Can a Woman Biblically Teach or Preach in the Church?

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Edit: I am reposting this article in light of the recent comments made by John MacArthur to Beth Moore to “go home”. While my position on women preaching in the church is clear, John MacArthur’s comments are demeaning and degrading, and there is no place for that in the body of Christ.

A Christian leader in his position has a responsibility to show honor and respect, even in the face of disagreement. This is not how Jesus would have responded.

“If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” Romans 12:18


John Piper’s article Is There a Place for Female Professors at Seminary has raised quite a lot of debate in recent weeks.

I have read a lot of responses to it, both in favor of his view and in opposition to it; and I would like to now add my own voice on this subject and offer why I believe the way I do about women in the ministry and whether or not a woman can biblically teach or preach.

The role of women in Christian ministry has long been a matter of debate. The defining line of gender roles in the church become more blurred with each passing year. The question is, can a woman biblically teach or preach in the church? #alittlerandr #womeninministry #women #genderroles #preach #church

In his article, or rather transcript of his podcast, John Piper clearly illustrates that if Scripture clearly states that a woman is not to hold a senior pastoral position in a church, how then is it biblical for her to mentor and train senior pastors?

He has a point!

And I don’t believe that most of those in opposition to his view have an issue with his point. It is logical. If the one is forbidden, how can the second not be forbidden also.

Those who disagree with John Piper don’t disagree with the point, they disagree with the premise of his point: That Scripture forbids a woman to hold the office of senior pastor.

And that is where I want to focus my article today.

Can a woman biblically teach or preach in the church?

While those who state that Paul’s admonitions were cultural or meant only for that particular congregation, we must take his words within the context of the whole of Scripture.

Scripture must always be judged against Scripture.

The lack of a role model for girls and the older woman training the younger in womanhood has left three generations of young women adrift in the stormy sea of “the great society.” #alittlerandr #womeninministry #women #genderroles #preach #church

There is great danger when you judge Scripture, or attempt to interpret it, culturally because Scripture does not submit to culture. It is timeless and its truths are meant for all time.

The only portions of Scripture that we are not obligated to are the portions that Jesus fulfilled by His sacrifice.

Jesus Himself said, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.” Matthew 5:17-18

It is very clear: Jesus didn’t come to do away with the Law. He came to fulfill the portions of the Law that enabled a Holy God to look down on sinful mankind. His death, burial, and resurrection did what the Law was incapable of doing – removing their sin.

But that is all that Jesus’ sacrifice did.

Political correctness; the demand for tolerance; and the Me-Too movement are shaping the culture and the teaching of the Church, instead of the Church teaching them. #alittlerandr #womeninministry #women #genderroles #preach #church

It didn’t do away with the Law entirely. Jesus says here that not even one punctuation mark will disappear from the Law until all is fulfilled.

And when all is fulfilled, earth will cease to exist and we will be with Him in the New Jerusalem.

And since that clearly hasn’t happened yet, we still bow the knee to Scripture in everything!

With that foundation laid, let us look at what the entirety of Scripture says about women.

I have two fears while delving into this topic:

  • That a spirit of feminism has infiltrated the church to nearly the same degree as it rules in the world, and therefore many women do not have ears to hear what the Spirit says to the church regarding a woman’s biblical role.
  • That many people approach Scripture knowing that the culture in that day demeaned women as a species, and through that prism want to interpret Scripture with a measure of cynicism.

This latter point only proves how today’s church truly does not believe that all Scripture is literally God-breathed. If we truly believed that the Holy Spirit spoke into the ears of chosen men who penned down every word He said, then we would know that the Holy Spirit is not given to cultural sins and vices, and therefore the subject of submission is not meant to demean women, but protect them.

We must set aside our filters when reading God’s Word and accept all of it as the final authority for our lives.

Therefore, when we look at a woman’s role within the context of all of Scripture, we see a clear delegation of roles, a clear chain of command.

The role of women in Christian ministry has long been a matter of debate. The defining line of gender roles in the church become more blurred with each passing year. The question is, can a woman biblically teach or preach in the church? #alittlerandr #womeninministry #women #genderroles #preach #church

Man was created first, then woman. Sin entered through Adam, not Eve. Women are to be submitted to their own husbands, not men to their wives.

Also, in the Old Testament, fathers and husbands could release their daughters/wives from a foolish vow upon hearing of it. But women did not have that same authority over their fathers/husbands.

Scripture very clearly lays out this role of authority, and within that context we look at the words of Paul.

“Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church.” 1 Corinthians 14:34

“And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.” 1 Timothy 2:12

Scripture is clear, a woman is not to teach a man because it is outside the role of authority that God established from the beginning of time.

