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Women Preachers: Yes or No?

The subject in question is whether or not it is appropriate for women to serve as preachers, teachers, etc. As with all scripture, revelation is necessary in order to have the true meaning of the Word of God. For instance, Mark 16:18 states that believers in the name of Jesus “shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them”. So if taken literally like reading a newspaper with a fleshly intellectual mind, we would preach that a believer in Jesus name are to take up serpents; bringing in a basket of snakes into the congregation and letting each individual believer hold them up in their hands and to also drink strychnine. Most assume that the Word of God is to be taken literally until it cannot be taken any other way, then one can take it spiritually. Truth is that the Spirit of God must lead us into truth outside of leaning to our own understanding. One man reportedly went on a forty day fast to get an answer from God as to whether or not women could be used in ministry. He did not receive an answer from God, therefore assumed that he had already been told the answer. Most believers have their own minds governed by their heart and therefore will not change regardless of revelation. We will concede that the subject of women being in ministry is controversial with well-meaning and sincere Christians on both sides; some for and some against. This article is written for your scrutiny as a brief summation of the truth as we see it by the Spirit of God.

 

In a Jewish synagogue, the men came to teach, and the women to hear. One of the Jewish canons reads as follows: “a woman may not read (that is, in the law), (rwbub), in the congregation, or church, because of the honour of the congregation”. It was a dishonorable thing to a public assembly for a woman to read, though they even allowed a child to do it that was capable of it.

 

The Corinthian Church was in divisions, sects, and heresies with the order of the church being in confusion even though Paul had laid out the ordinances beforehand. However, these ordinances had not been followed as Paul instructed and there was chaos. The first principles of the oracles of God are stated by Paul to the church at Corinth. We will look at the correct order of the church as Paul stated in the ordinances that he had before given to them.

 

Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.” (1 Corinthians 11:2).

 

Ordinances are the Greek “paradosis” meaning “traditions” as apostolic directions for the church order. “But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.” (1 Corinthians 11:3). Christ is God first and foremost: Jesus is God Almighty. He is the head of all things since all things were created by Him and for Him, for He is the Head. We are to look to Jesus in all things which are Him, by Him, through Him, and in Him alone. Christ is the head of man and man is the head of the woman. This is in accordance with Genesis 3:16 as man is the head of the woman. “in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.” (Genesis 3:16). Nobody will argue that the man is the head of the woman since she is the glory of the man and made subject to him. However, the problem arises when every man believes that every woman should be subject to him since he is a man. This is speaking of the first church unit being the family with man as the priest over his own household. The husband is to rule his house well with all children in gravity to him as the head; for if a man cannot rule his own household, how can he rule the house of God? There is no problem so far. A man is to love his wife as Christ so loved the church and gave himself for it. And a woman is to reverence her own husband; not the pastor, not any other man, but only her own husband. This will be important as to other questions that will arise when speaking of the woman being in subjection to the man which we will discuss later in this article.

 

“Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head.” (1 Corinthians 11:4).  

 

Every man can prophesy. “Prophesy” is the Greek “prophēteuō” meaning speak unto men to edification, exhortation, and comfort; to preach.[1] There is no problem there as all men can pray or prophesy in the local church assembly. A man was not to have his head covered with a cap, turban, or covering of any kind on his head because it would dishonor his head; that is, Christ. The man’s head being covered was a sign of subjection being held improper since the man is a representative of Christ. The canons of the Jews held that a man’s head had to be covered when he prayed since “He should veil himself to show that he is ashamed before God, and unworthy with open face to behold him". See much in Lightfoot on this point.[2]

 

“But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven.” (1 Corinthians 11:5).  

 

The above verse of scripture shows that a woman can also pray or prophesy; “prophesy” being “prophēteuō” meaning speak unto men to edification, exhortation, and comfort; to preach”.[3] “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions.” (Joel 2:28).  "Prophesying" in the New Testament is applied to all speaking under the enlightenment of the Holy Ghost, and not merely to telling future events under the anointing.  All, both men and women, who are filled with the Holy Ghost are "priests" and "ministers" of our God. Both men and women shall preach; that is, to exhort, pray, and instruct, so as to benefit the Church.

