It has been a long standing tradition and teaching in many Christian organizations that women should not be preachers and ministers in the local church. Those that hold this viewpoint claim the Bible says women should not be preachers. In today’s society it has become a more commonly accepted practice and teaching that it is ok for women to be preachers. Some hold to the one viewpoint and some to the other. But what does the Bible truly teach? In this paper I will examine those passages in the Bible that are commonly used to support the idea that women should not be preachers and expound on their meaning. And also I will look at passages that seem to support women in the ministry. But before going one step further there are several things we must take into consideration before choosing sides. There are many areas in the Bible such as music or dress or length of hair, or many other issues that are not crystal clear in terms of what should or should not be done. The important thing to remember is that this issue is not a great doctrinal issue nor does it hold great importance in the Christian life. We can learn the importance of particular issues in the Bible by how much the Bible talks about something. The teachings of Jesus are the greatest revelations of God’s truth. Jesus never taught on this issue. He never said women could not preach. But Jesus did say in Matthew chapter 28 verse 19, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” This commandment of Jesus applies to all believers. You should always be careful you do not develop a negative or critical attitude toward those who hold opinions contrary to your own on such trivial issues as this. Those who do are making a worse mistake than anyone who might have a few bad ideas about what the Bible teaches on these smaller issues. Even so the Bible says in II Timothy chapter 2 and verse 15, “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” Therefore, I have personally studied this issue myself. And I suggest you do the same. Don’t take a stand based just on what I have to say, but think for yourself and seek the wisdom of God through His word and through prayer. After all the Bible says in James chapter 1 and verse 5, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given you.”
This paper is going to be divided into 4 parts. Part 1: What is preaching? Part 2: The Biblical viewpoint of man and woman. Part 3: The passages in the Bible used to support that women should not be preachers. Part 4: The passages in the Bible that support women should be preachers. But before I begin on the points, one question should be answered. What is the relevancy of this topic, and how does it affect you and me? This question is very simple. The viewpoint you take will affect the attitude that you have toward women, and it will also affect the way you treat them. If you are ever involved in the ministry or in a local church it will certainly effect how you work with women in the ministry.
There are several words used in the Bible to convey the idea of preaching: to prophesy, to preach, to evangelize, to speak as of the oracles of God, and to teach. These words all have the same idea behind them, to publicly proclaim the truth. Jesus said in John chapter 17 and verse 17: “Sanctify them through Thy Truth: Thy Word is truth.” It is the Word of God that is truth. It is the Word of God that we are to put into our hearts and minds and do and teach. I Peter chapter 4 and verse 11 says, “If any man speak, let him speak as of the oracles of God.” The Bible says in Colossians chapter 4 and verse 6 “Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.” And Jesus said in Matthew chapter 12 and verse 36, “Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.”
The Word of God should be applied to our hearts. It should be the foundation for every thought, every desire, every action and every word that we speak. It is the duty of all Christians, male and female, to live and to speak the truth wherever they go: at home, or in public, or at work, or at the grocery store, whether in front of one or in front of 3 or even in front of 3,000. This is the idea behind Ephesians chapter 6 and verse 15; which says, “And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.” That is what Jesus did everywhere He went, whether it was in private with His disciples or one on one; when He healed a man or in front of crowds of thousands, and even before kings and government officials and false religious leaders. He taught and spoke the truth. This is true preaching.
Certainly another very important thing to understand about preaching aside from the definition of preaching is the power and importance of the Word of God. The Bible says in Romans Chapter 10 and verse 14, “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed and how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?” And verse 17 goes on to say, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.”
The Bible says in Hebrews chapter 4 and verse 12, “For the Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper then any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”
Hebrews chapter 11 and verse 3 says, “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God.” Why did God choose to create the universe with His word? One reason is very evident, to help our limited minds to understand the infinite power of the Word of God. It is the Word of God that in Genesis divided the light from the darkness and the day from the night. And spiritually speaking it is the Word of God that divides the light from the dark and the good from the evil within the soul of man. It is the Word of God that opens the eyes of the blind and shows us the truth about ourselves.
The Gospel of John chapter 4 gives us a good illustration of this truth. Here we have the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well. After believing on Jesus because of His Word, she runs off to her village to give others the Gospel of Jesus Christ. John chapter 4 and verses 40-42 says, “So when the Samaritans were come unto Him, they besought Him that He would tarry with them: and he abode there two days. And many more believed because of His own Word; And said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying; for we have heard Him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.”
