in trying to serve him in our lives.