 

A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.” (Ezekiel 36:26,27).  

 

Both men and women both are included in receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, not to keep silent in the church, but to prophesy for the edifying of the church. It is both men and women as all that believe in the name of Jesus that will fulfill the commands of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark.

 

“And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.” (Mark 16:15-18).  

 

Some will say that Jesus spoke this only to the eleven apostles and therefore does not apply to all the body of Christ. However, in the book of Acts we will see that the whole body of Christ being both men and women were scattered abroad and went everywhere preaching the Gospel of the kingdom. Only the apostles abode in Jerusalem.

 

“Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word.” (Acts 8:4). 

 

“But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven.” (1 Corinthians 11:5).  

 

If women cannot pray nor prophesy in the church assembly, then what difference would it make as to whether or not a woman had a covering on her head? Either the women can pray and prophesy in the church assembly or they cannot, regardless if their head is uncovered. Every woman can pray or prophesy in the local church assembly. The only thing Paul states is that praying or prophesying with her head uncovered dishonors the head of the woman. Most commentaries that have stood against women praying, prophesying, or even speaking at all in the local church assembly will start “two-stepping” to explain the verse of scripture that was just quoted by Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:5. They will say that it did not mean what is said, and what Paul said was not what he meant due to the other scriptures quoted in the Word of God.

 

There is a revelation as to the truth when there appears to be scriptures that appear to be contradictory. Before the Cross of Calvary, all mankind was in bondage to sin, being all their lifetime subject to death. However, Jesus set the captives free when He died on Calvary and everything changed. The natural law was fulfilled and brought to a new height becoming spiritual. The natural people with natural boundaries governed by a natural law written in stone were now a spiritual people with spiritual boundaries governed by a spiritual law of liberty now written in the believers’ hearts of flesh.

 

Joel speaks of the glorious liberty that not only men but also women would come into after the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. For after the Cross there will be no more male or female in the Lord; for as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God. The outpouring of the Holy Ghost as spoken by the prophet Joel refers to the work of the cross and the following liberty given to both men and woman who receive the Spirit would prophesy; that is, teach and expound the Word of God.

 

“And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions.” (Joel 2:28).  

 

The women did prophesy in teaching and expounding the Word by the Spirit of God in the assembly as Paul stated where he laid down the rules as to their appearance and conduct while ministering in the local assembly. The question that begs to be answered is what Paul meant when he laid out the ordinances of the church for the women to be silent and not permitted to speak.

 

“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.” (1 Corinthians 14:34).

 

We will agree that this is a problematic verse spoken by Paul concerning women being used in ministry. If it is to be taken in the literal sense; we must conclude that women cannot praise the Lord in song or worship; cannot give their testimonies to the goodness of God; cannot fellowship with other believers; cannot receive the gift of the Holy Ghost with the outward evidence of speaking in other tongues; cannot be used in the utterance gifts of the Holy Ghost since prophecy, diversities of tongues, and interpretation of tongues requires speaking; etc.

 

Women not speaking in a synagogue was a Jewish ordinance; women were not permitted to teach in the assemblies, or even to ask questions. The rabbis taught that "a woman should know nothing but the use of her distaff". And the sayings of Rabbi Eliezer, “yisrephu dibrey torah veal yimsaru lenashim”; "Let the words of the law be burned, rather than that they should be delivered to women."[4]

 

Paul’s statement that women are to keep silence in the assembly of the church seems to be a contradiction with allowing the women to prophesy. It must be one or the other. This is where most agree that there are more scriptures against women speaking than for women speaking and draw their conclusions without further investigation. We must receive the truth by revelation of these scriptures. However, both scriptures cited by Paul that women can prophesy with their head covered; and for women to keep silence and not speak are consistent. It is apparent that Paul refers to “asking questions” called “dictating” in the church assembly. Any man was permitted to ask questions, argue, quarrel, object, or disprove anything spoken in the church. However, women were not allowed to. They were not permitted to ask questions in order to learn. Paul confirms this by ordering them to keep silence in the church. He goes on to say that they can do so at home by inquiring not in the local assembly which was a disturbance to the service, but to ask their husbands at home. The man would ask the questions in the assembly, not the women; for the women were not to argue or contend with men in public assemblies as to doctrine, dogmas, etc.