The other villagers that accepted Jesus and repented of their sins did so because of the Words of Jesus and not the words of the woman. As a preacher whom I know says, “It’s the word of God, stupid, and not your illustration.” It is not the sound of your voice. It is not your charismatic personality or your ability to entertain and tell a joke to keep the audience’s attention. Nor is it anything about your physical characteristics whether you are black or white, or male or female. It is the Word of God that gives the heart and mind of man faith. It is the Word of God that gives lost souls faith in Christ, and the Word of God that makes the Christian grounded and rooted strongly in Jesus Christ. At best our words can expound on what the Word of God says. But no matter who you are or what you think you are capable of doing, it is God that does all the work. There is a great contrast between the word of man and the Word of God. Psalm chapter 12 and verse 6 says, “The Words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.” And in Isaiah chapter 6 and verse 5 the prophet Isaiah had this to say about himself, “Then said I, Woe is me! For I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips;” It is the Word of God that endureth forever. It’s not the word of man, or the famous quotes or catchy sayings that a preacher says but it’s the Word of God.
If you are a believer, then you are called to help spread the Word of God. It may be that God never has you preach in a church or be a pastor of a church, but it is the calling of God that whoever you are and wherever you go, that if you speak, you speak as of the oracles of God.
Does the Bible teach that women should not be preachers? If the Bible teaches this, then what are the reasons that men and women should not be preachers? Certainly the reason is not because women are women. This would be like saying women cannot vote because they are women. In fact there was a time in America when women could not vote because they were women. If you believe the Bible teaches women should not preach, then the challenge for you is to find out where the Bible teaches this.
Throughout the history of the human race women have always been treated as a lesser part of mankind and dominated by man. It is part of the sinful nature of mankind. Perhaps the teaching that women should not be preachers came about from this. One reason many Christians today do not understand or are afraid to touch the issue of equality between men and women is because after all the centuries of oppression women have had, we now have those going to the other extreme, the women liberals. It’s the nature of mankind to take a thing from one extreme to the other. This is what has happened here once again because of the sin nature of man.
The Bible teaches and emphasizes the equality between all believers in Christ, including man or woman. The Bible says in Galatians chapter 3 and verse 28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, male nor female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” In other words, physical differences or social status or race have nothing to do with the spiritual kingdom of God and the equality that is found there. The gates of heaven are open to all; rich and poor, black and white, old and young, male and female, and so are the opportunities of God in this life. God is no respecter of persons.
Certainly there are obvious differences between men and women on a physical level. Men can do some things better than women, such as run faster. Men are generally stronger. There are also things that women can do that men cannot, such as give birth. Physically men and women are not equal in the sense of the physical abilities and attributes that God gave them.
But on a spiritual level the Bible teaches there is no difference between man and woman. The world teaches that men and women are equal on a physical level and unequal on a spiritual one. This is the deception of the devil. But we know that men and women are equal on a spiritual level because Jesus said in Matthew chapter 22 and verse 30, “For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.” It is the ignorance and the lack of faith in man that always confuses the physical with the spiritual. The disciples of Jesus did this so often when Jesus taught them. And the world today does this so often as well, trying to picture God or angels in terms of male or female.
Genesis chapter 1 and verse 27 says, “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female create He them.” Both man and woman were created in the image of God. Man has certain characteristics about him that God has given him; that woman does not have, and woman has certain characteristics about her that God has given her which man does not have.
Genesis chapter 2 and verses 21 and 22 says, “And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept; and he took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made He a woman, and brought her unto the man.” Some people look at this passage and say, “Because God created Adam before Eve, it shows the authority that man has over woman and therefore women should not be preachers.” God could have created Eve first, but He did not. Why did God create Eve from Adam’s rib? Or why did not God create Adam and Eve at the same time? The answers to these questions teach us something about the unique and special relationship that God created for the marriage bond. The truth behind God creating Adam first, shows us that the man is the head of the household in a family. I Corinthians chapter 11 verses 8 and 9 says, “For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man:” And then verse 11 goes on to say, “neither the woman without the man in the Lord.” There is an equality that exists between man and women even in a marital relationship. There is a submission and authority that both the man and the woman have over each other in different situations. Those who take passages of scripture talking about the authority a man has over his wife and say that it applies to all relationships outside of marriage are making a big mistake and they will answer to God for it. These verses apply only to the marital relationship. It is the same reason that God created Eve from Adam’s rib: to help us to better understand the bond of marriage.