The Church will never correctly understand the role of women in ministry without a clear understanding, acceptance, and obedience to God’s design of godly manhood and womanhood. #alittlerandr #womeninministry #women #genderroles #preach #church

When Paul says in 1 Corinthians 14 “And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home…” he points back to his instruction to the wives in Ephesians 5:22, “Wives, submit to your own husband as to the Lord.”

Again, Paul is confirming God’s established role as husband being the head of his home, the leader of his home, and the woman being submitted to him and learning from him.

But does this mean that a woman has no area of ministry in the church?

Sadly, when it comes to this topic, a lot of cynicism starts to come out among Christians, particularly among women.

The victim card gets played, and they bemoan the fact that their only role is in the nursery looking after children, as if God is a chauvinistic deity that only wants them barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen.

No where in Scripture do we see that.

In fact, Scripture clearly illustrates that women do have a role and function in ministry that is not limited to the nursery.

“And it shall come to pass afterward That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your old men shall dream dreams, Your young men shall see visions. And also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.” Joel 2:28-29

Notice that daughters will prophesy. This passage was quoted by Peter in Acts 2.

In Made by Design, Dr. Hackett uses biblical text to show how Jesus chose to destroy societal norms to honor women in His day and how His example, both supported what the Bible, as a whole, says about women and gave women a valuable role in kingdom work. #foundational #women #ministry #leadership #books #bible

All throughout the New Testament we see instructions for believers to encourage and edify one another in the gifts, and none of these instructions are gender-specific, meaning that both women and men are encouraged to operate in the gifts of the Spirit and thereby edifying the body.

Paul also says in 1 Corinthians 11:5, “But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, for that is one and the same as if her head were shaved.” 1 Corinthians 11:5

Meaning that women can pray and prophesey in the church, but they must do so under authority. I would say that first they must be under the authority of their husband, and then the pastor and elders.

In Titus we read, “…the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things—that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.” Titus 2:3-5 emphasis mine

The older women are to teach the younger women to have good character in their homes.

We also see examples in the New Testament of women having roles of ministry in the church:

“So he began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.” Acts 18:26

Apollos was taught by Aquila and his wife Priscilla “in the way of God more accurately”; so Priscilla must have a good understanding of the Scriptures, but didn’t teach Apollos alone, but together with her husband. She was under authority, but still used mightily by God.

In Acts 21:9 we see that Philip had 4 virgin daughters who prophesied.

But what about other women in the Bible who were leaders?

This is an argument that is often brought up by those who would want to defend women in ministry.

  • Deborah
  • Esther
  • Jesus’ female disciples
  • Women that Paul named in the New Testament
  • Galatians 3:28

When we look at these women in the context of Scripture, and not try to make them fit our own philosophies, we understand that these examples don’t contradict Paul’s instructions or defend women in church leadership roles, they compliment Paul’s instructions and the Scripture role of authority that we see all throughout the Bible.

Deborah

The story of Deborah in the Bible wasn’t mean to defend women in roles of leadership, but to illustrate what happens when men refuse to rise up and take their God-given roles in faith and trust in the Lord.

The children of Israel were in bondage once again to Canaan, and cried out to the Lord to deliver them. Barak was the commander of the army of Israel.

There is no question Scripture teaches a woman may have ministry, but that ministry is to be within the order of God’s original design of womanhood and authority structure. #alittlerandr #womeninministry #women #genderroles #preach #church

Deborah called for him and reminded him of the Lord’s words and promise to deliver the Cannanite army into their hands, but Barak was hesitant to go without Deborah.

As a consequence of his lack of obedience to God and trust in the Lord, the honor went to Deborah and not to Barak.

The story doesn’t elevate women, but is a warning to men to rise up and seize their role given to them by Almighty God.

Esther

Esther was mightily used by God to deliver her people from annihilation by King Ahasuerus who had been hoodwinked by his right-hand man, Haman.

But it’s worthy to note here that she didn’t march down Main Street and lead her people in a rebellion against the king, she operated in submission to the king by approaching him in humility, honoring his role as king, and through the proper channels of authority was able rescue her people from destruction.

Jesus’ female disciples and women that Paul named in the New Testament

Jesus always honored women.

It was one of the many things that made him stand out in the culture in which He lived. In a time when women were demeaned, Jesus honored women. We see that in the story of the woman at the well. Everything about this story screams that she was a woman dishonored by those around her: a woman, a Samaritan, an immoral woman.

She was the woman everyone went out of their way to avoid. Except Jesus.

Jesus had many disciples….just as He does today. However, this is in no way a weak link in chain of command set forth in Scripture. One may be a disciple of Jesus Christ all their life and still remain under authority.