 

This does not mean that if a woman were to be moved on in unction by the Holy Ghost that she is not to obey the Spirit of God and keep silent on the matter; for the unction from the Holy Ghost would not have her asking questions or arguing any case in point in the service. In this case the woman would be used to edify the body of Christ in obeying the Holy Ghost. Paul laid down the directions for the woman to prophesy in the assembly in 1 Corinthians 11:5; by having her head covered in accordance with being in subjection to the man as her head. The woman is not out of order by speaking a word given to her by the Holy Ghost which is not in questioning or arguing any one point as a man has a right to do. All that Paul opposes here is a woman questioning, finding fault, or disputing as men were allowed to do. For a woman to contend with the man, in doing so, would be usurping authority over the man. The man could ask questions, argue, quarrel, object, or disprove anything according to their knowledge and not be violating their authority as a man. Also, when a man is moved on by the Holy Ghost in speaking is not for debate either simply because the Holy Ghost has spoken through the man and as such should not be questioned, argued, or disproved; for all prophesies by the unction of the Holy Ghost are to be delivered in the assembly as rivers of living waters flow from one’s spirit moved on by the Spirit of God in a “Rhema” spoken word. No woman was to set up her own individual revelation or judgment in opposition to the man in the assembly which would be considered her being disobedient, being lifted up in pride and arrogance. A woman under the anointing of the Holy Ghost would not be disputing doctrine or asking questions about scripture. To reiterate; any woman under the unction of the Holy Ghost would not be arguing or disputing but simply speaking truth as an instrument used of the Holy Ghost. There is a difference between the women asking questions in the church assembly and their speaking under the unction and direction of the Holy Ghost.

 

“And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.” (Matthew 10:18-20).  

 

In the last days, many believers both men and women will be brought before governors and kings for the name of Jesus. The woman cannot say to these kings and governors, “I’m sorry I’m not permitted to speak to you because you’re a man and I’ll be usurping authority as a woman over you as a man if I deliver the Word of the Lord to you in public”.  This is ludicrous.

 

Paul goes on to say: “but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law.” (1 Corinthians 14:34b).

 

The law here Paul is referring to is Genesis 3:16: “Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. “ (Genesis 3:16). It is important to note that Paul was speaking of order when saying that the women “are to be under obedience, as also saith the law”. In this case the woman would be out of order and disobedient to the law. However, Paul is not referring to a woman upon whom God had poured out His Spirit and thus was used of the Holy Ghost in the church assembly.    

 

“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.” (1 Corinthians 14:35).

 

Now we come to the key of understanding the problem that Paul is addressing at the Church at Corinth. The women are not to ask questions called “dictating” in the church assembly causing confusion in the church, but are to ask their husbands at home. The order that Paul establishes concerns women asking questions, arguing issues over doctrine, quarreling, objecting to and disproving anything in the church in the learning process of the Word. They were simply to obey the order as stated in the law by asking their husbands at home.

 

Because women also have the Holy Ghost as well as men, they can be used of God in any spiritual gifts and offices just as men are used. The focus of Paul is on the order of the assembly in the general study of scripture by asking questions and dictating in the area of doctrine and instruction in the Word of God, not as to who is used or not to be used of the Holy Ghost. Paul is not separating women from being used of the Holy Ghost in prophesying the Word which is preaching and exhortation of the edifying of the body of Christ.  Paul eliminates the problem of public displays of dictating by women by telling them to ask their husbands at home, not in the public assembly of the church. The men would ask the questions in the assembly, not the women; but all were used in ministry by the Holy Ghost.

 

The Lord gave the word: great was the company of those that published it.” (Psalm 68:11).  

 

We have Old Testament instances of where the law was not dishonored by having women that served Israel as judges, prophetesses, and leaders in Israel being moved on by God. The literal translation of Psalm 68:11 “roth tsaba rab” is as follows: "Of the female preachers there was a great host". Here is an excerpt from Adam Clark: "JEHOVAH gave the word, (that is, the joyful news,) The women, who published the glad tidings, were a great company; The kings of mighty armies did flee, did flee: And even the matron, who stayed at home, shared the spoil".

