As I’ve noted through this series, the church is God’s will for us in the journey of faith. We were never designed to be people who journey alone. However, as we consider the context of the local church, each with its own personality and membership diversity—there is never a perfect church this side of heaven. Anytime we assemble with people we assemble with sinners and there will be both blessings and challenges as it pertains to how the church functions as a body of believers.
Not only do we have members who help and hinder the local church, we too have leaders who help and hurt. Today, we focus on the positive—specifically those types of pastors who labor to build up the body of Christ for the glory of God.
Preaching is not something that comes after the singing. Preaching is not something that comes after worship. Preaching is worship. If worship doesn’t happen during preaching – biblical preaching is not taking place. Historically, a church that was doing many things right, but overlooking the proper means of preaching the Word was not considered to be a true church at all. In fact, biblical preaching is the first mark of an authentic church. For many years, what constituted a true church was the right preaching of the Word, the proper administration of the ordinances, and biblical church discipline.
What does biblical preaching involve? To be clear, biblical preaching is expository preaching. The most accurate way to preach the Word of God is through a verse-by-verse approach to the text. The expositor, exposits the text. The expositor digs into the text within the proper framework and without violating the historical, grammatical, theological, and contextual aspects of the passage. The expository preacher labors in the Word in order to define, explain, apply, and illustrate the Scriptures to the congregation. The Scottish preacher James Stewart said the purpose of genuine preaching is “to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, to devote the will to the purpose of God.” 
The way the expositor helps the church is by instilling sound theology and setting up the church for true spiritual growth. The expositor, whether in the pulpit on Sunday morning or with young people in the discipleship ministries of the church—he labors to preach and teach the Scriptures rather than majoring on gimmicks or games. Rather than picking through the Bible and hopping from passage to passage randomly each week, the expositor allows the people to gain a solid understanding of the books of the Bible, the authors of the books, the original purpose of the writing, and how to apply that to our present situations today. Rather than teaching moralisms from the Old Testament and allegorizing the passages—the expositor rightly handles the Word and points to Jesus Christ without changing the single meaning of each text of Scripture. This not only teaches the Word properly, but it teaches people how to rightly study the Bible in their own homes too.
The shepherd is the role of a pastor, but unfortunately many pastors are designated “talking heads” in the pulpit with little emphasis upon shepherding souls through the week. The shepherd is the pastor who looks after God’s flock with a serious minded approach to spiritual health and a pursuit of holiness. When we read the New Testament, we don’t find entertainers and CEO executives who are interested in growing a campus. We see pastors who understood what it meant to shepherd the flock of God among them.
In certain countries where they use the meat and wool of sheep, they create a plan to lead the sheep to slaughter. They train one sheep to walk into a specific door which is the pathway straight to the slaughter. Just before the end, another doorway opens up and the lead sheep is led into a safe zone. After the sheep is trained sufficiently, it will lead the other sheep down this pathway. At the end—the lead sheep will be led into the safe zone, but as soon as it passes, the door shuts and the rest of the sheep walk straight into the slaughter room. In many cases, this sheep is known as the Judas sheep.
Sheep are not known for their intelligence. Therefore, the work of pastoring involves shepherding hearts—leading them in the proper manner so that they will not injure themselves spiritually. Many sheep are known for walking off cliffs or into the mouths of predators, so when God calls pastors to be shepherds he is referencing the intentional and difficult work of leading obstinate and rebellious people. Walk with me back in time to the days of Jesus when the shepherds would lead their flocks. Let’s examine some basic characteristics of a shepherd to his sheep:
- Food – Leads his sheep from pasture to pasture to sound biblical theology.
- Protection – Labors to protect his sheep from the wolves or other predators.
- Discipline – Committed to correcting sheep that continue to wander astray.
- Love – The shepherd enjoys spending time with his sheep.
This is difficult work, but the church blessed with pastors who understand their role as shepherds will greatly benefit from a serious minded approach to shepherding. More than numerical growth will be emphasized, and genuine fruit of spiritual growth will take place in the life of the congregation.
While many people are accustomed to the title of pastor, in many evangelical circles the title of elder is a foreign concept. What many people fail to realize is that the office of pastor is referred to as elder far more times in the Bible than pastor. There are several key terms used to describe the office of pastor, including elder and overseer (or Bishop). Each of these titles can be found In 1 Peter 5:1-5 where we see a grand picture of the responsibility of the elders within the life of the church.
