Sunday, April 3, 2011

Should Women Preach and Teach?

And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. (1 Timothy 2:12-14)

To understand these verses, we must understand the situation in which Paul and Timothy worked. In first-century Jewish culture, women were not allowed to study. When Paul said that women should learn in quietness and full submission, he was offering them an amazing new opportunity. Paul did not want the Ephesian women to teach because they didn't yet have enough knowledge or experience. The Ephesian church had a particular problem with false teachers. Evidently the women were especially susceptible to the false teachings (2 Timothy 3:1-9), because they did not yet have enough Biblical knowledge to discern the truth. In addition, some of the women were apparently flaunting their new-found Christian freedom by wearing inappropriate clothing (1 Timothy 2:9). Paul was telling Timothy not to put anyone (in this case, women) into a position of leadership who was not yet mature in the faith (1 Timothy 5:22). The same principle applies to churches today.

Paul ignored popular myths about women being incapable of learning and urged Timothy to provide opportunities for women to be educated (1 Timothy 2:11). In silence refers to the woman’s attitude or manner while learning, as should be true of all believers. Paul was not saying that a woman could not speak in the local assembly (1 Cor. 11:2–16). He was simply cautioning women to learn with an attitude of all submission and not in an unruly manner.

Some interpret this passage to mean that women should never teach in the assembled church; however, commentators point out that Paul did not forbid women for ever teaching. Paul's commended co-worker, Priscilla, taught Apollos, the great preacher (Acts 18:24-26). In addition, Paul frequently mentioned other women who held positions of responsibility in the church. Phoebe worked in the church (Romans 16:1). Mary, Tryphena, and Tryphosa were the Lord's workers (Romans 16:6, 12), as were Euodia and Syntyche (Philippians 4:2). Paul was very likely prohibiting the Ephesian women, not all women, from teaching.

In Paul's reference to women being silent, the word silent expresses an attitude of quietness and composure. (A different Greek word is usually used to convey "complete silence.") In addition, Paul himself acknowledges that women publicly prayed and prophesied (1 Corinthians 11:5). Apparently, however, the women in the Ephesian church were abusing their newly acquired Christian freedom. Because these women were new converts, they did not yet have the necessary experience, knowledge, or Christian maturity to teach those who already had extensive Scriptural education.

When Paul says, "to teach" he uses a Greek word that indicates the type of teaching that was found in the Jewish communities and synagogues from which he had come. Such teaching was more than giving information to students. It included the call by the rabbi, or teacher, to have his disciples listen, believe, and practice his words. Such teaching was built on the revelation of God and assumed that there would be some sort of oversight, like that exercised in the early church by the elders (1 Tim. 4:11; 4:16–5:2; 2 Tim. 3:17; 4:1–4; Titus 2:15; 3:8–11 ). Generally those who exercised this responsibility in the early church had the spiritual gift of teaching (Rom. 12:7; 1 Cor. 12:28), but not every gift of teaching (by men or women) was necessarily to be exercised over the entire congregation.

The word "or" in 1 Timothy 2:12, seems to indicate that teach is defined by the phrase "have authority over a man." It seems best to understand this passage as teaching that women may exercise their spiritual gifts in a variety of ministries in a local assembly (2 Tim. 3:14; Titus 2:3, 4), as long as those gifts are exercised under the appropriate leadership of men. Other commentators have viewed this verse as an example of Paul using his apostolic authority to curb the spread in Ephesus of false teaching (1 Tim. 1:3–7) that apparently was becoming popular among some women who had not been properly instructed (1 Tim. 2:11).

In previous letters Paul had discussed male/female roles in marriage (Ephesians 5:21-33; Colossians 3:18, 19). Here he talks about male/female roles within the church. Some scholars see these verses about Adam and Eve as an illustration of what was happening in the Ephesian church. Just as Eve had been deceived in the Garden of Eden, so the women in the church were being deceived by false teachers. And just as Adam was the first human created by God, so the men in the church in Ephesus should be the first to speak and teach, because they had more training. This view, then, stresses that Paul's teaching here is not universal, but applies to churches with similar problems. Other scholars, however, contend that the roles Paul points out are God's design for His created order - God established these roles to maintain harmony in both the family and the church. Paul is not excusing Adam for his part in the fall (Genesis 3:6, 7, 17-19). On the contrary, in his letter to the Romans Paul places the primary blame for humanity's sinful nature on Adam (Romans 5:12-21).