Genesis chapter 2 and verses 23 and 24 says, “And Adam said, this is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife; and they shall be one flesh.” A husband and wife are one flesh. Jesus said that what God has joined together let no man put asunder. Genesis chapter 3 and verse 20 says, “And Adam called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.” It is very interesting to notice that Adam did not name his wife until after they had sinned, and were cast out of the garden. Before Adam and Eve turned away from God and acquired a corrupt nature their relationship was much closer, and perfectly the way God designed it to be. After their sin their relationship on this earth was never a perfect one again, and therefore was not as close of a relationship. This is why Eve did not receive her name till after the fall. It shows that Adam and Eve experienced a change in their relationship giving more distinction and therefore more separation between each other.
The Bible says in the Epistle of 1st John chapter 1 and verse 7, “But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.” Having a sinful nature means having a nature of deceit. It also means we tend to be selfish and destructive in our relationships with others. We are all liars, and the heart is desperately wicked and deceitful. The reason it is important to understand this truth taught here in Genesis is because the Bible talks quite a lot about the marital and family relationship, and rightly so. After all marriage and family greatly affect all of our lives as individuals. Because of our sinful nature all relationships need daily work and effort to improve. Relationships are like a triangle with God at the top and man and woman on either end of the base points. As two people draw closer to God, they draw closer to each other.
From a spiritual perspective what is the difference between man and woman? There is not one. Do you disagree? Well, it’s what Jesus taught the Pharisees in Matthew chapter 24. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Both man and woman are sinners, and both man and woman are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Man and woman have the same spiritual needs, the same spiritual gifts, and a relationship with God that is based on the same truth: the Bible. What is spiritually true and good for man to do, is also spiritually true and good for woman.
Part 3: The passages in the Bible used to support that women should not be preachers.
I Corinthians chapter 14 verses 34 and 35 says, “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home; for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.” Chapter 14 of I Corinthians is a chapter written by Paul to the Church of Corinth. It is addressing problems that had arisen in the church. One particular problem in this church becomes apparent in verses 33 and 37. The Bible warns us to avoid strivings about the law, and the book of Romans in chapter 1 lists debate among such grievous sins as murder and fornication. In some situations it will be a time for you to learn, and in others it will be a time for you to teach. Verse 31 of this same chapter says for you may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted: one by one. Apparently there were some women in the church of Corinth who did not understand this. Only by pride cometh contention.
Some people teach that this verse in the Bible says women should not be preachers. If this verse is to be taken literally then women should not speak at all in church, for any reason. They should not speak in the pulpit or even to their husband who is sitting next to them in the pew. But obviously that is not what this verse is saying. It is referring to Paul’s rebuking of their malicious debating in which they were opposing each other and causing a disruption in the fellowship and order that should have been there. Verse 34 also says that they are in obedience. Who are they in obedience to? First to God, and secondly to their husband. It does not say that a woman should be obedient to all other men because she is a woman, only to her husband. Verse 35 says, “If they will learn”, referring to learning from the husband. Preaching is not spoken of in these two verses. Remember there is a certain authority that a man has over his wife in a marital relationship. This authority does not apply outside of a marital relationship.
I Timothy chapter 3 verses 1-13 says, “This is a true saying, if a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavior, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; One that ruleth his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. Likewise must the deacons be grave, not double tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre; holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless. Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things. Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus?”
This passage of the Bible gives the qualifications for a deacon, a minister, a pastor, or a preacher. The first and most important thing to remember about a deacon is that it is a position of spiritual leadership and servant-hood. It is not a position of authority over others except in the sense of having the authority to be an ensample to others in both word and deed. And secondly this list of qualifications is something that all should strive to keep in their household whether male or female, young or old.