So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
The elder understands his office is that of spiritual leadership. He takes it seriously, and labors in the Scriptures to lead and care for God’s people. The elder may not be on staff as a paid pastor, but he holds the office of pastor just as any other pastor in the life of the local church. It takes a multiple group of pastors to faithfully shepherd God’s flock. Faithful elders who are unpaid often work behind the scenes in order to pray for, lead, and disciple the church family. The church with a plurality of elders will be a church that is properly cared for so long as these elders are serving in the capacity that God has designed from the beginning. In his book on leadership, john MacArthur properly observes:
Ministry as depicted in the New Testament was never a one-man show. That does not preclude the role of a dominant leader on each team. Within the framework of plurality, there will invariably be those who have more influence. The diversity of our gifts (1 Corinthians 12:4) means all people are differently equipped. Therefore a plurality of leaders does not necessitate an absolute equality in every function. In even the most godly group of leaders, some will naturally be more influential than others. Some will have teaching gifts that outshine the rest. Others will be more gifted as administrators. Each can fulfill a different role, and there is no need to try to enforce absolute equality of function. 
The church with a plurality of elders not only oversees the church with a proper aim toward spiritual growth, buy they also look after one another as pastors—preventing the leaders from wandering off into sin and abandoning the flock. A true body of elders will result in a growing and happy church for God’s glory.
- James Stewart, Hearlds of God (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 1972), 73. Quote found in The Supremacy of Preaching by John Piper.
- John MacArthur, The Book on Leadership (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004), 168.
Over the last two weeks, I have been writing a short series on different types of people who help and hinder the local church. Today, I want to focus on the leaders. While the local church is absolutely necessary for the journey of faith, it’s not exactly designed to be a religious social club. In fact, we see Paul writing to Timothy (1 Tim. 3:15) and discussing the way the household of God was to behave. If the Scriptures contain all that’s necessary for faith and life, we must govern the church and worship according to God’s Word—rather than man’s opinion.
Just as there are people who help and hinder the local church, the same principle is true with pastors. Today, we will focus first on the negative and then move next Tuesday to the positive. Although this is by no means intended to be an exhaustive list, today we look at three types of pastors who are a hindrance to the local church’s sanctification and growth in grace?
The entertainer is really a pragmatist at heart. Whatever the people want, they will get it under the leadership of an entertainer. This type of leader will often poll the community before planting a church to see what type of music the community enjoys as he works with his team to design the right kind of service to reach his culture. Far too many men who stand in the pulpit on Sunday are classified as entertainers. They strive to use the right phrases that please the ears of people—often spending more time on the crafting of jokes as opposed to digging into the theology of the text in preparation to preach. The entertainer labors diligently to make people feel positive, and such men avoid church discipline and the call for holiness for fear that it will not grow their church.
Today it’s not at all uncommon to have pastors dressing up in costumes to “perform” their sermon rather than preaching the text. This approach to ministry will often be very successful, but it’s not spiritually profitable. People often leave excited about the sermon, but do they really know God in a better way? The congregation often erupts in laughter, but when was the last time they wept? The church often applauds the preacher, but when was the last time they exulted in God causing their hearts to swell with joy based on their knowledge of the atonement of Jesus Christ that was presented in a sermon?
Entertainers are man pleasers—serving them exactly what they desire. The entertainer is pragmatically driven and has an insatiable desire for church growth at any cost. The entertainer could come in the form of a senior pastor who jokes around in the pulpit or the youth pastor who disciples children in games rather than God’s Word. In most cases, the entertainer is paralyzed by the need to be liked by his congregation, and sadly he places more emphasis on pleasing people rather than pleasing God. Paul warned Timothy that his people would soon leave him for such preachers who would tickle the ears of the immature causing them to wander off into myths (2 Tim. 4:3-4).
The Unbalanced Teacher
The unbalanced teacher is one who typically camps out in one theme and cannot seem to allow his ministry to be text driven. Such a teacher is often consumed with a specific topic such as eschatology. In such cases, the unbalanced teacher finds a way to get to eschatology from the strangest texts in the Bible—or he never leaves Daniel or Revelation in fear that he will focus on something other than end times prophecy.
