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QA at the foot of the cross-Authority and false teaching
If women must submit to men in the church as those to whom God gives authority, what defense or protection does she have if she’s concerned about false teaching in her church? What if her husband and friends are all unbelievers? What should she do if she cannot ask them to help raise her concerns?
It would be helpful to remember that all human authority in this life is “borrowed” authority. The only ultimate authority in the world is God’s. In his wisdom, he “lends” a bit of that authority to those whom he places in positions of responsibility over others. As Jesus reminded Pilate, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above” (John 19:11).
Therefore, whenever those exercising such “borrowed” authority seek to command us to do or believe what God in his ultimate authority forbids—or forbid us to do or believe what God commands—in that specific situation those exercising such “borrowed” authority forfeit the authority God loaned them.
God doesn’t place us into contradictory situations. If he says one thing for us to believe or do, and those in positions of authority say another, then the path is clear. We join the apostles who boldly stated to their ecclesiastical authorities: “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).
This principle applies equally to men and women. Although a woman will recognize the God-given authority entrusted to men in her congregation, she’s not bound to recognize their authority in any matter in which they teach contrary to Scripture.
Consider what Luther did as he stood before both governmental and ecclesiastical authorities at Worms. He certainly recognized their positions of authority over him. Yet, when they commanded him to retract what he was convinced were biblical teachings, he refused.
At such times, even if a Christian woman has no man in the congregation to serve as a faithful “head” for her, her respect for the ultimate authority of God in his Word would give her the right—in fact the duty—to point out that error to those teaching it.
The example of Priscilla in Acts 18:24 is instructive. Now, Priscilla did have a Christian husband (Aquila). What is more, the person exercising teaching authority in the church (Apollos) wasn’t so much guilty of false doctrine as a lack of information. Yet notice that Priscilla does participate in explaining “the way of God more adequately” (Acts 18:26) to Apollos. So also a Christian woman today may find herself in a situation in which she must seek to explain more adequately God’s Word to someone who typically speaks that Word authoritatively to her.
Author: Richard L. Gurgel
Volume 91, Number 11
Issue: November 2004
Volume 91, Number 11
Issue: November 2004
Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2009
Permission is granted for a single personal copy of an article. Additional copyright information is available at Northwestern Publishing House.
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