This is another passage in the Bible commonly used to support the idea of men only as deacons. It does seem to be a very logical conclusion upon first examination. After all here in the KJV it says, “If a man.” This is one instance in the Bible where understanding the Greek language will benefit us in the understanding of the Word of God. In the Koine Greek, the language in which the New Testament was inspired by the Holy Spirit; there are several Greek words that are used for the equivalent of the English word “man.” “Tis,” which is an indefinite pronoun in which the masculine and feminine are the same. Another word, “aner,” refers specifically to man and not to woman. And another word, “anthropos,” refers to mankind as a whole, both male and female. This word “anthropos” is the Greek word from which we get our English word anthropology, the study of mankind.
Verse 2 says that a bishop must be the husband of one wife. The word “aner” is used here for husband. Some say this word shows that the Bible teaches only a man can be a deacon. It does appear to be a reasonable conclusion. But take into consideration that it makes sense the Greeks would use the word “aner.” After all only a man can be the husband of one wife, just as only a woman can be the wife of one husband. A woman cannot be the husband of one wife. A husband should not be a striker, or given to wine, nor any of the other things listed in this passage. If we agree that these teachings apply to a man only, then does this mean that it is ok for a woman to be a striker or given to wine? God forbid! Certainly this list of moral standards applies to a woman as well as a man.
Now look at verse 1. This verse says “if a man.” The phrase “a man” is actually the indefinite pronoun “tis.” This pronoun is commonly translated “anyone.” It is never used to convey the idea of excluding but rather of including all. This is the reason it is called an indefinite pronoun. It does not set any definite boundaries. If God wanted to make it crystal clear that women should not be preachers, He could have used the word “aner” and said the very same thing that would have without a shadow of a doubt excluded women. But on the contrary using the word “tis” includes rather than excludes.
The question could be asked, then why does this passage not specifically mention women? First of all, it does not exclude women. When we use the English language, normally we just say he and not she or he/she, or it used to be that way until the feminist movement. Just as we refer to God as He and not she: although God is not male or female. It is simply the normal usage of a language to write it this way. It is possible that God could have inspired Paul to write this passage and say He/she to have this passage twice, the first time being as is, and second saying the wife of one husband. But it would be much more practical to simply write it once and say he, just as we would do in our language.
Titus chapter 2 verses 1-8 says, “But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine; that the aged men be sober, grave temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience. The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; that they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the Word of God be not blasphemed. Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded in all things, shewing thyself a pattern of good works; in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you,”
This is another passage that is used to support the idea of women not being preachers. But this passage can be explained in the same way as the previous one. This epistle was written to Titus, but does this mean that it is only for Titus and not all other believers? Certainly not! The emphasis here seems to be that both men and women should strive or “exhort” to follow this moral listing.
Remember the truth is the most important thing in the world. Truth is universal and applies to both man and woman. Let’s look at two examples now that seem to be exceptions, which people use to support the idea of no women preachers permitted in church. Often in church, women will give their testimonies or talk about a ministry they are involved in; such as missionaries out on deputation or fund raising. And during these situations these women will speak about God and speak the truth out of His Word and what He has done for them in answers to prayer and so on. Is not this preaching? Yes it is. Certainly these women are not “keeping silence in the church.”
And secondly what about situations such as on the mission field where perhaps the only one to preach the gospel is a woman. What if you had a church and all the male preachers were killed from persecution? Would it be anti-Biblical, if the only one mature and qualified was a woman, and she did the preaching? It certainly would not be a good idea in such a situation to not give the gospel or to not feed the flock. The idea behind this is that what is true and good to do in one place is true and good in another or what is good to do on one day is good to do on another day. Jesus teaches us this in Matthew chapter 12 and verses 9-12, “And when He was departed thence, he went into their synagogue; and, behold, there was a man which had his hand withered, and they asked Him, saying, is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath days? that they might accuse Him. And He said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the Sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out? How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the Sabbath days.”