The one thing I believe we all can agree upon is that a new believer should become secure and strong in the faith before taking leadership roles in the church (1 Timothy 3:6). Too often, when the church is desperate for workers, new believers are placed in positions of responsibility prematurely. New faith needs time to mature. New believers should have a place of service, but they should not be put into leadership positions until they are firmly grounded in their faith, with a solid Christian life-style and knowledge of the Word of God.

I realize that this issue is a real "hot potato" in today's Christian churches. However, like any of the scriptures we find in the Bible, there is only one "truth". God does not contradict Himself and He definitely is not a God of confusion. So my question is this: Is it biblical for women to teach and preach the gospel?

References: NKJV Holy Bible, Life Application Bible (NIV), the Nelson Study Bible.


Word in the Hand said...

I agree with your commentary especially those that remind us of the cultural restrictions that existed at the time; and the comments regarding those who are not experienced or mature in their faith. Other than that I would say that there have been wise women teachers and preachers throughout the past 2000 years. When such a vocation exists it is hard to believe that the Holy Spirit would only give it to people of a certain gender if we are all, as Paul reminds us, clothed in Christ. Paul adapted his teaching to suit the community and the culture around it; his letters were for specific needs - that is their gift - we have chosen to regard them otherwise. Paul's writings also highlight the ability to soundbite scripture - his writings often taken out of context.
Today's Gospel in our church was about the man born blind - someone who came from ignorance to understanding without the scholarly training - whilst the educated priests were blinded by their assumed knowledge. Last week's woman at the well became a preacher on the basis of one conversation. Perhaps what is wrong is to tell God what God can and can't do.

John Savage said...

This subject is a hot potato indeed for many but I AGREE with you being inline with scripture. God would have us understand man nor woman is the teacher but the Holy Spirit is, if what is truly being said is of God.

GOD thinker said...

This is a very important topic that the church avoids because it is a hot button. We must look at scripture as a whole. If God ever had a woman lead, pray , prophesy, or speak in a meeting and there was no rebuke, then we cannot interpret scripture to contradict itself. We must go deeper. God had a woman, Deborah, lead the entire nation of Israel men and women. There were women prophets and we have recorded women's prayers in scripture. God allows women to do all those things.

In that verse where Paul says women should be silent, it goes back and forth from singular "a woman" to women. This was a very common literary practice at the time where a person would talk to or about 2 different things comparing and contrasting them. Paul said a woman should be silent. One specific woman had been led astray and needed to take a seat and learn. He was not making a statement saying all women everywhere should be silent.

I highly recommend a book called "Why not Women" by Loren Cunningham and David Joel Hamilton (2 men). They go into great detail explaining the translation problems and the cultural issues that still make this such an issue today.

Gorges Smythe said...

I'll probably catch the devil for this, but I'd probably never attend a church with a woman preacher. The reason is twofold. First, due to what the Bible says, I'm uncomfortable with it. Second, my wife and I have left both of the churches we've attended over the last 28 years because the extreme jealosy among the WOMEN in those churches had them spreading rumors and ruining lives. That said, I really enjoy the teaching of Marilyn Hickey.

Karen Kyle Ericson said...

Thanks for posting this :) It is encouraging. Ephesus was a crazy place. All sorts of religions, idolatry, and beliefs. It appears women weren't valued very highly in Greek religions- which would've made me feel skeptical, antagonistic and guarded around men. When I came to know Jesus, He made me new. He loved me and taught me I had value, dignity, and a compassion He could use. That's a huge adjustment- not to mention learning the Bible. Oy! It's so confusing at first in English, probably the same for the Greek ladies.

It must have been hard for Jewish women who became Christian as well- they were separated from the men in synagogues. It may have been confusing for all to have everyone together. I really haven't heard many women preachers. I believe I listened to one- the message was so good I forgot she was a woman :) The important thing is the message- does it support and contain the scriptures? Glorify God? Does it apply to life today? Encourage faith in Jesus? As a woman, my spiritual gift is encouragement. I've never felt called to preach, although I've been told I do it naturally lol. I have done some teaching and led guys to Christ. I'm His servant if He leads me to speak (or post), I do. It's beginning to get my attention... I've seen this topic on a few threads now...

Final confession- I have talked to several women who have said women's retreats are their biggest nightmares. I agree. Something weird tends to happen with too many women together for too long. I know some ladies enjoy them- probably depends on the group and the strength of the leaders. Guys have football, we err... talk...

Sonia said...

I agree with a new Christian being grounded and strong in the faith before being put in a leadership role.