However, it’s not just eschatology junkies that the church often suffers from, it could be a pastor who spends all of his time evangelizing the saints on Sunday rather than feeding the sheep. Sure, the gospel should be preached every week and made clear—for the children, the unbelieving guests, and the church as a whole as a means of building up the flock—but the church needs more than a call to repent and believe the gospel. The church needs the whole counsel of God’s Word—both the easy and more difficult passages. Remember what Paul said to his fellow elders from Ephesus as he said, “I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). Following that exhortation, he warned them of the wolves who would enter the church following his departure.
The unbalanced teacher often camps on eschatology, the doctrines of grace, evangelism, or whatever he is passionate or knowledgeable about while there is much remaining in God’s Word that needs to be expounded. If you move to a new city, you will want to be sure that you are not joining a church where the pastor will be unbalanced in his handling of God’s Word. The pastor is called to teach and preach the Scriptures—rightly dividing the Word—in order that the church will be well fed and cared for spiritually (2 Tim. 2:15).
The Lover of this World
The pastor who loves this present world is not qualified to lead a local church—or God’s Word for that matter. Pastors should love people in the world and point them to their hope and joy in Christ, but the preacher who loves the world demonstrates that his heart is mastered by money and materialism rather than by Christ. Far too many leaders fit this category. They preach a message of health, wealth, and prosperity—demanding that people have enough faith in God and he will provide them with riches and material possessions. The lover of this world is self condemned and self deceived. The god of this world has blinded their minds so that they cannot see the light of the glorious gospel of Christ (2 Cor. 4:4). The lover of this world spends most of their time emphasizing how it’s possible to have your best life now—rather than focusing on the eternal reward (Heb. 11:10).
John the apostle warned about those who loved the world. He said, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15). In like manner, Paul provided the qualifications for the office of elder (pastor or overseer) as he wrote to Timothy. According to 1 Timothy 3:3, the overseer is not to be gripped by the love of money. Once again, money itself is not evil, but as Paul would later write, it’s the root of all evil (1 Tim. 6:10). Therefore, for a pastor to have an insatiable desire for the things of this world proves that his heart is fixed on temporal things rather than eternal. As Jesus once warned, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money” (Matt. 6:24). J.C. Ryle warned about the love of money as he wrote:
Let us all be on our guard against the love of money. The world is full of it in our days. The plague is abroad. Thousands who would abhor the idea of worshiping Juggernaut, are not ashamed to make an idol of gold. We are all liable to the infection, from the least to the greatest. We may love money without having it, just as we may have money without loving it. It is an evil that works very deceitfully. It carries us captives before we are aware of our chains. Once let it get the mastery, and it will harden, paralyze, scorch, freeze, blight, and wither our souls. It overthrew an apostle of Christ. Let us take heed that it does not overthrow us. One leak may sink a ship. One unmortified sin may ruin a soul. 
- J.C. Ryle, Matthew, 26.
There is not a perfect church in all of the world. We can’t expect to find one this side of heaven. However, we must be consistently reminded of our need for the local church. Just as nobody ever makes it to the summit of Mt. Everest alone, God has not willed for us to journey to heaven alone. God has placed us within the fellowship of a community of believers that we know as a local church as referenced in the pages of Scripture.
In a recent article, I warned about three types of people who often hinder the local church. Today, I want to point to three very different types of people in the local church who are a great help to the building up of the body in love. If every church had these types of people, they would benefit greatly from their engagement in the body life. Are you a person who helps or hurts your local church?
Deacon Without an Office
Far too often, people strive for attention in the local church. We are an attention-loving people in our culture, and that often spills over into the church. The “dirty work” of service ministry is often neglected by those who crave recognition, but offices are a different story. Many people like occupying an office because it looks important, but sadly, many who occupy the office of deacon don’t engage in serving the church. The person who loves to serve the church, but doesn’t hold the official office of deacon (servant) in the local church is a true blessing to the membership and leadership. Who wants to arrive early to turn on the lights on Sunday morning? Who really desires to make sure the floors are swept up after a church fellowship? Who enjoys setting up chairs for a new church plant? What person desires to walk the hallways of the church campus to ensure all doors are locked after a long day of gathering with the rest of the members for worship? It’s often the deacon without an office who carries out such labor for God’s glory.
It’s typically the deacons (office holder) who are asked to engage in the service areas of the church—including hospital visits and other behind the scene efforts. Consider what a church looks like that has deacon-like servants who enjoy rolling up their sleeves and engaging in trench work—without holding an office. Consider the pressure a person can relieve for the busy deacons and elders in the local church. The church that has this type of person often overlooks them because they desire to be overlooked. They are not looking for applause or recognition. In many cases, both men and women are deacons without an office who work tirelessly around the church—looking for opportunities to serve for God’s glory rather than man’s applause.
