"Sunny, why is it wrong for women to assert authority over men and is a woman sinning if she speaks at a women's conference and men show up?"
Desiring to be a good steward of the short time my Lord has appointed me on this earth, it seemed wiser to respond to the vast amount of emails and comments I've received by writing one article rather than trying to answer my readers individually on this particular topic. My prayer is that everyone who's already written as well as those who haven't but are wondering, might together, be encouraged by this article and the resources I'm happy to share.
Before I answer the above question, I want to clearly state that I am a complimentarian (theological view that men and women are equal in value before the sight of God and man, with differing roles within the home and church) and not an egalitarian (theological view that men and women have equal roles, i.e., ordain female pastors, elders, etc.).
"Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor."
~1 Timothy 2:11-14 (ESV)
I love something Tony Miano said, "Egalitarianism is not a gift from Christ to the church. It is God's curse; a result of the Fall of mankind. The only reason women desire to have authority over men is because when sin entered the world, women no longer regarded God's created order as beautiful."
All that God created is good and beautiful, and though we live in a fallen world filled with sin, as God's beloved children, we are given a glorious gift in Christ: the ability to live as God wills and not as the depraved and our sinful flesh wills.
God established peaceful and orderly rule for the:
- Trinity (Jn 14:15-17, 16:13-15)
- Spiritual realm (Is 6:1-4, Job 1:12)
- Salvation (Is 45:18, Acts 4:11-12)
- Creation (Gen 1, Job 38:1-41)
- Earthly government (Dan 2:20-22, Rom 13:1-2)
- Church (1 Cor 12:28, 14:33-35; Eph 4:11-14)
- Family unit (Gen 3:16; Ex 20:12; Lk 2:51; 1 Cor 11:3; Eph 5:22-33, 6:1-4)
We see from the above Scripture references that the LORD established an order of authority even within Himself, the Godhead: Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. Though God is one God, revealed in three Persons and have the exact same nature, they have different roles. The Father commands and sends the Son, the Son obeys the Father and sends the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit indwells believers, testifying to God—who is truth.
Therefore, if God has peace and order within Himself, why would He create anything without peace and order?
In 1 Timothy 2:11-14, I find it intriguing that God took the submission of women to male leadership all the way back to Genesis when Adam didn't lead Eve and allowed her to usurp his authority (and therefore, God's authority); bringing sin into the world. The woman, not the man, was recorded by God, as the first sinner. I find this intriguing because of the severity in which God compares a woman's refusal to submit under male authority within the church and her home, to the very first act of sin. Seeing the danger in usurping male leadership as God views it, every Christian woman should tremble as I do.
By God's wise and good design, He first created a man, but incomplete without a counterpart (so that he may not take pride thinking he is sufficient in himself). Then after the man Adam realized he was alone and was in need of a help-meet, the LORD created Eve from the man's rib so that she might always be by his side (like the rib, both delicate and strong; protecting man's heart and breath), doing him good and not harm all the days of her life (Prov 31:11-12).
Therefore, for a woman to speak at a woman's conference where men happen to show up is not a sin. For how can a woman be at fault before God or man for what man chooses to do from his own conscience? But if a woman accepts a speaking engagement before a mixed gender audience where she will be teaching from the Word of God, then by God's command and established order, she is in sin, for she is practicing authority over men.
Some people have argued, "But what if the men of the church give women permission to teach men and women?" To them I say, who is man, any man that he should have the audacity to disobey God's Word and reestablish peace and order according to himself? We must remember Paul's epistle to Timothy was written to a man, commanding men not to give authority to women over men. Therefore, any man who presumptuously gives women authority to teach men, is in sin. And any woman who obeys a man who allows them to sin (by teaching men) also sins...but she doesn't have to. Here, a woman is given the freedom in Christ to appropriate her God-given wisdom to say "No" to any man who tempts her to usurp God's ordained order for the church and her home.
In Tony Miano's book, "Should She Preach?" he says, "From the very beginning of Mankind's existence, God laid a foundation for male leadership and authority. Although both Man and Woman are indeed God's image bearers, which is a very beautiful aspect of God's benevolent creative power, God gives His people a glimpse of His intended order by simply referring to Man and Woman as "Man." God created Man from the dust of the earth. God created Woman form the side of Man. While God created Man and Woman in different ways, they were both created in His image and for His glory. Man and Woman were created with equal dignity, but for different roles." (p. 10)
On page 28 of "Should She Preach?", Miano writes, "Although God's created order did not change at the Fall, how Man and Woman submit themselves to that created order, how they felt about the created order did change. With sin came the hatred of God. With the hatred of God came the hatred of His design and order. And with hatred of His design and order came a hatred for those who dare assert the concepts of male leadership and female submission to the same."
Although the book's emphasis is on biblical evangelism for women, there is much to glean about God's mandate for women to willingly and lovingly submit themselves to male leadership.
I highly recommend "Should She Preach?" by Tony Miano, which includes interviews with eight theologians, pastors, teachers (i.e., Steve Lawson and Phil Johnson). You should read what Dr. Lawson says about women reading Scripture before a congregation on page 185, it's very interesting. I must admit, at first glance, I had trouble with his statement and practice in his church, but after searching the Scriptures myself and committing this to prayer, I was convinced by God's Word, this view and practice was right.
"but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious...as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening."
~1 Peter 3:4, 6 (ESV)
When women choose to assert authority over men, they miss out on the beautiful protection from God and the lovely gift they can offer their husbands (or other male authority). Biblical submission is truly a gift from the Almighty for His precious creation—women. Let us not disdain it, but let us receive this gift from our Lord; desiring to be called daughters of Sarah who live by faith to please God, rather than live as daughters of Eve who first sinned against God.