Women in authority

Say a Christian woman has a higher position than a Christian man in a job. Is this wrong?


Hi @Lbboothroyd that’s such an interesting question, thanks for asking! :grinning: May I just ask first of all why you might think it could be wrong? Do you feel it goes against scripture in some way? I’m asking this to get a better idea on how I might offer a helpful answer. :blush:


Thanks for the reply! Some of Paul’s teachings make me question things like this when he says a woman shall not have authority over a man.


When you ask that question I think of people like Lydia, a seller of purple fabric, and the woman of 2 John (who many think of as Lydia), and Junia(s) who is actually referred to as an apostle. It is fairly clear these women were in positions of authority and were single. Lydia would have had men working for her throughout Eastern Mediterranean. And the woman of 2 John is actually in charge of a home church and had men come to speak there.
Women are considered equals to men throughout the New Testament and the only sanctions against them being over men is within the operation of the Church particularly when a husband and wife are present together. However, even that can be challenged Scripturally. See Gal 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. The understanding that women should not be in authority over men is from taking Ephesians 5:22&ff out of context of the letter. Note that Eph 5:21 says we should be subject to one another. Another issue is that the New Testament concept of subject and submissiveness is not what we identify with those words in the English language today. It is a description of The Son’s relationship to The Father in The Trinity. That is The Son submits to The Father but is no less God. Reference to The Creed of Athanasius.


I’ve spent some time thinking and praying about this, and find that it opens up so many more questions :grinning:. I hope it gives you some things to reflect on even if I haven’t provided a complete answer.

What is God’s plan for men and women in the church and in the workplace? Are these roles they play to have the same standards applied to both arenas? My heart breaks when either men or women are not enabled to live out their Godly roles as they were designed for. We are familiar with discussions of women being squashed and suppressed in church and social history. The kickback of this is that women now strive to not only be equal to men but somehow I see the demasculation of men take place in society. I think we have to constantly come back to God’s standard and ask ourselves if we’re doing this right, which I’m sure is why you’ve asked your question.

In terms of women in authority, @dan0647 has shared some good Biblical examples of this. Obviously, the term ‘authority’ in a workplace could refer to a number of positions from overall head/boss to manager, deputy, line, department etc so are you asking about women in any role of authority or just being overall boss? I ask this, because I know of Christians who are happy to have women in leadership roles in the church as long as there is a male in overall authority. What about Christian female politicians - is it right to be under their authority?

In ‘God’s Design for Women’ by Sharon James, she outlines how any of us, whether men or women, need to make sure our motives for working are right. If we are in a position of authority and are focussed on achieving significance, position, or independence then our motives our wrong. I don’t think anyone would enjoy serving under an ungodly authority regardless of whether it’s a male or female in the position.

You might find this article below helpful. It looks at Paul’s wish for women to not preach in church and what this means for us in reality. Although your question wasn’t about women preaching, it might help you as you consider different types of authority and what Paul might be saying, after all preaching is a role of authority. Is Paul ruling out any role of authority for women? Hopefully from Dan’s examples, you will see that is not the case. The Bible is full of examples of women in Godly authority and Paul’s restrictions are very limited to specific situations - there’s plenty more articles from The Gospel Coalition on these subjects.

One final thought, Romans 13:1-2 says:

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment

I include this, because it may help anyone who finds them self under an authority that goes against their convictions to trust God for the situation. If you are able to respect the person in authority over you, even if you don’t agree with them, I believe that is the right heart attitude even if it’s not ideal. This passage refers to rulership, but I believe we can take the principle and apply it to the workplace.

Ultimately, if that person is using their giftings to demonstrate Godly leadership, and if they allow you to use your Godly giftings in your work sphere, I believe God can bless that situation.

I heard once something that I have always remembered: Heresy is a Truth taken to far and error comes from lack of understanding. I say this because this is a subject that I have contended with others about and wrestled with most of my Christian Life. When I wrestle with something I like to go back to first principles and maybe this will help.

  1. Is a woman ever put in authority over a man in Scripture? The answer is yes. The most acknowledged role of a woman over a man is a mother raising her children specifically her sons. Even Jesus was subject to his parents (not parent) Luke 2:51. So it is wrong to say that a man is never put under the authority of a woman.
  2. That said what about as adults? The book of Esther is replete with such action: Esther to Hathach (Es 4:9-10); Esther to Mordecai (Es 4:15-19); Also in John 2 when Mary, His Mother, told the servants to do what He says; and in Acts 21:9 concerning the 4 virgin prophetesses (we know from the Didache that a prophet or prophetess had a authority and commanded people in the early Church)
  3. We also know that in 1 Cor 14:34 & ff. that Paul by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit say women should be silent in Church along with other references to women being silent.
  4. Finally the big one Ephesians 5:22 & ff. where women are told to be subject to their husbands.

On face value The Holy Spirit seems to be saying that women have and have not authority over men particularly in the Church which we know is contradiction and God does not contradict Himself. So there has to be something more going on here and usually that means we are not seeing things in context.

  1. Corinthians is dealing with a society that was very wealthy and where women wore their wealth. Additionally Aphrodite, the goddess of love (and sex) was the protector of Corinth with a huge temple to her there in which temple prostitution was practiced. Understanding this 1 Cor 14 is separating Christian Women from that of women in the culture and I would note that most of the sanctions on women in the New Testament are stated to do this. Consequently they are being stated to lift women from sexual objects to equals of men.
  2. Ephesian 5 is specifically talking about marriage and its image of Christ and His Church. It is this image of Christ and His Church that brings about the statement: Wives be subject to your Husbands. Again this subject/submissive statement is not to make wives inferior, but reflect the same subject/submission that the Son has toward the Father in the Trinity. Because of this high purpose of Christian Marriage, wives are told to be subject to their husbands throughout the New Testament.

Conclusion: There is no sanction in Scripture about Christian Women being in authority over Christian Men except for two cases.

  1. A Christian wife should never be in authority over her husband in public as it disrupts the image of Christ and His Church. (I have traveled the world and in all cultures the wife definitely exercises authority over her husband in private from Clean up for dinner to Take out the trash.
  2. Within the Church Organization it is less clear but the Pastor - Congregation relationship is again one of Christ to His Church. Thus if the Head Pastor is not a man it could be interpreted as being against God’s Will. I say “could” because it is also a spiritual principle that God will use a woman if no man steps up. Additionally we see in 2 John that a woman operating and in authority over a home Church is only advised and not sanctioned against.

Final Note on Ephesians 5 Something to Consider: In the Christian Family a major role of husband and wife is to raise their children in the Lord. It has been often written about and accepted even in secular circles that the children see father as God and they learn who God is by the actions of their father and what God’s relationship to them is. What is not written about is role of Mom as the Church in which she teaches them how they are to act toward God in submission and what the children’s relationship should be toward God. Understanding this is why God takes marriage very seriously and I believe He holds it as the pinnacle of human relationship. It also gives a deeper understanding why God hates divorce.

Hope this helps. Forgive my bloviating :grinning:

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