Friday, 1 November 2013

Should Women Preach?

One of the most controversial subjects in Christendom is the topic of a woman's Biblical ordained role in terms of preaching, teaching and even speaking in church.  Any time a subject like this concerning the entire Body of Christ (made up of true born-again believers) creates division, strife or confusion, we must take it out of isolation and prayerfully ask and allow the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth about it.   And in the case of women's Biblical roles within the church, many times, attitudes towards women have been dishonoring and unChristlike, and in some cases, have created an oppressive and suppressive environment, where she is not free to express all that God has given her (which may include strong leadership and teaching giftings), and to be able to do so in a welcoming environment where she feels loved, valued and needed.  After spending considerable time researching this topic, I have come to believe that the few Scriptures regarding women’s leadership in the church have been grossly misinterpreted.  So I'd like to look at the two main portions of Scripture that are used towards the argument that women are to be limited in their roles when it comes to speaking, teaching or preaching in a normal church setting: 

The first one is found in Corinthians:

1Co 14:34    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.

1Co 14:35    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. 

Now I'd like to put it in context.  Let's look at the verses before verse 34: 

1Co 14:26    How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.1Co 14:27    If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret.1Co 14:28    But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God.1Co 14:29    Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge.1Co 14:30    If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace.1Co 14:31    For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted.1Co 14:32    And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.1Co 14:33    For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints. 

In this context, Paul is dealing with a church that is out of order.  They (both men and women) are speaking out when they should be silent.  So Paul is giving them a lesson in order, when to speak and when to be silent.  Notice also in verse 26, he says, "when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation."  When he says "every one of you" both men and women were participating.  In verse 28, "both" men and women are instructed to keep silent when they are speaking in tongues and there is no interpreter.  When we get to verse 34, there is something very important to note that is most often overlooked --notice the key word here is "your" - "your" meaning the women in that particular Corinthian church.  He was not addressing all women for all time.  Also, in verse 35 - He is talking about "married" women whose husbands are likely in places of leadership in that particular church.  These verses were obviously not addressed to single women or women without husbands.  So in this particular passage, it was directed to a specific church and to a specific set of married women who were being unruly (and keep in mind, so were the men).   So Paul was trying to restore order to an unruly congregation!

Now we'll look at the second portion of Scripture found in I Timothy: 

1Ti 2:8    I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.

1Ti 2:9    In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array;

1Ti 2:10    But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.

1Ti 2:11    Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.1Ti 2:12    But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.   

In verse 10 it says that women "profess" godliness.  Does this mean they show godliness by their manner of dress and good works mentioned in verse 9 and never say anything?  No, it says "women professing godliness 'with' good works." The good works, I interpret, are in addition to "professing," which means they are speaking as well.   

Now we will add the context with which Paul was speaking: 

1Ti 2:13    For Adam was first formed, then Eve.

1Ti 2:14    And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. 

Why would Paul stick these verses here?  Trusted research sources (both men and women), some of which have spent considerable time in their all-around research, all agree that the women in this church of Ephesus were deceived and were actually trying to teach false doctrine.  It is no wonder that in verse 11 and 12 Paul is basically telling them in a nice way to shut up and to stop teaching this heresy!  It fits because in verse 13 and 14 he is describing the order of creation - the man first and the woman second, and it was the woman that was deceived. He points this out because the women in this particular church were deceived (possibly having to do with Gnosticism) and were elevating themselves above men and had to be stopped (verse 12).  Would he not of said the very same thing to the men if they were in error and teaching heresy? No one is to usurp authority over another as in the following: 

Mat 20:25    But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them.

Mat 20:26    But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister;

Mat 20:27    And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant:

Mat 20:28    Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. 

And in this particular case with the women of Ephesus, it was the women who were out of line.  The women needed to learn about the truth of God's Word before attempting to teach, and it doesn’t say whether they were to learn it from another person, or anything other than the Scriptures.  Note in verse 11 that it doesn't say that they were to learn from a "man."  

In light of this well documented cultural background of 1 Timothy 2: 11-14, the following Scriptures would seem to make more sense: 

God is no respecter of persons: 

Acts 10:34    Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: 

All are one regardless of gender: 

Gal 3:26    For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.

Gal 3:27    For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

Gal 3:28    There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. 

1Co 12:13    For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.

1Co 12:14    For the body is not one member, but many. 

Submission is for all:   

Eph 5:21 Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. 

1Pe 5:5  Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. 

In the case of wives submitting to husbands, and husbands equally (and in greater measure) submitting to wives, we read the following:   

Eph 5:19    Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;Eph 5:20    Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;Eph 5:21    Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.Eph 5:22    Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.Eph 5:23    For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.Eph 5:24    Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.Eph 5:25    Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;Eph 5:26    That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,Eph 5:27    That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.Eph 5:28    So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.Eph 5:29    For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:Eph 5:30    For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.Eph 5:31    For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.Eph 5:32    This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.Eph 5:33    Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.

Let's back up and re-read the first verse: 

Eph 5:19    Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; 

Note that men and women are admonished to do this, so this would mean women are allowed and indeed encouraged to partake in any service where men and women meet to worship the Lord. 

As for the men loving their wives as Christ loves the church, Paul gives a beautiful and detailed example of what true submission looks like, and what we should all strive for when it comes to submitting to one another.  It is a Godly, giving (agape), selfless, humble type of love.  It is a type of submission that is God-breathed and God-inspired, and one that requires a heart for God and a submitted life to the Lord in order to be able to love that way.  A woman will not be able to resist such a love, nor would she want to, just as anyone who is met with this type of love (male or female) would find it hard to resist.   

I'd like to close with a few thoughts on Godly headship and leadership in case there is some confusion regarding this role.  If we are to closely examine headship/leadership in the New Testament, humility is required for both men and women and anyone in a leadership role.  Without humility, the leadership is both carnal and worldly and does not accomplish God's purposes. Jesus whole life from birth to death was based on His willingness to submit to the Father's will and choosing to have an attitude of humility in doing so. Why would it be any different for men or women in positions of leadership today?  Let's look at some Scripture. 

Jesus the Good Shepherd:

Joh 10:11    I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. 

Jesus warned the disciples about desiring a high and elevated position in life:  

Mat 23:8    But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.

Mat 23:9    And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.

Mat 23:10    Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ.

Mat 23:11    But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.

Mat 23:12    And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted. 

Then in I Thessalonians we have one of the most surprising examples of male leadership in the entire Bible (other than Jesus' supreme example): 

This is Paul's idea of apostleship: 

1Th 2:7  But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children: 

Paul follows the example of not just a woman (who is motherly), but a nurse nourishing and cherishing her children.  The picture is unmistakable as one of "caring" "loving" "giving selflessly to."  There is nothing hard-nosed or hard-hearted here.  This is a man who truly loves and lays down his life and his pride for his brethren. 

So in the case of a woman's Biblical ordained role in terms of preaching, teaching and speaking in church, any role or calling of a Christian must always be consistent with the Christ-like character of Jesus - humility and submission.  And in each case where a women's role is called into question in the church, I believe it must be handled prayerfully, Biblically, and in a spirit of humility and submission by everyone involved, men and women.  To me, this is what Paul was trying to get across in nearly every case where he addressed specific women of that day who had stepped too far out of bounds in their words, actions and attitudes.  He did the same to the men.  The call for submission stands today, equally for men, women, children and all who call themselves born-again, blood-bought Christians.   May the Lord be pleased for the way we treat one another, and for the example we set for the rest of the world to see especially when it comes to how we handle God ordained Biblical leadership.


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