1 Timothy 2, authority and the magical pulpit

1 Timothy 2, authority and the magical pulpit

Many people feel that the pulpit is a place for authoritative proclamation.  However many people also believe that the pulpit gives a man that authority and allowing someone into the “pulpit” who isn’t allowed to exercise authority over the sheep, an authority that the pulpit gives them, is seen as a great sin.

There are several problems with this view.  The first problem is an obvious one, in that there is no such thing as a pulpit in the Scriptures.  Christianity Today says this about the pulpit:

Pulpits, which are associated with traditional churches today, haven’t always been included in churches. In the earliest days of the church, Christians met in homes. In the Middle Ages, pulpits were installed in churches, but sermons rarely were preached out of them…The pulpit became more prominent during the Protestant Reformation, when the preaching of God’s Word became the primary ingredient of worship. The pulpit became more than a place to stand or a structure on which to place notes and a Bible. It became a symbol of the authority of the Bible, the church, and the preacher.

So the pulpit as a symbol of authority is a modern invention not found in the Bible at all.  Many years into the church age what originally was just a piece of furniture convenient to hold one’s notes, has become the symbol of the authority of the speaker.  Somewhere along the way, it appears that the authority of the Word of God which held preeminence during the Protestant Reformation, has been transferred to the messenger.  In our day the word “pulpit” is synonymous for church authority:

(The term) From the pulpit is often used metaphorically for something which is said with official church authority.

This taking of authority to the man instead of the authority remaining on the Scriptures is a repeat of a very old problem.

Jeremiah 5:31  The prophets prophesy falsely, And the priests rule on their own authority; And My people love it so! But what will you do at the end of it?

The word here in the Hebrew translated as “rule” is the Hebrew word #7287 and means:

bear rule, or take into their hands.  A verb meaning to rule, to have dominion, to subjugate. This Hebrew word conveys the notion of exercising domain, whether legitimate or not, over those who are powerless or otherwise under one’s control. It is related as the exercise of authority by the priesthood (Jer 5:31); by slave owners over their slaves (Lev 25:43); by supervisors over their workers (1Kings 9:23); and by a king over his kingdom (1Ki 4:24 [5:4]). Theologically significant is the use of this word to identify people’s God-ordained relationship to the created world around them (Gen 1:26, Gen 1:28).

Note that the “rule” as originally given to the man and the woman was over the created world and it was not given as a rule over people.  Yet now authority is being used to “rule” the people and taking authority over others is expected.

Is this what the Scriptures teach?  Is there a mandate for men to take authority over other Christians in the church?  Jesus said:

Matthew 20:25-27  But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them.  It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave;”

Jesus turns the whole authority issue completely on its head by forbidding the leadership in the church from  exercising authority over the sheep.  Instead of exercising authority, true leaders are to exercise a sacrificial servant heart.

How is authority that resides in the Word to be exercised?  We have received authority to employ, exercise and use our own gift for the benefit of the body of Christ.

1 Peter 4:10 As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

1 Peter 4:11 Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Whoever has been gifted in speaking is to speak as speaking the very utterances or oracles of God.  The one who has been gifted to minister or pastor is to serve by the strength and empowering that God supplies.   The authority is in the Word of God and the authority a person possesses from the Word is the authority to use their gift for the glory of God.  There is nothing in these passages that tells one to take authority over another believer.

The issue of authority in the church is not meant to be authority in the person.  The authority is to be in the Word of God which gives us authority to use our gifts.

Because authority is not exercised over another believer, the body of Christ is now free to exercise their obligation to test all things and to hold fast to what is good.  1 Thess. 5:21

The pulpit doesn’t give one the authorization to give out authoritative proclamations – God’s word does.  God’s gifts are not hindered nor does the authority lie in the hand of man.  No human authority can remove a person’s God-given gift or their ability to use that gift for the glory of God.

The Baptist Press quotes Carolyn Hale Cubbedge:

“We answer to a higher power, a higher authority than the local association … and I think God will hold us responsible for how we face our opponents, and how we represent the God we say is calling us.”

Men and women of God are authorized to give out the message of the Gospel and to bring Jesus glory by ministering in his name.  It is time that we set aside the issue of man-made authority and its focus on the pulpit and instead turn away from the world’s system to see authority God’s way.

