Now, I have some more excuses and they seem to have come straight out of the Bible. They may apply more to women than to men but I would like to mention them anyway, just in case some of you can identify with them just as you might have been able to identify with my earlier excuses.
For instance: A Woman should remain silent.
We can find that in I Corinthians 14:34-35
“Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.”
These words tell me that I cannot use my gift as a woman so God has no choice but to excuse me from fulfilling my calling.
But then I remember another passage from I Corinthians and it is I Corinthians 11:4-5
“Every man who prays or prophecies with his head covered dishonours his head.
And every woman who prays or prophecies with her head uncovered dishonours her head – it is just as though her head were shaved.”
These two verses imply that both men and women can pray or prophesy. I don’t know about you, but to me, men or women who pray or prophesy, use words. Therefore, they are not exactly silent.
But then what about I Corinthians 14:34-35, the verses we have read earlier?
I believe the reason we have such difficulty understanding that passage is because we do not necessarily realise that these verses are, in fact, not Paul’s words, but a quotation from a letter he had received from the church leaders in Corinth, as we can read in I Corinthians 1:11, where Paul writes:
“My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you.”
Paul’s answer to these people, in the form of a rebuke, can be found in I Corinthians 14:36-38
“Did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached? If anybody thinks he is a prophet or spiritual gifted, let him acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command. If he ignores this, he himself will be ignored.”
Paul actually began this passage with an expression which has been left out by most translators and which can best be translated as “utter rubbish”. So he really wrote to them, “Utter rubbish. Did the word of God originate with you?……”
He thereby declared that the viewpoint of these people was incorrect because their viewpoint was based on a collection of orally preserved Rabbinical Traditions, called the Law.
Jesus referred to these Traditions in Matthew 15:6
“…..Thus you nullify the Word of God for the sake of your tradition.”
Jesus too made it clear that traditions make the Word of God to no effect on one’s life.
It seems to me I cannot use this excuse either since this excuse is based on traditions rather than the Word of God.
But I have still another excuse and that one is:
A woman is not to teach or to take authority over a man.
We can find these words in Timothy 2:11-15
“A woman should learn in quietness and full submission.
I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.
For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.
But women will be saved through childbearing – if they continue in faith; love and holiness with propriety.”
Of all the excuses I have used so far, surely this one will make God see that I cannot fulfil my calling. But then I remember I have studied this passage in greater detail and I learned some things I did not know before. I would like to share what I have learned regarding this passage.
The first statement in this passage is:
"A woman should learn in quietness and full submission….. she must be silent."
Paul began this passage by instructing Timothy that women should be taught. Therefore, they cannot yet be teachers. They had to learn the right doctrine first, but they had to learn in a quiet and submissive manner in order for them to be able to learn well.
We need to remember that Paul’s desire for women to be taught was in fact a very radical idea, for women at that time did not generally receive any education except in the art of homemaking.
Furthermore, Paul used the term “silent”. This word in the original language simply means “restful quietness.” It does not mean that she was never allowed to speak a word.
The next statement is:
"I do not allow a woman to teach"
The original language indicates that Paul did not at that moment allow a woman or women to teach. This was a temporary situation but was not for all times. These women had to learn the right doctrine first, before being allowed to teach.
The third statement is:
"…Or to have authority over a man"
In Scripture the word “authority” is usually the Greek word “exousia”. One example can be found in Romans 13:1
“Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority, except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.”
However, in Timothy 2:11-15, Paul used a different word, namely “authentein.” This term has not been used anywhere else in Scripture, so in order for us to understand its meaning we have to go to sources outside of Scripture. Thankfully that has been done for us by very reliable scholars and as a result we now know the meaning of "authentein". Its meaning has changed over time but it has always had a very negative meaning, including that of domineering.
Therefore, Paul was not saying that women could never have a rightful spiritual authority over men, but that women should not have an inappropriate attitude towards men, or inappropriate behaviour towards men, for that would be contrary to his teachings.
The attitude of these women may well have developed because of false teachings these women had received.
Paul addressed these teachings in the following statement:
"For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one who was deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner."
What a strange statement for Paul to make, is it not? After all, every believer knows that the man was created first, that the woman was formed afterwards and that the woman was deceived. That is common knowledge so why would Paul even want to mention it to Timothy? May be it is because Paul knew something you and I do not know and Timothy knew it as well. Therefore, Paul did not need to explain to Timothy why he wrote these words. I wished he had done it for it would have made it a lot easier for us. But then Paul did not think about you and I when he wrote this letter, neither did the Holy Spirit, who inspired this Letter, inform Paul that he needed to give more information because one day we would read this letter. No. Paul was simply instructing Timothy with regard to the church in Ephesus.
And false teachings had entered the church in Ephesus. Very likely some of these teachings had been received by these women and would have included errors with regard to the Creation Account and the Fall. For instance, according to these false teachings the woman had been created before the man and the eating of the fruit had been a good thing for through it they had supposedly received special knowledge about God.
Paul was correcting these errors in this passage.
The final statement is:
"But women will be saved through childbearing – if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety."
Now we know that Paul did not teach here on God’s free gift of salvation for women, which no woman can add to by her own works, including childbearing.
This verse is very likely a correction on the false teaching that marriage and motherhood are not good things. Paul mentioned this false teaching later on in this letter (Timothy 4:3).
However, he made it very clear that marriage and motherhood were part of God’s plan for women and were not obstacles to a close walk with God as these false teachers claimed.
It seems to me that Paul had women in the church in Ephesus in mind when he wrote these words to Timothy. But we do not live in Ephesus. We live in the 21st Century. Therefore, these words do not really apply to us, although we can learn from them.
Obviously, I cannot use the excuse that a woman cannot have any rightful spiritual authority since Paul does not forbid a woman from having rightful spiritual authority over a man in this passage.