Another type of person who helps the church is one who helps with words of encouragement. This person is often behind the scenes encouraging people in private conversations, private text messages, and private social media notes intended to lift up the fallen and bring people out of discouragement. The quiet encourager labors with words—often employing weighty words of encouragement—yet with a sincere heart rather than flattery. In fact, the true encourager despises flattery which is fake encouragement—delightful words that a person would say to someone’s face but not behind their back.
In the Scriptures, we see Paul’s words to the church in the city of Thessalonica as he directs them to “encourage one another and build one another up” (1 Thess. 5:11). One of the very reasons the writer to the Hebrews commands the Christians not to neglect the assembly of the church is so that they may encourage one another (Heb. 10:25). In Ephesians 4:29, Paul writes to the church at Ephesus and says, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” While the church as a whole is commanded to encourage one another, the quiet encourager often labors in the shadows and behind the scene in order to help edify the body of Christ.
The Humble Giver
One of the great helpers to the church is the one who gives away what God has given them in order that the church can operate a budget and employ ministries designed to make, mark, and multiply disciples both locally and among the nations. I can recall a few years ago when we had a surprise need that arose in the church where we had $85,000 in HVAC upgrades and repairs. After we made the need known to the church, a man walked into my office and handed me a check for $100,000. He wanted to use his resources to help the church meet a need.
While we are all called to contribute to the financial needs of the church body, certain people are gifted with resources that God has given to them for their use within their local church. The one who is a humble giver is often working behind the scenes to meet financial needs, contribute to big building projects, pave parking lots, and engage in mission opportunities and church planting projects without anyone in the church knowing about the gifts. The humble giver is free from the love of money (Heb. 13:5; Ecc. 5:10; 1Tim. 6:10) and looks for opportunities to give away their wealth—investing it in eternally significant causes. The humble giver refuses to be mastered by money, but instead has committed to use his money as his heart is mastered by God. The humble giver contributes without the need to have his or her name on the side of a building or to have a chair at the local seminary named after them. They give it for God’s name sake—not their own.
There are many helpers in the life of the local church, but these three deserve to be recognized although they often run from such recognition. Although you may never be able to get them to receive recognition—one day our God will recognize them and their reward will be eternal. What type of person are you? Are you a help or a hindrance to your local church? Consider how Paul urged the church at Ephesus to strive for maturity so that when each part is working properly it makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love (Eph. 4:16).
The local church is God’s will for his people. God never saved anyone and sent them on a journey to the heaven as a lone ranger. We need the local church as we journey onward. We must strive to see the privilege of membership in a local church and come to value it far more than we often do. Within the church, there are many different types of people. For instance, there are leaders and followers, men and women, boys and girls, young and old, rich and not so rich, white and black all other colors in-between, along with a multiplicity of other categories.
As we consider the life of the local church, we must beware of three types of people in the church who can bring harm upon themselves while at the same time doing harm to the entire church. Look out for such people and when you identify one in your church—labor in discipleship in order to save them from much error.
The Silent Critic
All criticism is not bad. We can learn from healthy critique, but when we consider the way the certain people offer critique within the life of the church—it’s far from constructive. The silent critic offers smiles in the hallway and seems to be content in the public eye of the church. However, behind the scenes the silent critic speaks with a voice that creates division, diminishes trust for leadership, and causes people to doubt the direction of the church as a whole. This type of person thrives in the shadows causing people to be angry with leaders, and perhaps to leave the church altogether. The silent critic isn’t silent—often employing a sharp tongue dripping with slander and gossip.
The silent critic offers no public voice for people to hear constructive criticism nor does the silent critic approach leadership with the proper attitude and tone—instead the silent critic tries to use their voice behind the scene to drive a wedge between the people and the leadership. This is often accomplished through private discontent, gossip, slander, and “under the radar” conversations that cause division and hindrances within the church. The silent critic often speaks with a spiritual tongue and this functions as a veil over their sinful behavior which causes others to follow them and adopt their rotten attitude. Consider the warning of Proverbs 10:18 which says, “The one who conceals hatred has lying lips, and whoever utters slander is a fool.” In fact, Paul writes to the church at Corinth and says, “But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth” (Col. 3:8). Beware of such people—their agenda is unbiblical.