I like the way that Anne Graham Lotz ministers in her gift as an evangelist.  She takes the authority God has given her to speak forth the oracles of God by saying “Just give me Jesus”.  The podium she stands behind is in the shape of a cross with a small holder for her notes.

It symbolizes the power of the cross and the authority of the message.  It is time that we come back to the way of the Master by seeing the authority in the message and in the Giver of the gifts.

When we see authority God’s way, we will never again take authority upon ourselves to stop a woman from using the gift and the authority that God has given her to speak forth the Word of God.

43 thoughts on “1 Timothy 2, authority and the magical pulpit

  1. Sheryl,
    You are so right in your quest for ALL Christians to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation.” (Mark 16:16)
    Thank you for revealing the deception that pastors have ‘authority’, but only the word of God.
    This deception was started back in the time of Paul as shown by Ignatius, the second bishop of Antioch.  He said:
    “We ought to receive every one whom the Master of the house sends to be over His household, as we would do Him that sent him.  It is manifest, therefore, that we should look upon the bishop even as we would upon the Lord Himself.”
    Thanks again.
    Rex Ray
    Bonham, Texas

  2. From m-w.com

    ex cathedra
    Pronunciation: eks-k-th-dr Function: adverb or adjective Etymology: New Latin, literally, from the chair Date: 1693
    : by virtue of or in the exercise of one’s office or position <ex cathedra pronouncements>

    As Roman Catholics (or more properly the pope) claimed the authority of the pope to speak authoritatively ex cathedra (from the chair or their claimed seat of authority), so the protestants in reaction claimed the authority to speak from the pulpit or their claimed place to proclaim.

    The Reformation needs to continue to reform.

  3. Actually, I think the Reformation needs to Revolt! They sought to reform the RCC when they should have abandoned the whole thing and went straight back to the Bible. It’s the difference between trying to filter out poison from a glass of water, and getting a clean glass of water from a clean source.

    A frequent tactic of those who are told that “pulpit” and “pastorate” are not in the Bible is to claim that these Exulted P’s are on the same level as the Trinity; that is, that since the Trinity is not expressly stated but has to be inferred, then pretty much anything can be inferred.

    And of course that’s fallacious. The Trinity, unlike the Exalted P’s, has scriptural support (for example, the simultaneous presence of all three Persons when Jesus was baptized). There are many OT scriptures as well from which the Trinity can be derived. But for the Exalted P’s there is deafening silence. Paul never addresses any “pastor”, elders are addressed as a group and not “head pastors”, and as you pointed out, none of them had authority of their own.

  4. Actually, I think the Reformation needs to Revolt!


    That’s what I’m praying will happen.  With the mass exodus of people from traditional churches and people that are fed up with all the legalism…  I’m praying that God is at work in ways beyond our understanding and will bring a mighty move of the Spirit for real repentence and revival.  It may take awhile for people to get a big, sour belly full of the advertising techniques and sound bites and the “thus sayith the little popes.”  Everyone is so obsessed with power and authority that I think either sects will split and destroy their earthly towers of sand.  Then people will go back to the Cross without the baggage.

  5. Rex Ray, Don, Paula, Cindy,

    I do pray that the church will repent of what it has done to exalt the messenger.

    The authority is in the message not the messenger.  Once we really “get it” the Holy Spirit will revolutionize the Church.  There is so much work to be done for Christ.  We need to occupy until Christ comes and that involves all of us.

  6. “They sought to reform the RCC when they should have abandoned the whole thing and went straight back to the Bible.”
    Amen! But since it was tied directly to government power that did not happen. There were still some faithful hiding out, refusing to have their infants baptized or be a part of the ‘state church’.
    “Everyone is so obsessed with power and authority that I think either sects will split and destroy their earthly towers of sand. Then people will go back to the Cross without the baggage.”
    I hate to say this but I really do believe that as the economy tightens and money dries up, there will less for the institutional church. I think this will change the dynamics in that more people will start to question what they are really supporting. As a matter of fact, many are doing that now and leaving the institutional church and finding other ways to ‘assemble’ with other believers.

