The Evangelical Lutheran Synod’s doctrine of church and ministry (1980, 2005)

It is God’s will “that Christians unite in order to preserve the means of grace pure and unadulterated, to use these means of grace for their own edification, to show the unity that exists among them, and to join hands in bringing the good news of salvation in Christ to others. Jeremiah 23:28; John 8:31-32; Acts 2:42; Psalm 133:1; Matthew 28:19-20,” (ELS Catechism question 247, p. 146-47) This normally is done through the external forms of the local congregation, synod and denomination. Although it is God’s will that Christians gather for public worship, these external forms, as such, however, are not divinely instituted. “The kingdom of God cometh not with observation.” (Luke 17:20) Luther correctly says, “there is not a single letter in holy Scripture saying that such a church (i.e. a ‘physical, external Christendom’), where it is by itself, is instituted by God … If they can show me that a single letter of Scripture speaks of it, I will recant my words.” (LW 39, 70) The local congregation is the primary grouping because this is where Christians live and where they can readily and practically carry out the commands of God on a regular basis.

—Doctrine of the Church, Evangelical Lutheran Synod, adopted 1980

The 1980 ELS statement on church and ministry is its 2005 statement in a nutshell. For to deny the exclusive divine institution of the parish is to deny that of the parish pastorate:

Indeed, the word of God nowhere exclusively mandates the parish. Instead, what we find in Scripture is a command to the church—that is, believers—to proclaim the gospel and to administer the sacraments (John 20, Matt. 28, etc.) and the divine bestowal of various forms of the ministry of the word, including but certainly not limited to the apostleship. Pastors, evangelists, apostles, and others called to proclaim the gospel on behalf of the church are gifts from the ascended Christ himself (Eph. 4:11).
Scripture also presents examples of a wide variety of acceptable forms of the church. What we will not find there or anywhere else in Scripture is today’s notion of a parish, let alone the divine institution of the parish as opposed to other forms of the church or the divine institution of the parish pastorate as opposed to other forms of the ministry of the word. Nor will we find legalistic restrictions on the church’s—that is, believers’—divinely conferred authority to proclaim the gospel on their behalf through called servants of the word according to the need of the situation.
For more details and for corroborating references to the confessions, the 1932 Brief Statement of the LCMS, and Walther, see Prof. Brug’s systematic investigation and clear exposition.

Bibliographic note: “LW 39, 70” cites Martin Luther (1520) “On the papacy in Rome against the most celebrated Romanist in Leipzig,” Luther’s Works, vol. 39, ed. Jaroslav Pelikan and Helmut T. Lehmann, Muhlenberg Press, Philadelphia, pp. 55-104 (1970). | Excerpt

The apostolic nation called to herald the gospel of the kingdom

Starting with a remnant of the assembly of Israel, Jesus built a new assembly on the confession that he is the long-awaited Messiah (Matthew 16:18). Not only Peter but all the apostles represented that “little flock” (Luke 12:31-34). The Twelve represented the new Israel (Matthew 19:28 = Luke 22:30), the nation rendering the fruits of the kingdom that the old Israel did not (Matthew 21:43). That is how the judgement of the nations according to how they treated Jesus’ brothers (Matthew 25:31-46) will fulfill the prophecy that the Gentiles would be judged according to how they treated Israel (Joel 3:1-12).

The call of the Twelve, including Judas, is the call of the new holy nation to proclaim the glad tidings of the kingdom (Matthew 4:19). The end will not come until that good news, the same gospel committed to Judas, is preached to all nations (Matthew 24:14; see Mark 14:9). In these last days, the church continues the same apostolic ministry of the new covenant in the Messiah’s blood (Luke 22:20). That continuity means every believer does both the works he did—healing the lame, giving sight to the blind, raising the dead—and greater works (John 14:12).

The call of the Twelve to the public, representative ministry anticipated their taking the place of the priests and prophets, the public ministers of the old covenant. The breaking dawn of the new kingdom in the proclamation of peace by the Messiah and his ambassadors was nightfall for the temple-centered ministry of the word. That ministry of types and shadows gave way to the apostolic ministry as the light of the world filfilled one Messianic prophecy after another. John the Baptist, the greatest minister of the law and the prophets, gladly decreased as Jesus increased. Even he, the greatest of the old covenant, ranked under everyone in the new kingdom (Matthew 11:11).

