Women pastors / preachers? What does the Bible say about women in ministry?

Question: "Women pastors / preachers? What does the Bible say about women in ministry?"

There is perhaps not a more debated issue in the church today than the issue of women serving as pastors / preachers in ministry. As a result, it is very important to not view this issue as men versus women. There are women who believe that women should not serve as pastors and that the Bible places restrictions on the ministry of women - and there are men who believe that women can serve as preachers and that there are no restrictions on women in ministry. This is not an issue of chauvinism or discrimination. It is an issue of Biblical interpretation.

1 Timothy 2:11-12 proclaims, “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.” In the church, God assigns different roles to men and women. This is a result of the way mankind was created (1 Timothy 2:13) and the way in which sin entered the world (2 Timothy 2:14). God, through the Apostle Paul’s writing, restricts women from serving in roles of spiritual teaching authority over men. This precludes women from serving as pastors, which definitely includes preaching to, teaching, and having spiritual authority over men.

There are many "objections" to this view of women in ministry / women pastors. A common one is that Paul restricts women from teaching because in the first century, women were typically uneducated. However, 1 Timothy 2:11-14 nowhere mentions educational status. If education was a qualification for ministry, the majority of Jesus' disciples likely would not have been qualified. A second common objection is that Paul only restricted the Ephesian women from teaching (1 Timothy was written to Timothy, who was the pastor of the church in Ephesus). The city of Ephesus was known for its temple to Artemis, a false Greek / Roman goddess. Women were the authority in the worship of Artemis. However, the book of 1 Timothy nowhere mentions Artemis, nor does Paul mention Artemis worship as a reason for the restrictions in 1 Timothy 2:11-12.

A third common objection is that Paul is only referring to husbands and wives, not men and women in general. The Greek words in 1 Timothy 2:11-14 could refer to husbands and wives. However, the basic meaning of the words are men and women. Further, the same Greek words are used in verses 8-10. Are only husbands to lift up holy hands in prayer without anger and disputing (verse 8)? Are only wives to dress modestly, have good deeds, and worship God (verses 9-10)? Of course not. Verses 8-10 clearly refer to men and women in general, not only husbands and wives. There is nothing in the context that would indicate a switch to husbands and wives in verses 11-14.

Yet another frequent objection to this interpretation of women pastors / preachers is in relation to Miriam, Deborah, Huldah, Priscilla, Phoebe, etc. - women who held positions of leadership in the Bible. This objection fails to note some significant factors. In relation to Deborah, she was the only female judge amongst 13 male judges. In relation to Huldah, she was the only female prophet amongst dozens of male prophets mentioned in the Bible. Miriam's only connection to leadership was due to her being the sister of Moses and Aaron. The two most prominent women in the times of the Kings were Athaliah and Jezebel - hardly examples of godly female leadership.

In the Book of Acts, chapter 18, Priscilla and Aquila are presented as faithful ministers for Christ. Priscilla's name is mentioned first, likely indicating that she was more "prominent" in ministry than her husband. However, Priscilla is nowhere described as participating in a ministry activity that is in contradiction to 1 Timothy 2:11-14. Priscilla and Aquila brought Apollos into their home and they both discipled him, explaining the Word of God to him more accurately (Acts 18:26).

In Romans 16:1, even if Phoebe is considered a "deaconess" instead of a "servant" - that does not indicate that Phoebe was a teacher in the church. "Able to teach" is given as a qualification for elders, but not deacons (1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:6-9). Elders / bishops / deacons are described as "husband of one wife," "a man whose children believe," and "men worthy of respect." In addition, in 1 Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:6-9, masculine pronouns are used exclusively to refer to elders / bishops / deacons.

The structure of 1 Timothy 2:11-14 makes the "reason" perfectly clear. Verse 13 begins with "for" and gives the "cause" of what Paul stated in verses 11-12. Why should women not teach or have authority over men? Because - "Adam was created first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived." That is the reason. God created Adam first and then created Eve to be a "helper" for Adam. This order of Creation has universal application to humanity in the family (Ephesians 5:22-33) and the church. The fact that Eve was deceived is also given as a reason for women not serving as pastors or having spiritual authority over men. This leads some to believe that women should not teach because they are more easily deceived. That concept is debatable...but if women are more easily deceived, why should they be allowed to teach children (who are easily deceived) and other women (who are supposedly more easily deceived)? That is not what the text says. Women are not to teach or have spiritual authority over men because Eve was deceived. As a result, God has given men the primary teaching authority in the church.

Women excel in gifts of hospitality, mercy, teaching and helps. Much of the ministry of the church depends on women. Women in the church are not restricted to public praying or prophesying (1 Corinthians 11:5), only to having spiritual teaching authority over men. The Bible nowhere restricts women from exercising the gifts of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians chapter 12). Women, just as much as men, are called to minister to others, to demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), and to proclaim the Gospel to the lost (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8; 1 Peter 3:15).

God has ordained that only men are to serve in positions of spiritual teaching authority in the church. This is not because men are necessarily better teachers, or because women are inferior or less intelligent (which is not the case). It is simply the way God designed the church to function. Men are to set the example in spiritual leadership – in their lives and through their words. Women are to take a less authoritative role. Women are encouraged to teach other women (Titus 2:3-5). The Bible also does not restrict women from teaching children. The only activity women are restricted from is teaching or having spiritual authority over men. This logically would include women serving as pastors / preachers. This does not make women less important, by any means, but rather gives them a ministry focus more in agreement with how God has gifted them.

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Women pastors / preachers? What does the Bible say about women in ministry?