The Nominal Attendee
The church often has people who hang out around the peripheral without engaging in meaningful membership. The one who is constantly around the outer edges of the church, but not really engaging into the life of the church is a nominal attendee. Such a person may claim to be a Christian, but they place little effort into their attendance, their service, and their worship with the church. The nominal attendee will frequently be absent and will place other things above the church life. Such a person seems interested in the things of God and the life of the church during seasons, but then they cool off. Often the nominal attendee never pursues true membership. Josh Harris makes a clear point in his book, Stop Dating the Church, as he writes:
The church community is where we learn to love God and others; where we are strengthened and transformed by truth from the Word; where we’re taught to pray, to worship, and to serve; where we can be most certain that we’re investing our time and abilities for eternity; where we can grow in our roles as friends, sons and daughters, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers. The church is earth’s single best place – God’s specially designed place—to start over, to grow and to change for the glory of God. 
While the nominal attendee claims to believe the gospel, they show little desire to go any further by engaging in meaningful church membership and embracing a church covenant with a group of fellow believers. The danger with such a position is that it diminishes the meaning of church membership, keeps the person from serving God, and endangers their soul as they, in most cases, are not true Christians at all. They have fooled themselves. They have been fooled. Remember the warning of James 2:19, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!” Even worse is the warning of Jesus who said:
Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’” (Matt. 7:21-23).
The Church Hopper
One of the greatest hindrances to the local church in our day is the church hopper. This individual often engages in meaningful membership from the beginning, but after a period of time (could be months or years), they decide to “change churches.” Like a shooting star, they appear in the life of the church and then vanish away. Without any job transfer that moves them out of their community and without any heresy within their church that they need to separate from after engaging in church discipline efforts to bring about correction—they simply show up missing in action without any word to the leaders of the church.
The church hopper often uses a spiritual language in their decision to leave one church for another one across town. They often claim that God is “leading” them to that specific church. They claim to have no problems in their present church, but they simply believe they need to be across town rather than where they are presently based on a feeling they experience. Often such decisions are made without seeking the leadership counsel of pastors (shepherds who are given charge to watch over the souls of God’s flock—Heb. 13:17) and approaching the decision through prayer and the Scriptures.
Another version of the church hopper is the church shopper. They often hop from church to church more frequently and it’s often like a consumer who is shopping for something that another church could offer them or their family (especially their children). Maybe it’s the music or perhaps it’s the youth group of the other church—but the church hopper is attracted to something else in another church and they move on from one church to another without considering the impact such decisions will have upon the church as a whole and relationships within the church.
The danger of such practices is that it diminishes a high view of church membership and often creates division or confusion in local churches as people simply walk out the door for another church. This often damages relationships and leaves the leadership clueless as to how to properly shepherd people who approach membership with this mindset.
Paul referred to the church as a family (1 Tim. 5:1-2), he referenced the church as a body (1 Cor. 12), the church is described as an assembly (Heb. 10:25), Peter calls the church a flock (1 Pet. 5:2), and Paul refers to the church as a building (1 Cor. 3:9). When we consider such imagery, it should be clear that body parts down just casually change bodies, flocks stick together, families strive for unity and avoid separation, and building blocks must stick together with the building or it will crumble to the ground. So it must be when we approach our membership in the local church. We can’t approach it with a church hopping mindset. There must be a perseverance and dedicated approach to our membership.
Perhaps you see these different types of people in your local church. Rather than identifying them and avoiding them—why not try to befriend them, pray for them, and labor to help them see the value of a meaningful church membership? The investment in such discipleship matters. Remember, you don’t always have to go across the ocean to make disciples.
- Joshua Harris, Stop Dating the Church, (Colorado Springs: Multnomah Publishers, 2005), 21.
The pulpit of a well known Bible teacher in recent history had a sign on the front of it that read, “Sir, we would see Jesus.” In our age of inclusiveness, should the sign read, “Preacher, we would see Jesus” in order to accommodate both men and women who would stand in the pulpit? The blessings of God on his Church is multifaceted and beyond comprehension. When we consider all of the blessings that God has given to us and those which are most clearly manifest in the context of the local church—the blessing of women should certainly be there near the top. How many godly men have served God’s Church through the years emerging from the incubator of a nurturing disciple-making home under the tutelage of faithful women like Lois and Eunice (1 Tim. 1:5)?