In conclusion, there is no ministry of the word other than the ministry committed to the Twelve to proclaim the gospel of the kingdom, the good news of righteousness from God. That continuity of the public ministry of the New Covenant is acknowledged in the Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope. Jesus did not commit the ministry to them by giving it originally to Peter but rather in his calling of all twelve apostles (Treatise 10, German translation). As the ministry was thus originally given to the new Israel, that holy nation retains the authority to appoint public ministers of the gospel (see John F. Brug’s “The ministry of the apostles and our ministry”).

Spiritual gifts and the ministry of the word of God

Having the command to proclaim the gospel and administer the sacraments, believers may appoint some from their midst to proclaim the gospel in specific ways, which may or may not include administration of the sacraments. Such proclamation as Christ’s ambassadors is public in the sense that those appointed, like the apostles, represent other believers.

Those appointed to proclaim the gospel as representatives of the church are to do so according to their gifts from the Spirit (1 Peter 4:1; Romans 12:6-8; 1 Cor. 12:4-6, 27-30). As manifestations of the coming kingdom of God, such gifts transcend the callings all have to their vocations.

Thus, all of those called to proclaim the gospel as representatives of the church are gifts of the ascended Christ to his church (see Ephesians 4:11). Just as the Good Shepherd represents the church as the head of the body, apostles and other public ministers of the word represent the church as its tongue. All public ministers are servants of the church (1 Corinthians 3:21) following the Servant of all (Mark 10:45; cf. Mark 9:35).

What is the difference between popular evangelicalism and confessional Lutheranism?

Christians of Reformed heritage, including Arminians as well as Calvinists, obviously differ from Lutherans on sacramentology. More foundationally, to the extent that they maintain their distinctive teachings, they disagree on exactly what gospel (good news) the apostles proclaimed:

absolve

More: The chief difference between Reformed theology and Lutheran theology

“Are there legal regulations in the New Testament?” (centennial; August Pieper)


And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.
Matthew 27:50-51a
Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.
Colossians 2:16-17
Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.
Galatians 5:2-5
. . . In the way in which it is stated in the Ten Commandments the love toward God and toward the neighbor is to express itself unconditionally on the part of absolutely all human beings and under all circumstances (except if he himself should make exceptions) and not a tittle differently (Mt 5:18ff).

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The word of God as the sole source of doctrine: Sola scriptura & the perspicuity of Scripture

Shall we be perpetually enslaved and never breathe in Christian liberty, nor sigh from out of this Babylon for our Scriptures and our home? Yet you say they were saints and illuminated the Scripture. Who has shown that they made the Scriptures clearer—what if they obscured them? . . . But doesn’t obscure Scripture require explanation? Set aside the obscure and cling to the clear. Further, who has proved that the fathers are not obscure?

—Martin Luther*

Scripture alone

As Franz Pieper explains in his Christian Dogmatics, Scripture interprets itself, being so clear that it needs no theologian or council to interpret it. Were Luther and countless believers before him deluded to take Christ as promising to give them his true body and true blood, the fault would not be with them but rather with Christ for breaking his promise to them. He could not break his promise to those who simply took him at his word, “This is my body . . . This is the blood of the New Testament” (Bickel, 2005, pp. 5-6).

Those who reject the Lutheran confessions thereby reveal that they submit to the authority of some “father” or “teacher” other than the Christ as heard in the simple word of Scripture (see Matthew 23:8-10). For confessional Lutherans, “All dogmatics must be exegesis; and all exegesis must be systematic and dogmatic. Our work, our confession, is exegesis. This is our confession of the clear Word of God” (Teigen, 1982, p. 164).

Creedal confusion

Indeed, it is Lutherans who have fixed their eyes on the bronze serpent lifted up, not on any strength of their own to heal them of their sins. Now, Lutherans are starting to bow down to the very serpent used to heal them. Given the history of the Israelites, it should not be completely baffling that some now turn to the Lutheran confessions to clarify the Scriptures, seen as lacking the clarity to be understood without some authoritative lense through which to view them.

That undermines the foundation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, for the confessions constitute a statement of what Lutherans believe, teach, and confess on the sole basis of clear passages of the prophetic and apostolic writings. That is why any article of faith that cannot be proven from Scripture alone cannot be proven from the Lutheran confessions or from any other true exposition of Scripture.