The word signifying the publishers of glad tidings is the same, and expressed in the same form by the feminine participle, as in this place, and the last distich is the song which they sang. So in this place, JEHOVAH having given the word by his prophet, the joyful tidings of the restoration of Zion, and of God's returning to Jerusalem, (see Isaiah 52:8); women are exhorted by the prophet to publish the joyful news with a loud voice from eminences, whence they might best be heard all over the country; and the matter and burden of their song was to be, "Behold your God!".

 

Next we will examine 1 Timothy 2:12, in which Paul states "I do not suffer (permit) a woman to teach, or usurp authority over a man". In interpreting this verse, it is important to remember that the Greek words for "man" and "husband", as well as the words for "woman" and "wife", are the same. In the very next verse, Paul refers back to Adam being formed first, then Eve. From all indications, this passage is, by context, referring to the marriage relationship, not the church. Paul is not saying that men cannot learn from women. Rather, he is simply stating that women are not to be manipulative or domineering over their husbands. There is a big difference.

 

“Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.” (1 Timothy 2:11-15).   

 

Again, the women learning is the issue as to the order that she is to ask her husband at home, not usurping authority over the man. The woman as the church will be saved in child bearing which is the manchild birthed as the remnant of the church’s seed who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus, the spirit of prophecy. The marriage relationship is the topic of the above verses of scripture, as the woman is to be subject to her own husband, not to every man in the church; no, not even the pastor. The woman will be saved as also the man since the sentence was given by God to her in the Proto-evangel in Genesis 3:15,16. This is the same as mentioned in Paul’s statement to the Church at Corinthians concerning the women learning from their husbands at home, being silent in the church, not speaking or “dictating” in the public assembly.

 

God used women in the Old Testament the same as He does today under the New Covenant.

 

And when she could not longer hide him, she took for him an ark of bulrushes, and daubed it with slime and with pitch, and put the child therein; and she laid it in the flags by the river's brink.” (Exodus 2:3). Moses’ mother, Zipporah, was used of God by faith in delivering her child from the edict of Pharaoh.  

 

“Therefore God dealt well with the midwives: and the people multiplied, and waxed very mighty.” (Exodus 17:20).  The women who were midwives spared the firstborn sons of Israel.

 

Rahab the harlot was used of God to hide the two spies of Israel saving their lives. Deborah the prophetess, and a Judge of Israel, led the army of God into a great victory over Sisera by the hands of Jael, another woman. Michal, the first wife of David aided David in his escape from Saul. Esther won the first beauty pageant and was used of God to deliver his people from Haman’s plot to destroy all Israel.

 

“So Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam, and Achbor, and Shaphan, and Asahiah, went unto Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tikvah, the son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe;  (now she dwelt in Jerusalem in the college;) and they communed with her.” (2 Kings 22:14). Josiah sent these to Huldah the prophetess concerning the book found in the Temple. Huldah spoke “Thus saith the LORD”.

 

“Now the name of the man was Nabal; and the name of his wife Abigail: and she was a woman of good understanding, and of a beautiful countenance: but the man was churlish and evil in his doings; and he was of the house of Caleb.” (1 Samuel 25:3).  Abigail helped David and his men and later she married David after the death of her husband Nabal, the fool.

 

“Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised.” (Hebrews 11:11).  Sarah conceived seed through faith being well past age to have children being then ninety years old.

 

“Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection.” (Hebrews 11:35).  Both the widow of Zarephath and the Shunammite had sons raised from the dead by Elijah and Elishah respectively.

 

“And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.” (Hebrews 11:36-38). These saints of God bearing His name Jesus were both men and women who through history have been tortured, beaten, imprisoned, stoned, sawn in half, slain with swords, having sheepskins and goatskins for clothes instead of the fine silks of the world, being totally broke financially and tormented! The world was not worthy of these precious men….and let’s not forget the precious women who also gave their lives on the altar of sacrifice for the name of Jesus.

 

“And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.” (Acts 18:26).

