Why Deborah the Judge Would NOT Support Women in Church Leadership

This is a guest article written by my friend Michael White. It is in response to this

Deborah held the position of Judge in Israel at a time when there was no king in Israel and everyone did what was right in their own eyes (Judges 17:6). This is very similar to our politically correct pluralistic culture that we live in today in America.  We are often more concerned about pleasing the culture, and appearing fair in the cultures eyes, rather than honoring God or what His Word says (John 5:44, Gal 1:10). Israel had previously been delivered from the city of Hazor in Joshua’s time (Joshua 11:10), but the city had risen again (Judges 4) because of Israel’s disobedience. After the death of Ehud; Israel once again disobeyed until God raised up Deborah – a woman Judge.

Deborah wanted to obey the Word of the Lord fully rather than live in fear of the enemy around her and as such was not actually seeking any leadership role but asked Barak to lead. She was not interested in the gender debate that we currently are having in the US around what bathroom to use, or interested in the Feminist movement or even the empowerment of women, but rather she was taken up with the glory of God and obedience to His Word, for the deliverance of God’s people Israel. And when that Word was honored, God delivered His people from the bondage of the Canaanites in a powerful way.

God told Deborah that Barak would be the one to do this. Barak, in unbelief and cowardice, asked for Deborah to come along. God did eventually deliver Israel through Barak, despite his lack of faith, but not without a judgement. Deborah pronounced Judgement on Barak for asking her to accompany him along in the battle. The judgement was that a woman would get the credit for killing Sisera, instead of Barak, dishonoring him. Interestingly enough, Deborah was not the one to fulfill this but rather a woman named Jael. Jael was not in a leadership role at all and was not even an Israelite (Judges 4:9).  People love to use the example of Deborah but want to ignore what the scriptures actually teach in the story.  The fact that a woman, Jael, killed Sisera was actually an indictment from God on Barak for his cowardice and inability to obey God’s word.

Deborah is used as an argument for women in leadership in the local church. If we were to use this same argument from other Judges’ lives, in order to justify a leadership role in the present day church, we would justify an adulterer in church leadership, citing Samson’s example as a Judge; or an Idol worshiper, citing Gideon’s example. Deborah, thankfully, was a better example than those two men, but you can see the fallacy in this argument.

The order established, from the beginning, by God, with Adam and Eve was that the man was the head and woman was to submit to that headship. This headship principle became broken at the fall and the curse introduced a conflict between Man and Woman (Genesis 2, 3). This headship principle will eventually point to Christ our Head in the church in the NT as we are called to submit to Him as believers (Ephesians 5). [Editor’s note: according to scripture, Christ also submits to the Father, even though He is no less in being or essence to Him.]

So, what if Deborah had lived in our present day? What would she say about this present discussion? ? I believe Deborah would have wanted to see God’s word honored when it comes to the roles of men and women in church leadership. God has made these roles plain in the New Testament scriptures (1 Tim 2:11-15, 1Cor 14:34… and many more). Just as Deborah pronounced judgement on Barak for not obeying God’s word, she would have condemned the church’s push to disobey that same word. The word from the prophets was on equal footing with our Bible’s. Ultimately, as Christians we give up our rights at the foot of the cross, and instead of seeking our own position or place or even the place of some cause, we should be seeking to honor Jesus Christ and glorify him and follow the order He established in His Church.

This order was still future when Christ walked this earth (Matthew 16:18). So, to use Old Testament Scriptures to justify any order in the church, on any subject, weather gender roles or any other issue, is out of place given that this order was established by Jesus Christ’s design and laid out in the New Testament Epistles (but not until after his resurrection.) You will not find any instruction on Church order in the Old Testament. In fact, Ephesians tells us the Church itself was a “mystery” hidden from those saints not yet revealed until the time of the New Testament (Ephesians 3:1-6).