  7. Lin,

    This is indeed a perilous and unprecedented time.  It is not unthinkable that the church may end up going underground and back into house churches.  I would hope that we would not take “pulpits” into the homes to recreate the excesses that have gone on for a very long time, with many who crave power.

  8. I think we also have a golden opportunity here. We need to make our message known and try to intercept these who are finally finished with The Institution before they go from the frying pan to the fire.

  9. I don’t know why, but I keep hearing Richie Havens’ “Freedom” song from the old Woodstock flick.  Maybe it’s the time, and maybe it’s the season–And as Lin has pointed out, mayhap the day is coming when the institutional Church, and that includes the non-denominational mega-biggies, will no longer hold sway over as many as they did in their heydays.

  10. Nope Paula, it was Richie Havens unplugged, not Jimi at all, totally acoustic.  Havens is of the old-school folksy genre.

    And yes I’m an old dog from the Vietnam era, who has also managed to learn a few new tricks!

  11. Don,

    If it weren’t for the part where they tested “college” students, I would have said that the extra bacteria came from all those “poopy diapers” that women handle.

    Good one, Don.  Now I am thinking that this is why young boys say girls have “cooties”.

    I am now going to wash my hands, if you please.

  12. I have a huge question I am doing an essay on this subject and I am very confused.  I corinthians says 14 34-35 says the following.

     34 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. 35 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.
    1 Cor 14:34-35 (KJV)

    My question is where in the bible does it say that women can minister to the church.  Please can someone help me with this.

  13. Trent,

    Just read the complete context of 1 Corinthians 14.  While Paul refutes the saying of 1 Cor. 15:34, 35 by his negation in verse 36, he has already given instruction that all are allowed to participate and minister their gifts in the church:

    1Co 14:31  For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted;

    I hope this helps with your confusion.

  14. Hello Trent.  Would you be a member or ex member of the CCC yahoo list by any chance.

    The question you might ask yourself, is where does Scripture specifically say that women cannot minister to the church.  If you also read 1 Cor. 12, you will see that all the gifts of the Holy Spirit are for the express purpose of ministering to the church, the ekklesia.  It does not matter where the ekklesia is, in or out of a building, nor how many are gathered.  Everyone is to desire the best gifts for the purpose of ministering to the church in general.  And when the church comes together, we are to bring something to share according to 1 Cor.14:26+, including a teaching, a song, a prophesy, etc.

    One needs to read the whole context.

  15.     Thank you for your help and I am not a member of the ccc. I am writing an essay for a class, and I need to present both sides fairly.
    I have got some good information, and If anyone can lead me to books on this subject that would be great also.

    Again thank you for your help

  16. You are welcome. 🙂

    I would search through these articles as Cheryl does some excellent research that is easy to understand. Also, at these forums:

    “Discovering Biblical Equality,complementarity without hierarchy” by Pierce and Groothuis
    “Why Not Women” by Cunningham and Hamilton
    “Jesus and the Father” by Giles (indirectly touches on women in ministry)

  17. Hi Cheryl,
    regarding comment #8, it is unfortunate that the strong belief of women being silent while men are present is strangling some of the home fellowships. In 2006, I was searching for a home fellowship and the first response I received was a gentle reproof for looking for a place to fellowship. In this man’s opinion, it was my hubby’s job alone to look for a place to fellowship, no matter what his spiritual condition was. He then went on to say that the women in their gathering are silent….
    I felt suffocated just talking to him. I disagreed with him and said why, and to my surprise he actually listened and questioned whether their practice was right.

  18. rejoice,

    I am saddened to hear that the attitude of women being silent is also carried on in some home fellowships. This would certainly be stifling and restrictive. Our brothers in Christ just have no idea how much they miss when they restrict women’s speech. By restricting God’s women from speaking, they are in essence quenching the Holy Spirit. With all that is going on in the church today, and with so many Christians bailing out of the churches because of abusive leadership, ungodly teachings and nothing but “fluff” teachings, one would think that things should be better in home fellowships. All we can do is pray that God will be allowed freedom to do as he pleases in the body of Christ and we will not be a hindrance to him. The tide is turning towards women, but sometimes it seems to be much slower than we would like. But God has promised that in the last days he would work through women as well as men and so we must trust that he is able to open doors that no man can shut.