As a twofold solution to the problem of leaning on the confessions as if the Scriptures needed clarification, Naumann (2005, p. 25) suggested a greater study of both Scripture and the confessions:

There are two main steps involved in reaching and holding on to the right view of Scripture and the confessions. First and most important, is to study Scripture so that we recognize its unique authority, clarity, and sufficiency. If our confidence is solid there, we will not feel a need for another norm to prop up or supplement Scripture. The second step is to read the confessions regularly and in their entirety. Most of the problems with the interpretation of the Confessions today come from failing to hold on to the confessors’ view of the confessions as displayed especially in the beginning of the Formula of Concord. People cannot claim to be “confessionals” unless they agree with the confessors’ understanding of the confessions. To make the confessions a norm along side Scripture or to use them as a second source of doctrine is not confessional. The sad irony is that this is a Romanizing tendency, which feels the need to supplement Scripture and turn to the authority of the church to resolve doctrinal issues. There is, in fact, a high degree of correlation between this view of the confessions and Romanizing views of church and ministry and the sacraments. One rarely encounters one problem without the other.

A second source of trouble is reading the Confessions selectively without considering all pertinent statements in the whole context of the confessions. To cite but one example, pulling out the passages in the Confessions in which Predigtamt refers to the pastoral ministry and ignoring all those in which it refers to the means of grace. The solution to this is regular reading of the confessions in their entirety.

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Resources on what the WELS and ELS teach about the ministry

The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.
Proverbs 18:17, ESV

According to rumors spread both online and by word-of-mouth, false doctrines on the ministry of God’s word are taught by the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS) and especially the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), two members of the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference. The misconceptions persist in part because it is more convenient to believe a soundbite than to take the time needed to study and understand what other Lutherans actually teach about the ministry. This post points to resources beyond the synods’ doctrinal statements on the ministry for those who wish to begin such a study.

In The Ministry of the Word, Prof. John Brug ably defends the position that WELS and ELS have preserved the lonely doctrine of Walther’s writings understood in context while the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) now represents a variety of views wide enough to include both some that are too “low” and some that are too “high” to be Scriptural.

Anyone seeking to develop a respectable case against the WELS doctrine of church and ministry must at a minimum interact with the points made in the 80 pages on the LCMS-WELS debates. To refute Prof. Brug would require a thorough exegetical or historical study.

For those preferring to start with a less thorough understanding of the WELS doctrine of the ministry because they cannot yet devote the time to read the book, here are some of Prof. Brug’s online papers that include many quotes from Luther and from some who have abandoned his doctrine for one closer to that of a self-perpetuating ministerium:

A wealth of additional information is readily available from www.wlsessays.net.

From the ELS perspective, Rev. David Jay Webber’s well organized and thorough webpage is well known. His church has several interesting essays on the ministry.

Finally, the president of the ELS wrote a paper with reasons that WELS does not have women communing other women and with valuable study material in the appendices: J. A. Moldstad (2011), “Public Ministry: ELS Perspective,” Lutheran Synod Quarterly 51, pp. 143ff .

Ministry statements of LCMS, WELS & ELS

The 2001 adoption of Walther’s Church and Ministry by the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) may be an important step toward its recovering unity in Scripture’s teaching on the ministry of God’s word. The synod’s continuing need for a movement back to Walther is explained by John Brug.

Would official adoption of Walther’s Church and Ministry also have been advisable for other former members of the Synodical Conference? In the discussions of the twentieth century Synodical Conference, the meaning of Walther’s theses taken in isolation was controversial, with some participants even concluding from them that the parish pastorate was the only divinely instituted form of the office. In that setting, it would not have brought clarity for the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) to simply affirm Church and Ministry without affirming other writings by Walther, including those regarding school teachers. It better served expository purposes for the WELS to formulate its own Waltherian theses.

Similarly, the fact that the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS) formulated its own ministry theses rather than adopting those of the WELS does not indicate doctrinal disagreement within the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference. To be sure, there are definite differences between the WELS and ELS statements on the ministry. Judging solely on the basis of the texts as opposed to their historical origin, they have different concerns and perspectives, somewhat like the First Gospel compared to the Fourth Gospel or like Luther compared to Chemnitz.

Roughly speaking, the WELS statement is more concerned with what is true everywhere, at all times, and under all circumstances. As Brug’s ministry book points out, the gospel ministry could be authorized in the multiple-teacher form found at Corinth as opposed to the parish-pastor form that is more effective today.