The Church is not supposed to look like the world. It is different and God has designed the Church to put on display his manifold wisdom to the universe (Ephesians 3:10), for the glory of his Son the Lord Jesus Christ. Men are commanded to fulfill their role as the head, as a type of Christ, not based on their abilities but based on God’s design. Jesus has done this by arranging the church, as the Father wishes, with gifts and offices (1 Cor 12:18, Timothy and Titus); in order to accomplish His aforementioned purpose, to bring glory to his Son Jesus. So it’s not actually about men or women but about the manifold wisdom of God being put on display.

The reason people are leaving the church in droves today is because there is nothing unique that is different from the world. As we refuse to fulfill our various roles, we, like Barak, are rejecting the Word of God. That should scare us. In reality, the NT only restricts women from teaching in authority over men in the church, and from holding the office of Elder or Deacon in the Church. (We can debate Deacon later.) It does not restrict women from any kind of leadership role outside the church. It’s interesting that no one talks about the restrictions put on men in the NT church. (Covering their heads, not assuming leadership too quickly, not being an elder if they have more than one wife, etc…) It’s really our culture that has focused on the role of women, specifically. Satan wants to take the focus off of Jesus and destroy the picture of the Son and his bride, the church.

The list of examples cited in the article are a straw men, taken out of context for two reasons. First, most of these women did not lead in their day or hold a position of leadership over men, so they would not have violated the OT example of headship or the NT teachings on church roles to begin with. Read the passages in context! Secondly, as already mentioned ,the church was not even formed until the time of the New Testament, so the NT Church roles are not even defined until the epistles (Matthew 16:18, Acts 2, Epistles). The requirements for various roles and structure are given by Jesus’s personal design (Matthew 16:18), and in the Epistles (1&2 Timothy, and Titus). So these great men and women of God in the Old Testament were used in various times in various ways but they were not part of church leadership, as it did not exist in their day. In the New Testament, we don’t see a single example of a woman occupying the office of Elder or Deacon, or teaching in authority from any early church pulpit. In fact, we have commands to the contrary from Jesus.

I am not against women being used in their gifting’s in many ways, or even women in leadership roles outside the church. I’m thankful that Deborah was used to deliver Israel and even “pep up” Barak’s courage a bit, and there are many women far more gifted than men in their ability in public speaking. I hope that many more women are used by God, and men too, for that matter, but if we are going to be men and women of God we must first obey what he has laid out in his word. The world is not amazed by the church becoming like them and championing their causes (Feminism or Gender neutrality.) They are going to be amazed when they see Christians, in an uncompromising way, follow what God says, (despite the culture around them being 180 degrees backwards) and submitting to Gods order. “Friendship with the world is enmity with God.” (James 4:4).

By Michael White


So, what do you think of Mike’s exhortation? Has he rightly understood God’s word?

This entry was posted in Christian Living, Guest Author and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Why Deborah the Judge Would NOT Support Women in Church Leadership

  1. This area of understanding in Scripture has been illuminated for Michael White. However, there is more to understanding the creative order and how it applies to the roles of men and woman in the church today than what Mr. White has presented here, and how it is related to the mystery spoke about by Paul in Ephesians 5:32. That said, In respect to women speaking, preaching or having authority over men in the church (1 Tim 2:12, and 1 Cor 14:34). Speaking does not imply that women can not talk to other members while at church, it means speaking to the church (body of Christ) in a similar manner as one might be considered preaching. In other words, women cannot be a guess speaker. Paul speaks these words by the power of the Holy Spirit, so we should obey them as if commanded by Christ. Anyone who does not obey these commands does not speak by the Spirit of the living God who is known through Jesus Christ. Furthermore, Paul by the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ has made it clear that “if anyone s inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God” (1 Cor 11:16). Look around and see how many congregation that claim to be Christians are in a fallen state. They follow the pattern of this world rather than being transformed by the renewal of their minds so that they might test and discern what is the will of God (Rom 12:2). Seeing a woman preaching or speaking from the pulpit is easily discernable if one has faith and truly believes; in such situations I urge you to walk away from this act of disobedience. And remember what Jesus said “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Paul’s instructions in this matter are Jesus commandments.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s