When we think of how women are used in the household of faith—we certainly see the value of faithful discipleship among the women who train the younger women and children (Titus 2:1-10). For nearly two millennia the Church understood their roles and responsibilities in regard to women teaching and exercising authority over men, and it wasn’t until the militant feminist movement of the 1960s that caused people to seriously question the boundaries of God—even among conservative evangelical circles. So, why should women refrain from teaching the Bible to men?
Lessons from the Garden
When God created the world, he did so with order and it was good. God is the divine designer, and he doesn’t operate from flippant disorganized positions. He created man and then from his side, he created woman. Adam and Eve were there in the Garden, brought together by God himself in what was essentially the first wedding where God officiated it and gave away his daughter to her husband. In this scene, God not only created the man first, he gave him authority over his wife which involved her care and instruction. When Adam was taught about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:9), it was Adam who taught his wife Eve regarding the boundaries. From the very beginning, we see that God set in motion specific roles and responsibilities among his creation.
Satan is crafty and understands how to disrupt God’s good design. Notice how he questioned God’s plan in Genesis 3:1:
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made.He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”
It was Satan, in the Garden who approached Eve and, although Adam was present, it was Satan talking with Eve that led to this divisive decision of sin. In essence, it’s the first role reversal and it led to sin entering the world and bringing a curse of death upon God’s creation (Rom. 5:12). The egalitarian position was birthed in the Garden of Eden. Therefore, when Paul writes about roles in relation to teaching and authority in the life of the church at Ephesus, it wasn’t merely a contextual issue that was at play. As Paul writes his letter, we must remember the Holy Spirit is breathing out His Word for Timothy in Ephesus and our local churches in our present day as well. This is more than a contextual issue that was bound to the church at Ephesus because of the image of Artemis in their culture or women who were teaching false doctrine—he built his argument upon God’s design in creation. Elisabeth Elliot is quoted as saying the following:
Supreme authority in both church and home has been divinely vested in the male as the representative of Christ, who is Head of the church. It is in willing submission rather than grudging capitulation that the woman in the church (whether married or single) and the wife in the home find their fulfillment.
Boundaries for Teaching and Authority
Boundaries are always bad when it comes to the nature of human depravity. We are constantly asking “how far is too far” and laboring to see how close we can walk to the edge of the cliff without falling. This is a most dangerous approach to life in general—and within the world of theology. When you play with fire, you will eventually get burned. The natural man has a problem with authority, and often he seeks to avoid it or usurp authority that he doesn’t possess. Historically, the liberals have embraced women’s liberation theology as a means of elevating women to their rightful position among men in the church. Such theology does much damage to God’s design for the home and the church. John MacArthur writes:
Women may be highly gifted teachers and leaders, but those gifts are not to be exercised over men in the context of the church. That is true not because women are spiritually inferior to men but because God’s law commands it. He has ordained order in His creation—an order that reflects His own nature and therefore should be reflected in His church. Anyone ignoring or rejecting God’s order, then, weakens the church and dishonors Him. 
In 1 Timothy 2:12, Paul articulates a clear prohibition related to women in the local church. He says, ” I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.” There is a distinction between the teaching and exercise of authority that should be acknowledged. Paul was a bit of a revolutionary in his day, since women were often not permitted to learn, but Paul encourages them to be learners—studying out the faith and gaining greater knowledge of their God (1 Tim. 2:11). Although the Holy Spirit led Paul to stretch the boundaries of women in one cultural area, he revisited historic boundaries in the area of teaching that God had already put into place back in the Garden. Women, as Paul stated, were not to teach men. This is a reversal of roles.
The word teach, “διδάσκω,” according to Thomas Schreiner, has in mind the public teaching and involves authoritative transmission of tradition about Christ and the Scriptures (1 Cor. 12:28-29; Eph. 4:11; 1 Tim. 2:7; 2 Tim. 3:16; James 3:1).  While women are permitted to discuss biblical theology in a mixed group setting such as a Sunday school class, women teaching children or other women (Titus 2), or in a private setting such as with Apollos’ instruction that was gleaned from meeting with Priscilla and Aquila—biblical teaching, when among the church as a whole or a mixed audience should be led by men. It seems clear that Paul was addressing an issue that was taking place in the life of the church and needed to be corrected.