  19. Hi – I am interested in your article – but I don’t find a place where you actually deal with the difficult verses in 1 Tim 2 (11-12)?

  20. Debra in the book of Judges was not allowed to stand and Judge from the same place as the men did and that should let us know that when it comes to God’s sheep woman and men roles are so different and depite how the enemy uses others to twist and manipulate the word of God I will continue to believe what is written in the bible opose the an opinion of a mere man or woman.

    Be Blessed

  21. I am not sure what church most woman attend, but hey if you are not allowed to speak than that is a problem because God never intended for us to be silent and the scripture in Timothy is dealing with unruly women in the church, so we need to learn to keep all scripture within their context. It jsut take one person to say soemthing that scratch the itching ear of a few people and those that are weak in knowing the Word of God will fall for a lie that has a little truth mixed in with it.

  22. TaWanda, can you please give the verse that says that Deborah was not allowed to judge from the same place as where the men did? Where is her restriction limited? Or is this a tradition about what she couldn’t do that is imported into the text rather than what the text actually says?

    I think that it is very important for us as women to know what the Scripture says and to be precise rather than to allow ourselves to be influenced by the tradition of men rather than the pure Word of God.

    By the way, welcome to my blog!

  23. Deborah became Judge at a time when Israel was experiencing a spiritual and moral decline, partly due to the loss of their national leaders, Moses and Joshua. “In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was proper in his own eyes.” Judges 17:6; 21:25. Now She judged from under a tree, I am at work right now snd I need to get my bible, but I assure you that I will send you the scripture.. I am only move by the Word of God so I give those I speak to the Word and not my opinion. I challenge my Pastor when i feel he is not speaking what the scripture says and He encourages us to challenge and talk to believers and no-believers about those things that are written in scripture so we won’t be sold a lie mixed with little truth.

    Thanks for the welcome. Will get back with you very very soon.

    Trusting in His Sovereignty,

  24. TaWanda, God sent the judges to deliver Israel from her enemies. It wasn’t just during Deborah’s time that the people were guilty of doing as they pleased. There was a continual cycle of the people going after their own ways and then God would raise up a Judge. Judges 2:16-19 describes it this way:

    Judges 2:16–19 (NASB95)
    16 Then the LORD raised up judges who delivered them from the hands of those who plundered them.
    17 Yet they did not listen to their judges, for they played the harlot after other gods and bowed themselves down to them. They turned aside quickly from the way in which their fathers had walked in obeying the commandments of the LORD; they did not do as their fathers.
    18 When the LORD raised up judges for them, the LORD was with the judge and delivered them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge; for the LORD was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who oppressed and afflicted them.
    19 But it came about when the judge died, that they would turn back and act more corruptly than their fathers, in following other gods to serve them and bow down to them; they did not abandon their practices or their stubborn ways.

    Note that it was God who raised up the Judges and that included them all. Deborah did not set herself up as a Judge but God raised her up.

    The fact that Deborah worked as a judge under a palm tree does not mean that God restricted her from having the same authority as the male judges. In fact Deborah is the only judge shown in the book of Judges as functioning in a judicial position. And she did so as other kings had sat in a judicial position in that era. The IVP Bible background commentary says this about her position:

    4:5. holding court. Deborah is the only figure portrayed in the book of Judges as actually functioning in a judicial position. She hears and decides cases and provides answers to oracular inquiry under a palm tree which served as a landmark for that region. The description of her “court” is similar to that found in the Ugaritic epic of Aqhat (c. 1500 B.C.), which depicts King Danil sitting on a threshing floor before the city gates, judging the cases of the widows and orphans (Aqhat III.i.20–25).

    There is not one word in the Scriptures that gives any indication that God limited Deborah’s authority as Judge or that she had to do her judging in a place that would limit her authority. Deborah’s place of judging was not uncommon for those in authority and the act of judging was in accordance with God’s Word, not against any kind of limitation of a woman’s “role”. These additions to God’s Word are the traditions of men that want to place Deborah in a secondary position far below the authority of the male Judges. Unfortunately for those who wish to dismiss Deborah’s rule as Judge and deliverer, God Himself said that He sent all of the Judges and Deborah, a woman, was one of God’s spoke persons.

    It is important that we give out God’s Word as it is written instead of our opinion which can be tainted through the traditions of men which water down the Word of God through their traditions.