And then we get to the argument that Paul named a handful of women in his letters who were in ministry.

If you carefully read those who make this argument, you see much speculation. These arguments are filled with words as “could be”, “may have been”, and “it seems”.

In fact, no one is certain if some of the names mentioned in Paul’s letters were male or female.

And whenever we encounter this lack of clarity we must remember two things:

  • If the Bible isn’t clear about a matter, we must not create theology around it.
  • If the Bible isn’t clear about a matter, we must measure it against the whole of Scripture and leave it in that context.

Because the Bible isn’t clear if some of these names mentioned by Paul were male or female, we must avoid the temptation to make theological statements or create theological beliefs that contradict the rest of Scripture.

Galatians 3:28

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28

The use of this verse to support the idea that women can hold pastoral offices in the church is a classic example of “proof-texting”.

Proof texting means that you take a verse or passage out of the context in which is was written and attribute meaning to it that was not originally given.

When you look at Galatians 3 in its entirety, you see that in the verses preceding verse 28, Paul is talking about the law and faith in Jesus Christ:

“Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.

Then we get to verse 29

“And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

Paul says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”, referring to the fact that God saves all mankind equally, Jew, Greek, slave, free, male and female. And in saving us, we are all equally heirs to the promise: the Holy Spirit.

This has nothing to do with our roles in church ministry, but everything to do with our inheritance in Christ!

The discussion of women in ministry is a reminder for us to look at Scripture as one body, as a whole, and not pull out individual passages to support a philosophy we want it to support.

Do women have a role in church ministry?

Yes they do. A very important role in church ministry!

That role, however, does not include senior pastoral ministry, authoritative roles over men, and the regular and ongoing teaching and instructing of men in the church.

I believe that part of the inward beauty of a woman who reflects Christ is the ability to be content in the role God has designed for her.


For further reading, I want to recommend the book Made by Design by Dr. F Dean Hackett from Foundational.

You can get it today on Amazon in Paperback or on Kindle.

This is a very biblically sound book on the role of women in ministry and leadership.

For more details go to Made by Design or click the image below:

In Made by Design, Dr. Hackett uses biblical text to show how Jesus chose to destroy societal norms to honor women in His day and how His example, both supported what the Bible, as a whole, says about women and gave women a valuable role in kingdom work. #foundational #women #ministry #leadership #books #bible


 

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Rosilind
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24 Comments

  1. Amen. We are not on this planet to be stupid. But we do have to obey Gods word.
    As in one Tim 2 and 3 the rules are clear for men and women in church. In 2 tim 1 you can see that women teach their boys. We have a important job to do. We have to give the gospel to our kids.

    1. Yes – it is very clear in the Word. If we want to see God’s blessing in our lives and congregations, we must be willing to obey the Word in every part — even the culturally difficult ones!

    1. I am honored that you want to share these words. I am also grateful that your church is talking about this! We need more churches to address these issues from Scripture!

  2. This was a great article. I agree 100% with your thoughts on this subject. I do not feel at all ‘ slighted” or ‘cheated” I know there is a place for me in my church and I strive to thrive in it. You are also correct about feminism seeping its’ way into the church today. In our homes and churches, there has to order, a plan to reduce confusion. God gave us the plan and at the end of the day, that plan gives men AND women freedom to be in the position to bless our marriages and our ministries in the roles intended. It is when we try to do things our way that we run into trouble. I admit I do at times struggle with submission at home but I do strive to obey God in that. I do not feel the least bit slighted or that I am less because the Lord said the man is the head of the house. I again, feel a great freedom in that. We must take scripture at its WORD. We must realize the Lord wants only what is best for us and in the end, it is to follow his Word. The Lord will deal with our hearts in this matter as HE always does when we turn to Him. It’s okay to tell Him we struggle with this or anything else. Let Him change your heart which then changes your mind which then changes your life.

    Keep the Faith,
    Marie

    1. Amen! Yes, I think when we stop listening to the feminist voices telling us we should feel slighted or cheated and start listening to God’s Word telling us that we are cherished and protected, we’ll look at this issue in a whole new way. Obedience to the Word always brings blessing!

  3. I don’t believe women are to preach in the church but I do know that during pioneer times when there was no man who would step up to the pulpit and preach then God sent women to fill those pulpits. That said when there finally was a man who accepted the call to preach in these remote areas the women stepped down.