 

Apollos is “expounded” to by a man and woman named Pricilla and Aquila. If the woman was not to teach a man at all, then Apollos would have sinned in listening to a woman “expound” to him “the way of God more perfectly”. If women were not to be used in instructing a man being in violation of 1 Timothy 2:12, then Priscilla would have disobeyed the ordinances of God. However, we find no reproof or correction for her in the Word of God, but she did in truth obey God in instructing the man along with her husband. Priscilla was in right standing with her husband as her head and still preached and instructed Apollos in the way. The name mentioned first in scripture has the dominance in speaking usually being the man mentioned first then the wife. However, Priscilla is mentioned first before her husband in Acts 18:1-4; Acts 18:18-28; Romans 16:3,4; 1 Corinthians 16:19; and 2 Timothy 2:14.

 

“A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach.” (1 Timothy 3:2). “Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.” (1 Timothy 3:12). “If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre.” (Titus 1:6,7).  

 

“I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea.” (Romans 16:1).

 

Phoebe means “radiant”. She was a deaconess of the church at Cenchrea, near Corinth.[5] If the scriptures above are considered absolute and not a general outline for qualifications for bishops and deacons, then Paul, since he was not married, would be disqualified as a bishop or deacon.  If the title deacon was solely for men, then Phoebe could not have been a deaconess at the Church at Cenchrea; servant being the Greek “diakonos” meaning deacon.

 

“I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I.” (1 Corinthians 7:8).

 

“I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord. And I intreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellowlabourers, whose names are in the book of life.” (Philippians 4:2,3).

 

“Euodia and Syntyche were two women who seem to have been at variance; probably deaconesses of the church. He repeats, "I beseech," as if he would admonish each separately, and with the utmost impartiality.”[6]  Paul exhorts these two women deaconesses to be one in the Lord without being at variance.

 

The following is from the Adam Clark Commentary: “Both in the Grecian and Asiatic countries women were kept much secluded, and is was not likely that even the apostles had much opportunity of conversing with them; it was therefore necessary that they should have some experienced Christian women with them, who could have access to families, and preach Jesus to the female part of them. The apostle tells us that certain women laboured with him in the Gospel, and were assistants to others also who had assisted him.”[7]

 

“Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellowprisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.” (Romans 16:7). 

 

Understanding that there has been great debate for Junia being male and not female and noteworthy as an apostle, we believe Junia to be a female apostle who was imprisoned with Paul suffering the hardships of ministry. To see the history of the debate of Junia as to her being male or female; she also being an apostle, please see the Wikipedia on “Junia”.  In commenting on Romans 16:7, John Chrysostom (347-407) states: "Greet Andronicus and Junia...who are outstanding among the apostles: To be an apostle is something great! But to be outstanding among the apostles - just think what a wonderful song of praise that is! They were outstanding on the basis of their works and virtuous actions. Indeed, how great the wisdom of this woman must have been that she was even deemed worthy of the title of apostle."

 

A final summation is that church leaders can be both male and female. It is not our intention to downgrade nor to belittle the strong male leadership in church government, but to elevate women to their rightful state so that women called of God can complete their calling as fellow soldiers of the Cross of Jesus. We do not believe that women should usurp the given authority of men in the church, but should be allowed to work in ministry by the Holy Ghost in praying and prophesying, preaching and edifying the church with her head covered as stated by Paul; the covering to be the hair as her glory being in subjection. Let everything be done decently and in order, not oppressing any calling of God upon any individual, be it male or female. We do not want the preaching army of God decreased by 50% or more by telling women that they cannot preach; for there is a great army of women who proclaim the Word of God.

 

“And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.” (Acts 2:17,18).

 

And my handmaids shall prophesy! Women of God, Preach On!

 

[1] Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance   Greek Dictionary of the New Testament 4395

[2] Jewish Encyclopedia   John Lightfoot

[3] Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance   Greek Dictionary of the New Testament 4395

[4]  “Bammidbar Rabba”, sec. 9, fol. 204

[5] Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance   Greek Dictionary of the New Testament 5402

[6]Jamieson Fausset Brown Complete Commentary 

[7] Adam Clark Commentary   Philippians 4:3

 

 

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