When it comes to teaching men in our present day, we have the conference culture that often stretches these complementarian boundaries. This is a dangerous practice, since conferences are designed to strengthen the church and to in many ways model what the local church should be promoting in their local assemblies—ie., expository preaching, sound biblical theology, and other important, if not essential, practices. Therefore, to have women stand and open the Bible and teach a group of men in a conference setting is not beneficial to the Church represented in the conference from many different local churches. Such stretching of the boundaries is a common practice in our day and we should be cautious when we see women teachers invited to speak to a mixed audience.
Paul also points out that women should not have authority over men. This is most likely a reference to the office of elder in the local church. The office of elder is a teaching office and is connected with oversight authority, but the idea of teaching and authority can be distinct among themselves. For, one can teach the Bible with authority without being an elder in a local church, but he cannot be an elder without authority nor can he preach without authority. While there are overlapping connections, there are distinct qualities that must be acknowledged as well.
When referencing authority, Paul uses the word, “αὐθεντέω” as he addresses this boundary for women in the church. When Paul makes his statement, he goes on to explain by writing, “For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor” (1 Tim. 2:13-14). This is not a curse on women because of the fall, but rather a design from the beginning instituted by God. This was God’s good design and pointed to the role distinction between men and women. To reverse the roles is dangerously irresponsible. This in no way means that Paul was a male chauvinist who degraded the value of women in the church. Thomas Schreiner rightly states, “It is a modern, democratic, Western notion that diverse functions suggest distinctions in worth between men and women. Paul believed that men and women were equal in personhood, dignity, and value but also taught that women had distinct roles from men.” 
Why Women Should Not Refrain from Teaching
The last thing that we should do in the local church is to discourage women who have the gift of teaching to suppress their gifts. They should labor to teach, explain, and expound the meaning of the Bible on an ongoing basis in the life of the church and in the context of religious conference settings—but there are still boundaries to observe in the process. The Church of Jesus Christ needs faithful women who bloom with the glory of God’s design for women and teach, instruct, and make disciples. Paul never suggested that women should not teach, but that they should merely refrain from teaching men and having authority over them. When asked if women should preach, John Piper responded by saying:
So I would conclude: No, that is inappropriate for churches to do that. God loves his Church. He loves men and women. He loves to see all of us flourish in the use of our gifts. No man or woman should sit on the sidelines of Christian ministry. Let that be plain. No woman, no man sits on the sidelines in Christian ministry. The question is not whether all men and women should be active in ministry. They should. The only question is how. 
Women are commanded by Paul to remain “quiet.” This word denotes an idea of submissiveness—especially in relation to male headship in the home and in the local church structure. In other words, women are not to be in authority in the church, but they are permitted to learn and to speak for that matter. The speech of women is not to be proclaimed in an official sense—from the pulpit or from the office of elder, but they are permitted to speak, teach, make disciples, and be involved in the life of the church. This is clearly seen in Jesus’ own treatment of women in his day as well as Paul’s high esteem for women such as Phoebe and the many others listed in Romans 16.
We must avoid legalism at this juncture, but we must not go the route of liberalism or antinomianism. The progressive attitude seeks freedom from authority, but God has never designed authority to be a burden to his people. William Varner, in his excellent book, To Preach or Not To Preach, writes:
The issue involved in 1 Timothy 2 is not an inherent inferiority of woman’s intellectual and spiritual capabilities, but her function in ministry. She is not subordinate in her capability, but she is to be subordinate in her role. Let it also be noted clearly that Paul does not ground his reasoning in the male-dominated culture of his day. He does not write: “Women should not teach because men will not accept them as teachers.” He grounds his teaching in the order of creation and fall. The mores of culture changes with time, while the order of creation is supra-cultural and is valid whatever the time and place. 
To capitulate on any area of headship in the family or leadership in the church is a grave mistake. The smallest sin can lead to the greatest catastrophe just as a small spark can set an entire forest on fire. Whatever God expects from us as clearly stated in the Scriptures, rather than working diligently to find loopholes—it would be for our joy and our good to submit. Beware of those who are constantly looking for ways around God’s commands.
- John MacArthur, “Can Women Exercise Authority in the Church?” [accessed 4-17-18]
- Andreas J. Köstenberger and Thomas R. Schreiner, Women in the Church (Third Edition): An Interpretation and Application of 1 Timothy 2:9-15, (Wheaton: Crossway, 2016), 190.