By contrast, the ELS statement, with its focus on apostolic directives, is more concerned with the settings in which the directives apply. The ELS can correctly say that such directives must be obeyed whenever they are applicable, for they are correct applications of the Decalogue, and the WELS can correctly assert Christian freedom in other settings. Each synod thereby emphasizes an essential aspect of Sola Scriptura.

This sketch does require some qualification. For more on the ELS statement and on the need to distinguish doctrinal differences from those of wording and emphasis, see David Jay Webber’s “Small Contribution to the Ongoing Discussion concerning the ELS Ministry Statement,” his “Walking Together in Faith and Worship: Exploring the Relationship between Doctrinal Unity and Liturgical Unity in the Lutheran Church,” and his book Spiritual Fathers.

When WELS theologians affirm what the 1932 Brief Statement says about the ministry, they affirm the Waltherian theology it reflects, not the above misunderstanding of Waltherian theology, which was held by some in the LCMS in 1932. The distinctives of that misunderstanding were not held universally in the LCMS, nor were they specified in the Brief Statement. Otherwise, the WELS theologians would not have affirmed the Brief Statement’s section on the ministry.

The ministry of the word (Augsburg Confession V) is the same ministry of all pastors, including, but not limited to, the form it takes in the parish pastorate. That is how WELS theologians read the Brief Statement. It is genuinely Waltherian, not Walther-lite.

When believers leave the new LCMS fellowship to join the WELS fellowship for doctrinal reasons, they thereby join the fellowship of the old Synodical Conference because its teachings are those of Scripture. Indeed, even non-historians with the simple word of Scripture can judge doctrine, even concerning church and ministry.

Discussions with Rolf Preus are gratefully acknowledged.

A specious argument against ordaining women as pastors

In every place of worship, I want men to pray with holy hands lifted up to God, free from anger and controversy. And I want women to be modest in their appearance. They should wear decent and appropriate clothing and not draw attention to themselves by the way they fix their hair or by wearing gold or pearls or expensive clothes. For women who claim to be devoted to God should make themselves attractive by the good things they do. Women should learn quietly and submissively. I do not let women teach men or have authority over them. Let them listen quietly. For God made Adam first, and afterward he made Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived by Satan. The woman was deceived, and sin was the result. But women will be saved through childbearing, assuming they continue to live in faith, love, holiness, and modesty.

1 Timothy 2:8-15 (NLT)

An unjustified denial of women’s ordination as pastors

The interpretation of the above passage that has been adopted by the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) obscures Paul’s clear argument, leaving the synod without any warrant for its practice of forbidding women from being ordained as pastors. Here are the logical steps of Paul’s reasoning in 1 Timothy 2:11-15:

  1. Adam was created before Eve.
  2. Therefore, a woman may not have authority over a man.
  3. Therefore, a woman may not teach in the church.

Since the 1960s, the LCMS has with increasingly consistency argued in its adopted position papers that the conclusion (#3) follows from the first premise (#1) even while denying the second step (#2). Under the assumption that Paul made a valid argument, what should Step 2 be replaced with to make the logic valid? In other words, how would Step 3 follow from Step 1 without considering Step 2? That is exactly what is missing in the current LCMS exegesis.

Since the LCMS no longer has any credible rationale for its refusal to ordain women as pastors, its practice is left vulnerable to attack.

The argument from the masculinity of the Father and the Groom

Prof. William C. Weinrich attempted to fill the breach by proposing that since pastors represent Christ when they teach his word and since Christ was a man, the Son of the Father, it follows that it is fitting that only men serve as pastors (“‘It is not Given to Women to Teach’: A Lex in Search of a Ratio,” Concordia Theological Seminary Press, Ft. Wayne, 1993, esp. pp. 28-31). Other theologians bearing the Lutheran name also hold this “Christological view of the ministry” (John F. Brug, 2009, The Ministry of the Word, NPH, pp. 316-331). Weinrich explained, “In the context of the pastoral office a male pastor remains the apt representative of the Father’s grace whereby all, male and female alike, hear the words of Christ and become the Bride of the Groom” (pp. 29-30).