I personally feel women can be teachers but do not agree with them being preachers. God called 12 men to be disciples.

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Clint said...

I believe women should be able to preach and teach. If a man or woman is inspired by God and grounded in Christian principles, that is all that is required.

On a personal note, my wife and I both agree that the best preachers we have ever heard are men---with the always present exception of Joyce Meyer. Hmmmm.

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Mari said...

I believe that when Jesus said we must speak to all the nations the good news, he meant it for all regardless the sex gender. I agree with you in that a new believer should become secure and strong in the faith before taking a leadership role, and when they are ready, men o women their preaching and teaching should never be done or come from them but by the Holy Spirit in them.

Great topic!

Have a great afternoon :)

Word in the Hand said...

I don't know that I woud like to be on an all-woman retreat - I prefer to open up all that I do pastorally to whoever feels the need or desire to come. I have been to events that are coincidentally all women but the commonality has not been gender it has been experience or vision. A friend of mine often comments that he would like me to be at his men's spirituality meeting to balance what goes on with his group.

dfish said...

I personally believe that Pauls statement implies that the woman was deceived and thus not fully responsible for her sin. Adam, on the other hand was not deceived. as a result, it was through Adam that death came on all men. The primary responsibility therefore falls on men, and the women are not to allow them to avoid their responsibility. It has nothing to do with her ability, but the role man has played.


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The Angulo's said...

I don't feel comfortable listening to woman pastors that preach to both genders and neither does my husband. I try to not be "preachy" at home either when expressing opinions or answering my husband. It's just out of respect. I do believe that it's okay for a woman to share the good news wherever the Holy Spirit prompts her to. Unfortunately allot of women (raised by feminists)these days tend to "Bible Beat" men and I really think what Paul said (God breathed) is understood correctly just as it is written and has value to all cultures and generations.

Shoshi said...

Very refreshing post. Well-balanced and sensible, and not imbued with the emotionalism that the subject usually engenders. Thanks very much.

This is an area I have wrestled with a great deal in the past. For several years I felt a strong calling to be a teacher of God's Word, and had much encouragement in this area, from both men and women. One woman, however, who was mentally unstable (and who ultimately committed suicide) gave me, and others, a very hard time over this issue and brought me into serious doubt as to whether there was a call on my life to teach after all - but I was later vindicated.

It has been my greatest joy and fulfilment to serve the Lord in this particular way, and I freely acknowledge the gifting from Him that enabled me to do it. That phase in my life came to an end shortly before I was taken seriously ill, but on an informal, individual basis, I am still able to exercise this gift as He gives me the opportunity.

It seems entirely wrong to me that half of a local church's membership is forbidden to teach by man, when they have a gift to do so, which should be encouraged and developed.

I believe that the overall headship of the fellowship should be a godly man. Under that protective covering, a woman should have the freedom to move in her gifting as much as any male believer.

Phil Brown said...

Interesting thoughts. I look also to Titus 2:1-10. There are also a few good links.

I personally agree with Voddie Bauchum in the youtube video.

Thandi said...

My personal belief is that women can teach..OTHER women.And preach to them.I would never agree to preach in a congregation of men.Nor would I conduct a Bible study in the presence of able men.If there are males who are younger than I am, teens etc,that I am willing to do.Doing evangelism is different.And discussing the BIble with a small group.But never to a church congregation unless the Spirit overcomes me and I'm suddenly a prophetess.

Carole said...

I appreciate the Biblical research you did on this subject. I have both taught and given sermons in several churches through the years. I know the Lord has blessed me and helped me do this - especially the sermons as I have not taken one speech class! (yet, not nervous at all speaking to a congregation several times - and thus, the Holy Spirit at work in me!)

todrawneargod said...

I agree with you...

God is not gender-biased!

He would use those people who are willing and have the heart to serve Him... I know many women who have been mightily use by God in teaching and even preaching.

I think what really matters is the heart. And of course, maturity in the faith. Just like other ministries, anyone (men, women, young, old, rich, poor) can serve God if they are already spiritually mature.

God bless!

Tonjia said...

I agree that women should be allowed to preach, but that is really not what Paul taught. Jesus however, gave us a shining example in the parable of the alabaster box.

She was the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy "I will do a new thing in the earth...a woman shall lead a man". Jeremiah 31:22

joybug56 said...

I believe in women teachers and preachers! My only other comment was who was the first that was commissioned to go tell the of the Resurrected Christ .... "not a man" but a 'woman" ...!