- Ibid., 201-202.
- John Piper, “Ask Pastor John Podcast” Can a Woman Preach If Elders Affirm It? [accessed 4-17-18].
- William Varner, To Preach or Not To Preach, (California: 2018), 50.
Rome was not only a strategic city in Paul’s day—it was a powerful city. From politics to ideologies, the city of Rome was at the center of the world and in God’s providence, God raised up a church in this important location at this juncture in history to accomplish his purpose. The church at Rome found itself as part of the story of redemption. Paul’s letter was holy Scripture that not only would encourage the church in Rome—but would be used to encourage the Universal Church through the ages. For God so loved the church in Rome that he sent his Son to die for her and then mobilized his apostle to write to her.
In the opening words to the church in the city of Rome, Paul makes a statement that should cause us to pause and reflect. Paul writes, “To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 1:7). When Paul addresses the believers (the church) in Rome, he refers to them as “those in Rome who are loved by God.” So, why did God not love all of Rome?
God is Sovereign
The first thing we must understand when it comes to salvation is that God is not obligated to save one single person in human history. God’s love is a sovereign love. Not even one person is worthy and deserving of God’s love. When discussing the love of God, some people become contentious—making the case that God loves the entire world without exception and without any measure of distinction. Often this debate will find its way to Romans 9 for clarity. However, long before arriving at Romans 9, we see the sovereign love of God on display in Romans 1:7.
While God was not forced to love one single person in Rome, he chose to love specific people in the city—effectually setting them apart and calling them to be saints. When contemplating the sovereign love of God for guilty and wretched sinners—it causes the value of our salvation to increase dramatically especially when we consider the free choice of God and the inability of fallen man to make any choice for God. Who is to call into question the love of God? Does God have freedom to choose to love whom he wills (Rom. 9:14-15)?
God’s Love Is an Electing Love
The love of God for the church in the city of Rome is clearly distinct from any generic love that God has for the entire city of Rome. In a general sense, we can say that God loves Rome (as God loves the world in John 3:16). However, in a special way God has chosen to love the church in Rome and this is God’s electing love.
This love speaks of God’s initiative in salvation. The church in Rome loved God, but not until God first love them (1 John 4:19). The language of this text points back to how God loved the nation of Israel. It was not based on the size, power, or value of the nation of Israel. God’s choice for Israel was based on his redemptive plan and mercy alone.
Deuteronomy 7:7–8 — It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples,  but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
The language used here by Paul connects the love of God for the church in Rome with the love of God for the nation of Israel and will be key as he develops these truths over the first half of the letter. Too often people minimize the depth of theology in God’s love and seek to generalize it—making God into a generic god of salvation to the entire world as opposed to the covenant keeping God of Scripture who sovereignly saves his people for his glory. James Montgomery Boice explains:
Some think that people become believers by their own unaided choice, as if all we have to do is decide to trust Jesus. But how could we possibly do that if, as we have seen Paul say, each of us is “dead in . . . transgressions and sins”? How can a dead man decide anything? Some have supposed that we become Christians because God in his omniscience sees some small bit of good in us, even if that “good” is only a tiny seed of faith. But how could God see good in us if, as Paul will later remind us: “All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one” (Rom. 3:12; cf. Ps. 14:3)? Why, then, does God love us? The answer is “because he loves us.” There is just nothing to be said beyond that. 
God loved the church in Rome and as we consider the realty of God’s love—we must look to our local churches and see the expression and reality of God’s love among us. It’s not that God simply loved the church at Rome and we can only read about it from the pages of holy Scripture. We too are part of the story of redemption. For God so loved us that we too should be humbled and look to our purpose to live for his glory. Paul would later write in this very letter to the church in Rome, “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Rom. 5:5). For God so loved the church at Rome that he saved her for his glory. That same truth can be embraced for us—and our local churches today.
Jerry Bridges has rightly stated, “The great God not only loves His saints, but He loves to love them.” The next time you hear someone profaning the doctrine of election—before you engage in a doctrinal dispute with them—take time to pray for them that they would see and understand Romans 1:7 long before you turn to Romans 9. Since God’s love is sovereign—and therefore unmerited, eternal, and unchanging, we can find comfort in the very words that Paul writes in Romans 8:33-39:
Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
- James Montgomery Boice, Romans, Vol. 1 Justification by Faith Romans 1-4, (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1991), 65.