That is eerily recognizable as a version of the male-representative defense of the papacy’s uncategorically barring of women from the priesthood:

  • “The Church has recognised that only those who have received a calling to serve by acting in the person of Christ can be ordained. The priest, therefore, must be a man because he represents a man, the God-Man: Jesus Christ. By his ordination, a priest acts in the very person of Christ the Head, who is the Bridegroom of His Bride, the Church” (“Why not Women Priests”  — accessed 21 December 2014)
  • “The church is the bride of Christ, and presbyters and bishops represent Christ to the church; women cannot represent the bridegroom” (Arthur A. Vogel, “Christ, Revelation, and the Ordination of Women,” in Towards a New Theology of Ordination: Essays on the Ordination of Women — accessed 21 December 2014)
  • “John Paul II places the inherent differences between men and women within the context of ‘an order of love’ rather than ‘an order of creation’ . . . Why can’t we have spiritual fathers (priests) and spiritual mothers (priestesses)? The answer is one that feminists do not like to hear . . . namely, that the priest is an icon of Christ and acts in persona Christi at the altar and in the confessional. In 1976 the Vatican issued Inter Insignores or “Declaration on the Admission of Women to the Ministerial Priesthood.” As this document says, we cannot ignore the fact that Christ is a man. He is the bridegroom; the Church is his bride. This nuptial mystery is proclaimed throughout the Old and New Testaments. One must utterly disregard the importance of this symbolism for the economy of salvation in order to make an argument for women’s ordination. There are actions “in which Christ himself, the author of the Covenant, the Bridegroom and Head of the Church, is represented.” At these times, Christ’s role (this is the original sense of the word persona) must be taken by a man. This is especially true in the case of the Eucharist, when Christ is exercising his ministry of salvation” (Jennifer Ferrara, in “Ordaining Women: Two Views,” First Things, April 2003, accessed 22 December 2014).
  • “If Christ-by his free and sovereign choice, clearly attested to by the Gospel and by the Church’s constant Tradition-entrusted only to men the task of being an “icon” of his countenance as “shepherd” and “bridegroom” of the Church through the exercise of the ministerial priesthood, this in no way detracts from the role of women, or for that matter from the role of the other members of the Church who are not ordained to the sacred ministry, since all share equally in the dignity proper to the “common priesthood” based on Baptism” (“Letter of Pope John Paul II to Women,” John Paul II, Vatican, 29 June 1995, Libreria Editrice Vaticana — accessed 21 December 2014).

Doctrinal errors connected to the male-representative argument

Followed consistently, that line of reasoning—that the literal maleness of the pastor is necessary for adequately representing the male Christ—must conclude that all male believers are literally feminized in their relationship with Christ, as occurs to some extent in bridal mysticism. Such sublimated sexuality has no support from the biblical texts portraying certain aspects of God’s covenant with his people in terms of betrothal and marriage (e.g., Hosea 1-2; Ephesians 5:21ff). Rather, its roots lie in Augustine’s Caritas-synthesis of the Eros motif of ancient Platonism, gnosticism, and Origin with the Agapē motif of apostolic Christianity, Irenaeus, and the Lutheran Reformation (Anders Nygren, 1982, Agape and Eros, University of Chicago Press). Regardless of how widespread Caritas’s contempt of women has become, it has no place in the church of the Augsburg Confession.

Weinrich’s attempted solution creates another serious problem in its denial of the confessional Lutheran doctrine of church and ministry as opposed to the doctrine held by the papacy. According to Ephesians 4:11, pastors indeed represent Christ, serving as his gifts to the church, not as mere representatives of the church. The New Testament also teaches that they do so not because they are his exclusive representatives in the service of the word but rather because they are spokesmen of the church, which represents Christ in obedience to his commands to proclaim the gospel in word and sacrament. The church is the communion of all believers, not only pastors or even a confusing mix of pastors and laity, much less an organization. According to the Gospels and Peter’s first epistle, every believer, male or female, is a priest called to announce the good news of God’s saving deeds as a sent representative of Christ himself. One way believers do that is by choosing pastors from their midst to teach the gospel and administer the sacraments as their representative. Once called to the public ministry, the pastor continues to represent Christ as a priest, but now also as a representative of other priests, no longer only as an individual. In short, pastors publicly represent Christ through the church because it consists of the women as well as the men who represent Christ originally. Since Christ found it fitting that believing women represent him, delivering the gospel message in his name, Weinrich’s reasoning to the contrary is uncanny from the Lutheran perspective.

Thus, the male-representative argument of Weinrich and the papacy has unsettling connections to two grave errors: the semi-pagan Caritas synthesis and its historically related view of church and ministry.

