Who Gets Authority? (Post 7)

[This is post 7 in a series on men and women in ministry among the earliest churches that are recorded on the pages of the New Testament. This is the forth post on 1 Timothy. Click through the blog to see the other posts, which build on one another]

“I do not permit a women to to teach or assume authority over a man” 1 Timothy 2:12

What is the nature of authority in the Kingdom of God?

As we have seen in previous posts, false teaching is a defining issue in the purpose for writing 1 Timothy. One of the problems with certain women in the city of Ephesus at that time is that they are seeking to ‘assume authority.’ Other translations of this Greek word include ‘usurp authority’ (KJV), exercise authority’ (NASB, ESV) or simply ‘have authority (CSB).

One challenge in this case, which is almost impossible for the English Bible reader to be aware of without additional study tools, is that the word used here is found nowhere else in the New Testament. We do see the word ‘authority’ used elsewhere in the New Testament, but it is a different Greek word than the one used here.

This word, authenteo, so far as we can tell in its use outside the Bible (remember it’s only used once in the Bible) has the idea of being forceful, domineering, even violent.

Here is an important question: what is the problem with these women and authority (authenteo)?

For some, the issue is that women are seeking authority when men are supposed to be the ones in authority. This, I believe, both ignores Paul’s word choice here and is also a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of authority as taught by Jesus and in the creation intent between men and women.

We spent some time in the last post talking about men and women in creation and the first sin in the world and we saw there that there is no hierarchy between men and women in creation – no separate roles due to ‘created order’ as some will say. Genesis 1 and 2 plainly does not teach that men are in charge over women.

What we do see in Genesis 3 is that as a result of sin in the world after the disobedience of both woman and man, there would now be a power struggle.

“Your desire will be for your husband,
and he will rule over you.” Genesis 3:16

It is absolutely vital that we understand that this is a description of relationship in a fallen world and NOT prescriptive of God’s intent for flourishing relationship.

Again, no human was intended to ‘rule over’ another. Humans together were intended to rule over the rest of creation (see Genesis 1:26), but not to rule over one another.

Fortunately, in Christ and in his Kingdom, things will begin to be restored in relationship toward the way God intended in creation.

Unfortunately, some Christians have not understood this vital piece of biblical redemption and have instead called the consequence of the fall God’s ongoing intention for men and women in the church.

Jesus makes it clear that although the fallen world lives by ‘authority over’ and that his own disciples will be deeply tempted to live this way, he will have none of it.

“Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:42-45

Jesus here teaches that no disciple of his, no citizen of his kingdom – man or woman – is to exercise authority over others.

Instead authority belongs to Christ and he uses his divine authority to wash feet, to serve and to give his life for others. This is the fundamental nature of the kingdom – never power over; always service.

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations…and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:18-20

The authority of Jesus directs us to make disciples who take the posture of servants, which is what he both modeled and taught.

So, clearly, the problem in Ephesus is not that women were ‘exercising authority’ instead of men exercising authority. The problem, I suggest, was that these particular women had not only bad theology but the wrong attitude toward men and others.

They needed to be directed to stop teaching bad theology and instead become learners who could sometime later teach good theology and to stop trying to exercise authority over and instead learn to take on the posture of Jesus as a servant.

The good news is that Jesus has a totally different view of authority from almost everyone else in this world.

And Jesus is inviting men and women into a new creation that is restoring his original intent for men and women to serve side by side rather than in over under power dynamics. In fact, in Christ all of the brokenness between groups and individuals is being undone.

“So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Galatians 3:27-29

Obviously, Paul does not envision that there is no difference between men and women at all. Jews and Gentiles continued to know their backgrounds. But the over under, ‘us not you’ dynamics are done with. We are being called into new creation.

In the next post(s), we will begin looking at the responsibility of ‘overseers’ in the early church and how they might relate to the big picture of ministry.

Author: Dan Masshardt

Husband, Father, Pastor...

3 thoughts on “Who Gets Authority? (Post 7)”

    1. Hey Tim- thanks for reading! Great question! I haven’t gotten to those texts yet. Soon!

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