The Question of Women in Ministry
Updated: Jan 22, 2020
The question of women in ministry is an important one. There are two wrong schools of thought on either side of this topic.
One school of thought says “I can do whatever I want, gender doesn’t matter.” That’s wrong. The other wrong view is “men have a higher calling in Christ and women aren’t included” that’s equally evil and wrong.
So, like a car navigating a dangerous road with two massive cliffs on either side, lets take a look at our ultimate authority on this topic, the Bible.
Here are some relevant verses to the topic of women in ministry and what they contribute to this discussion:
This is the root cause of the prohibition. In this passage, God gives a specific curse to men and women. To men He gives the curse of a burdensome life wherein making a living will be difficult throughout all of their lives. To women He gives the curse of the pain of child bearing and the curse of being under the authority of men.
1 Timothy 2:11-14
Here the Holy Spirit through Paul tells us clearly that a woman cannot "teach or have authority over a man." Paul then goes on to give the reason why this prohibition exists. It's not random or based on something cultural, but rather it's because of God's created order and the specific curses given at the fall of humankind.
Here a married couple (with the woman being mentioned first) privately corrects a famous preacher/teacher of their day and brings him to a saving knowledge of Christ.
A woman named Phoebe is specifically called a "deacon" of a Church. An English translation will say 'servant', but in Greek it's the word for deacon.
In a marriage too, authority is given to the man- this also goes back to the fall of humanity and the specific curses. The man is clearly told not to abuse that authority however. Also, you can see the symbolism that exists between a marriage and the relationship of the Church.
1 Corinthians 11:5
Women can publicly pray and "prophesy" which meant to proclaim the Word of God.
1 Corinthians 12
All who are in Christ are given the Holy Spirit and the accompanying Spiritual gifts. These gifts are to be used throughout our lives.
No gender is of a higher status in the Kingdom of God than the other. All Christians are equal to one another in God's eyes.
Again- the fruit of the Spirit is to all believers.
Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8
All who are in Christ are commanded to share the Gospel of Christ.
Women are to raise up and train other women. They are to teach and live out an active Christian life.
1 Peter 2:4-10
Women are part of the royal priesthood- with an absolute mandate to proclaim the Gospel and the Word of God to a lost world.
After having read through these, I want to make a few notes and point out some truths. There are three roles that are prohibited to females by the Word of God. These roles are the role of elder/presbyter in a Church, the role of teaching pastor/preacher in the Church and the role of the head of a household (for a married woman). That’s it. These prohibitions are not because women are inferior to men, but rather these roles are the result of a specific curse given at the Fall of humankind. Both genders are of equal stature in God’s eyes.
What about things like leadership roles in business, is that ok? The absolute and clear answer is yes. Lydia was a prominent and successful business woman who actually helped fund the early Church- they used her large house as a meeting place (Acts 16).
What about political leadership? Again- the absolute clear answer from Scripture is that’s fine. The Old Testament has a few examples, but no doubt Deborah is the most prominent. She’s one of the few leaders of the nation of Israel at that time that was deemed faithful to God (Judges 4 and 5).
The prohibition of women having “no authority over men” is specific to the context of 1 Timothy, in other words it’s specific to the Church. The same is true for the prohibition on teaching. It’s not a prohibition on any form of teaching- it’s specifically the role of preaching elder/pastor. In 1 Timothy, Paul is writing to Timothy about how to setup and structure a church congregation. To make the verses say more than that is to twist Scripture. There is nothing wrong with a man working for a woman or for a man to be taught by a woman. The prohibition is purely and only about who is in the Pulpit.
Again, indeed, Scripture gives us some clear examples of men that have been taught, even Biblical Truths, from women. And Scripture is also clear that women have an absolute mandate to instruct children, other women and indeed to proclaim the Gospel and the Word of God to the whole world!!!
A woman in Christ is a part of the royal priesthood of Christ. Her role in the body of Christ is every bit as powerful and good as the roles given to men. Many great women have been used by God to change the world!
Here are just three examples of great women of Church history just from the top of my head that did great things for the Kingdom and (as far as I know) did not violate any of the prohibited roles:
Florence Young- She’s one of my absolute favorite missionaries of all time. God used her to bring the Gospel to whole nations of people, and generations of islanders in the Pacific can trace their Biblical heritage back to this one amazing woman. Here’s a great book about her- https://www.amazon.com/dp/1576583139
Catherine Booth- She was the wife of the founder of the Salvation Army, but she by no means played a backseat role. She was a massive speaker and leader in the movement. Some may object to my including her because she did often take the Pulpit. However, I personally disagree that she was in error. The Salvation Army meetings during her lifetime were evangelistic meetings (meaning they were purely about sharing the Gospel) and thus I think she clearly had just as much Biblical right as William to take the mic!
Susanna Wesley- Feminists may get mad that I put her on here, but I don’t care- she’s a hero by any stretch of the imagination. You likely are familiar with John and Charles Wesley- the founders of the Methodist Church. Charles Wesley's songs are still sung every Sunday morning at most churches around the world and John Wesley is one of the greatest evangelists of all time… that’s no coincidence that one household just happened to produce 2 giant heroes of the faith. Susanna Wesley is the perfect example of how everyday actions can change the course of human history.
There are many more examples I could give, from Queen Liliʻuokalani who helped establish a Christian nation for Hawai’i (my wife and I actually recently visited a church she established on Oahu) to the famed poet Anne Bradstreet.
There is much more that a woman of God can do for the Kingdom than is prohibited. Again- really only 3 specific roles are off limits. Want to be a female evangelist? Absolutely- in fact you are specifically told to be. Want to be a female teacher/professor/counselor? Absolutely, Scripture and church history has many great examples for you to follow. Want to be a female CEO or President? Absolutely- again, Scripture and human history are filled with some great examples!