In the same sense, truth is truth, no matter who it is that is speaking it. The Word of God is the Word of God. It does not change because you are black or white, tall or fat, male or female. It is important that you follow your convictions about what the Word of God teaches. But it is also important that you do not hinder others whom God might want to use. The Pharisees tried to hinder Jesus from doing good. Make sure you don’t hinder others from their opportunities to spread the gospel and to preach for the sinners of the world to repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
First let us look at spiritual gifts. Perhaps the most common passage on spiritual gifts is Ephesians chapter 4 and verse 8, “wherefore He saith, when He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.” And verse 11 says, “And He gave some, apostles; and some prophets; and some evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers.” When the Bible uses the word “men” in verse 8, it uses the word “anthropos.” This makes sense, for both women and men have spiritual gifts that God gives them when they are born into the family of God. The word “anthropos” is used in the Bible to include the idea of all mankind whether male or female, black or white, bond or free. To further understand the idea behind this word we will look at I Timothy chapter 2 and verse 4 which says, “Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” The word “anthropos” is used here. Obviously God offers salvation to all, male and female and not just male. Just because the word “men” is used here would not mean that it is men only and not women. And of course a further study has taught us the Greek word includes both men and women. The emphasis is on all human beings. There are no exceptions given. God is no respecter of persons. And it could be looked at in the same sense for spiritual gifts. God does not give any exceptions. He does not say, “And he gave gifts unto men, except He did not give the gift of preaching to women.”
Also there is the emphasis that the Word of God puts on the spiritual gift of prophesy or preaching. I Corinthians chapter 14, which is a chapter in the Bible that deals with spiritual gifts; says this in verse 1 “Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy.” Of all the spiritual gifts preaching is the one that is emphasized as most important, and rightly so. As you grow in the Lord and learn more and more about the importance of His truth, you will see the importance of living consistently and speaking His Word where ever you are.
I Corinthians chapter 11 is the final passage I will examine which seems to support the idea of women preachers. Verse 4 and 5 says, “Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head. But every woman that prayeth or prophesyeth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head; for that is even all one as if she were shaven.”
Undoubtedly by now we understand the meaning of the word prophesy: to speak as of the oracles of God; to preach. Does the word prophesy have a different meaning in verse 5 than verse 4. No, it is the same Greek word. God did not make a mistake in putting that word in verse 5. It is no different than looking at the word “pray” in verse 4 and 5. The Bible talks about men and women praying. I seriously doubt anyone would say that in these two verses God intended to use the word pray in a different manner for verse 5 than for verse 4. And it would be just as absurd to say the same thing about the word prophesy. In other words these verses talk about men and women praying and they also talk about men and women prophesying or preaching.
In examining these passages we see that nowhere does God exclude women, not as deacons, nor in any particular spiritual gifts. But we do see an emphasis placed upon the preaching of God’s word. And both men and women are mentioned in connection with this. Reach your own conclusion, but do not ever oppose others from speaking the truth, especially when it is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
We live in a society today where women preachers have become a more common and accepted practice. Whenever something that is contrary to traditions comes to light it is often looked on as heretical. Whenever a viewpoint is offered that is completely opposite of what others have taught you, it seems at first startling and heretical. But the question is, is it a tradition of man or a tradition of God. One reason the viewpoint of women in the ministry is looked at as ungodly is because there are some in the world who hold this viewpoint who are liberal and ungodly people. But not all that hold this viewpoint are ungoldly men and women. And just because men and women that hold to a particular teaching are ungodly, it does not make that teaching itself ungodly. The question is, is your viewpoint one that has been taught you and handed down by the tradition of man, or have you studied the Bible for yourself and thought for yourself and reached your own conclusion. Think for yourself. Don’t just accept what I say or what others say, but ask God for wisdom.
Some oppose the idea of women preachers, thinking even if the Bible says it’s ok, there would not be enough acceptance from men and there would be too much opposition. But remember women listen to men who speak the truth. What is the difference if men listen to women who speak the truth, aside from the fact that it is a woman speaking? Men in the ministry face opposition. In fact all who do the work of God will find that there is plenty of opposition out there. If those around you oppose you speaking forth the Word of God, then go somewhere else where those around you want to hear the truth. If the Bible does teach that women are not to be preachers and if it is against the will of God then God will not give women the spiritual gift of prophesy, because God gives us gifts to use for His glory. He does not give us gifts and then tell us not to use them. Ephesians 4:12, “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” This is the purpose of spiritual gifts, to help God build His eternal kingdom.
You should ask yourself the question, has God given you the gift of preaching? Do you have the ability to speak forth the Word of God in a way that benefits others spiritually and gives them faith in the one true God? Certainly if daily you are (Col 1:10) increasing in the knowledge, then as you grow as a Christian you are more qualified to be a teacher of the truth. May the grace of God abound in all of our hearts and be evident in all of our speech.
Copyright; 2001 by Charles F. (Rick) Creech
All Rights Reserved