    Thanks for your comments. While I strongly disagree, I do value participation here of my dear brothers and sisters in Christ who are all welcome to challenge what I say so that we can look carefully at Scripture together.

  25. Deborah is not the only judge who served in a time of moral decline. In fact, “In those days there was no king” etc., applies to the whole time of the judges, not just Deborah.
    And what does the fact that she sat under a tree have to do with her supposedly not being allowed to judge from the same place the men did? Is there a verse that says all the other judges got to sit in a special seat set aside for judges? Is there a verse that says Deborah sat under the tree because she was not allowed to sit where the other judges sat?

    Where are you getting these ideas?

  26. I’m sure she was taught that by men who are convinced that women are greatly limited in areas where men aren’t.

    If she wasn’t taught that about Deborah specifically, she WAS taught that women are limited so that she must work to make it reconcile somehow with the story of Deborah that blows the lid off off the, “Women can never be lead but must ALWAYS follow” doctrine of men that is so prevailent in the church today.

  27. “Debra in the book of Judges was not allowed to stand and Judge from the same place as the men did and that should let us know that when it comes to God’s sheep woman and men roles are so different and depite how the enemy uses others to twist and manipulate the word of God I will continue to believe what is written in the bible opose the an opinion of a mere man or woman. ”

    It is amazing to what people will believe in order to defend the “roles” teaching. I sometimes think it is impossible to change the belief in strict roles for male and female. yet, I have never seen a comprehensive list from scripture.

    But I know someone who has started compling a list of specific roles for women that are in the bible:


  28. @38 I checked out the link and read the list and the comments. The comments – haha! Two of them I get a kick out of!

    New BBC Open Forum:

    But are they allowed to teach men how to hide spies and hammer tent pegs through men’s heads?


    Then there’s this one by Lin:

    Piper has the position that women can only give directions to men if they can do it without appearing to “instruct” them. I think it goes like this:

    You MIGHT want to consider turning
    right at the light but, of course, It is YOUR decision and you hold the final trump card on turning right at the light or not.


  29. Cheryl,
    Thank you so much for your website. I recently relocated to the south from the northwest area, and the prejudice against women in ministry is overwhelming! The persecution I have recieved for being an ordained female minister is beyond any thing I would have ever thought I would experience here in the United States. I previewed your DVD of WIM and ordered them. Thank you so much for taking the time to put them together. 2 books have been great for me and they are Why Not Women? by Loren Cunningham/Hamilton, and Women: God’s Secret Weapon by Ed Silvoso; both are exceptionally well done in detail form. Well I have certainly guirded up my loins and put on my armor more accurately, as not unlike Annie Graham Lotz, the Lord called me into the ministry and I gladly and honorable willing to serve Him wholeheartedly. Thanks again for your ministry and your obedience to His call……….I am Woman Hear me Roar!

  30. Connie,
    Welcome to my blog!

    I am sad that you have experienced so much prejudice, but I trust that the Lord is working through many areas, such as the books you pointed out, as well as our ministry, along with others to change the attitude of prejudice in His body.

    May the Lord richly bless you as you serve Him!

  31. “The first problem is an obvious one, in that there is no such thing as a pulpit in the Scriptures.”

    “And Ezra the scribe stood upon a pulpit of wood, which they had made for the purpose; and beside him stood Mattithiah, and Shema, and Anaiah, and Urijah, and Hilkiah, and Maaseiah, on his right hand; and on his left hand, Pedaiah, and Mishael, and Malchiah, and Hashum, and Hashbadana, Zechariah, and Meshullam.” (Nehemiah 8:4)

  32. Dr. G. Thanks for your comment. The “pulpit” is a platform, not a pulpit. The NASB calls it a wooden podium and the Hebrew term means dais n. — a platform raised above the surrounding level to give prominence to the person on it.

    The modern pulpit does not exist in the Scriptures. What is found in Nehemiah 8:4 that they were standing on is a platform. The Word Biblical Commentary says this about Nehemiah 8:4 – “With so large a crowd assembled, it was imperative that the leaders should have such a high platform in order to be seen and heard.”

    A high platform was needed for the people to see Ezra. As I said, there is no such thing as a modern day pulpit in the text.

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