Back to Paul’s simple argument

The reason Paul did not allow women to teach the congregation has nothing to do with the supposed unfitness of female teachers to represent the male Christ. Since Paul was not issuing a new ceremonial law or other legal regulation in 1 Timothy 2:11-15, his directive cannot be grasped without a clear understanding of his supporting argument.

The context and Greek grammar of v. 12 together suggest that “man” serves as the object not only of “to have authority over” but also of “to teach” (G. W. Knight, The Pastoral Epistles: A Commentary on the Greek Text, Kindle location 2487; T. R. Schreiner, “An Interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:9-15,” Women in the Church: an Analysis and Application of 1 Timothy 2:9-15, Kindle location 2252). In that case, the clause may be accurately translated, “I do not permit a woman to teach a man or to have authority over a man,” as is made clear by the Complete Jewish Bible, the Easy-to-Read Version, the New Life Version, and the New Living Translation, quoted above. That Paul specifically prohibited teaching men as opposed to representing Christ is clear in the whole structure of the tightly connected argument, from the submissive learning of the women in v. 11 to the differences between Adam and Eve in vv. 13-15 (Mark Braun,1981, “An Exegesis Of I Timothy 2:11-15 And Its Relation To The CHE Statement: ‘The Role Of Man And Woman According To Holy Scripture’”). The problem with Paul’s argument is not a lack of clarity but rather the sharp conflict between its conclusion and values in current Western culture.

In conclusion, there is no need to search for a rationale for Paul’s statements on the roles of women, much less to find one in the assumed propriety of having male teachers as the sole representatives of a male Bridegroom. Believers already have the simple word of Scripture. Paul stated his rationale in plain language. It is not lost.

Acknowledgments

Constructive criticism from Rolf Preus and David Jay Webber is gratefully acknowledged.

Should New Testament commands be obeyed as new laws?

Since everything a Christian is required to do is already in the moral law as summarized in the Ten Commandments and as revealed at least to some extent in natural law, the New Testament issues no new laws, ceremonial or otherwise. The New Testament instead proclaims freedom from the law as a tyrant without abrogating the moral law, which it applies to specific cases.

Christ’s commands are not legal in character. For example, in the Sermon on the Mount, Christ pointed out that the ancient prohibitions of murder and adultery had always condemned hatred and lust. Rather than issuing new laws, he commanded the oral and visible proclamation of the gospel and freely gave apostles, evangelists, pastors, prophets, etc. (Matthew 28:18-20; Ephesians 4:11).

Nor can legal regulations be found among the numerous directives in the Pauline epistles. The fact that Paul gave specific instructions on the qualifications of deacons (1 Timothy 3:8-13), on head coverings (1 Corinthians 11:2-16), on appointing presbyters (Titus 1:5), and on Sunday collections (1 Corinthians 16:2) does not mean those instructions are new rules binding in all circumstances (on 1 Timothy 3, see A. Pieper, “Are There Legal Regulations in the New Testament?,” pp. 7-8). Rather, they are inspired applications of timeless wisdom to the current church setting.

Similarly, Paul did not give any new regulation when writing to Timothy about the role of women but rather appealed to the order of creation. Any conclusions drawn from what Paul said are only binding if they can be found in the moral law. For Paul did not appeal to his own authority in 1 Timothy 2:11-15 or any new regulation but instead to the creation account of Genesis 2-3. For example, 1 Timothy 2:14 is readily understood as an application of Genesis 3:17 (M. Braun (1981) “An Exegesis Of I Timothy 2:11-15 And Its Relation To The CHE Statement: ‘The Role Of Man And Woman According To Holy Scripture,’” p. 11).

In fact, Timothy could have learned from the Pentateuch not only what Paul said about the role of women but also what he said about paying elders who govern well (1 Timothy 5:17-19). The cases are similar in that the specific instructions are relevant applications of the will of God already revealed. Any interpretations of those instructions that do not follow from the Pentateuch go beyond what Paul actually argued.

For example, the contention that it is not fitting that females speak on behalf of a male Christ (W. C. Weinrich, “‘It is not Given to Women to Teach’: A Lex in Search of a Ratio,” Concordia Theological Seminary Press, Ft. Wayne, 1993) has absolutely no support from Paul. Rather, it reflects a papal form of the ancient Eros piety and conflicts with what the New Testament says about church and ministry. Recognizing the non-legislative nature of the New Testament can prevent such extreme positions on the ministry of the word.

3 January 2015. Hyperlink updated 6 July 2016.