  4. Im glad you approached this. Fewer people are accepting God ordained roles. In the two different churches we have attended one baptist one really modern i guess is the only way i can call it. In both they have male senior pastors but, they also have worship teams who have either a male or female in church and they take the lead in guiding the songs or little explanations until the main speaker or pastor gets up to give their talk/sermon.
    I do find it difficult to accept when the female leaders say prayers over the congregation as there are men present including the pastor, I dont believe they should be doing that especially ,(and this is MY personal veiw), with very short hair or with no headcovering on.
    I wont go into why I beleive in the headcovering because that is a separate topic.
    I continue to go to church though,(currently the baptist one only), because I would be hard pressed to find a church that Fits my criteria of what a church should be doing According to scripture.

    1. Yes – in those times we find a church that we can mostly agree with and then serve there. We all see through a glass darkly and we are all growing in our understanding of His Word – so it’s wonderful when with God’s grace we give grace to our pastors and church leaders.

      1. This is a beautiful article by a woman who lives what she teaches. It is biblical sound truth and written with respect and honor for women and our Lord Jesus Christ. Thank you, Roz!!

  5. GREAT post!

    Your own submission to the Lord and His Word was evident throughout the article. And I believe you handled the Word of truth rightly. Well done.

    Thank you for your courage in speaking out on this topic – I agree wholeheartedly with you. The Bible is clear, and it is the authority we submit to – not the culture, not selfish ideas or “maybes”.

    A-MEN!

    Will be sharing this on Pinterest, too.

    Really, great post. Love how in-depth yet clear it was.

    Thank you for writing (and publishing!) it. I pray that God will bless you for your faithfulness to Him, and that He will give you strength and grace to endure any persecution that may arise from people who read it and disagree with or disrespect the Word.

    1. Thank you so much for your words of encouragement. I truly believe that in this environment and culture we live in today, we have to remember that culture bows the knee to God’s Word, not the other way around God’s Word – every word…..as Jesus said, ever “jot and tittle” is still relevant today. His Word is living and timeless…and above all, unchanging!

  6. A women’s bible study group I was in was studying the role of women in the church over 20 years ago. As part of the study we were to look into the background and culture of the day. My job for the week was to speak with a rabbi at the local synagogue to learn from him what the Jewish view of women was. I was surprised. It was not what I expected, nor as you have surmised above. I would encourage you to speak to a few rabbis on this topic. Of course, the Jewish people and society at large very likely had opinions as varied as society and believers today.

    1. I have done a lot of research into this and spoken to others who have researched it even more than I have. Many leading commentaries agree that this was the attitude of the Jewish man toward women in their culture.

  7. Rosilind, you encourage and affirm me as both woman and beginning scribe for God. Thanks for helping me to understand better. I was at first a product of America’s feminist movement, not knowing yet the Truth, Who would set me free. The Lord wants me writing, but I never, ever want to bow my knee to cultural views or my own deceptions in ignorance. I suspect that as I give Christ the preeminence in all love, humility and obedience, Holy Spirit will police my yielded heart and pen. I always learn from you as teacher/preacher of God’s Word from your woman’s heart to mine.

    1. You are definitely not alone, my friend, in being a product of the American feminist movement. I think most (nearly all) who have grown up in America for the past 100 years are as well. It is as much a part of our culture as breathing. It takes a great miracle of God to completely root it out of our thinking. But the Word of God is powerful enough to change that feminist way of thinking. I love it that you say the Lord wants you writing – write, my sister! Let the Holy Spirit speak through you!

  8. Great article. I believe that there are many various roles women can have, even in church. I also believe it’s not wrong for a woman to teach or speak to a crowd with men in it. There is much to be learned from women. But I do believe that there are two major positions that God reserves specifically for the men, not the women: Head Pastor and head elders. I think the Bible specifies that these roles are for men. And I do not feel wronged by that, as a woman.

    In fact, I think if we women really understood the incredible responsibility that comes with those roles then we wouldn’t be so quick to covet them or try to fill them. (Personally, when I see a church that has a woman head-pastor, I do not trust that church to stick by what the Bible says in other areas either. More often than not, those are feminist-fueled, progressive churches that throw out a lot other things the Bible says that they don’t like.)

    But just because these top positions are forbidden for women, I do not think it means a woman can’t teach or hold other positions or be involved in church matters. They just can’t have those top positions of authority over a church. Just my opinion on this.

    1. I agree, the magnitude of spiritual responsibility in the pastoral role is more than we can actually comprehend. This is why James urged that we not all seek to be teachers, because being a biblical teacher carries with it great responsibility.

  9. Hi Rosalind, I admit I haven’t read any other opinions on this, nor all the comments on this thread. I have done many Beth Moore courses and have found them to be life changing. I’m just wondering, since Beth’s ministry is to women, does it go against scripture? She’s not placing herself in a role where she is teaching men?

    1. I think that a woman who teaches other women is entirely within the bibilical context of what God created women to be. In Titus we read Paul’s instructions that the older women are to teach the other younger women.

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