This post is taken from www.gotquestions.org, with permission
Question: "Women pastors / preachers? What does the Bible say about
women in ministry?"
Answer: There is perhaps no more hotly
debated issue in the church today than the issue of women serving as
pastors/preachers. As a result, it is very important to not see this issue as
men versus women. There are women who believe women should not serve as pastors
and that the Bible places restrictions on the ministry of women, and there are
men who believe women can serve as preachers and that there are no restrictions
on women in ministry. This is not an issue of chauvinism or discrimination. It
is an issue of biblical interpretation.
The Word of God proclaims, “A
woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to
teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent” (1 Timothy 2:11-12). In
the church, God assigns different roles to men and women. This is a result of
the way mankind was created and the way in which sin entered the world (1 Timothy 2:13-14).
God, through the apostle Paul, restricts women from serving in roles of teaching
and/or having spiritual authority over men. This precludes women from serving as
pastors over men, which definitely includes preaching to, teaching, and having
There are many “objections” to this view of women in
ministry. A common one is that Paul restricts women from teaching because in the
first century, women were typically uneducated. However, 1 Timothy 2:11-14
nowhere mentions educational status. If education were a qualification for
ministry, the majority of Jesus' disciples would not have been qualified. A
second common objection is that Paul only restricted the women of Ephesus from
teaching (1 Timothy was written to Timothy, who was the pastor of the church in
Ephesus). The city of Ephesus was known for its temple to Artemis, a false
Greek/Roman goddess. Women were the authority in the worship of Artemis.
However, the book of 1 Timothy nowhere mentions Artemis, nor does Paul mention
Artemis worship as a reason for the restrictions in 1 Timothy
A third common objection is that Paul is only referring to
husbands and wives, not men and women in general. The Greek words in the passage
could refer to husbands and wives; however, the basic meaning of the words
refers to men and women. Further, the same Greek words are used in verses 8-10.
Are only husbands to lift up holy hands in prayer without anger and disputing
(verse 8)? Are only wives to dress modestly, have good deeds, and worship God
(verses 9-10)? Of course not. Verses 8-10 clearly refer to all men and women,
not only husbands and wives. There is nothing in the context that would indicate
a switch to husbands and wives in verses 11-14.
Yet another frequent
objection to this interpretation of women in ministry is in relation to women
who held positions of leadership in the Bible, specifically Miriam, Deborah, and
Huldah in the Old Testament. This objection fails to note some significant
factors. First, Deborah was the only female judge among 13 male judges. Huldah
was the only female prophet among dozens of male prophets mentioned in the
Bible. Miriam's only connection to leadership was being the sister of Moses and
Aaron. The two most prominent women in the times of the Kings were Athaliah and
Jezebel—hardly examples of godly female leadership. Most significantly, though,
the authority of women in the Old Testament is not relevant to the issue. The
book of 1 Timothy and the other Pastoral Epistles present a new paradigm for the
church—the body of Christ—and that paradigm involves the authority structure for
the church, not for the nation of Israel or any other Old Testament entity.
Similar arguments are made using Priscilla and Phoebe in the New
Testament. In Acts 18, Priscilla and Aquila are presented as faithful ministers
for Christ. Priscilla's name is mentioned first, perhaps indicating that she was
more “prominent” in ministry than her husband. However, Priscilla is nowhere
described as participating in a ministry activity that is in contradiction to 1 Timothy 2:11-14.
Priscilla and Aquila brought Apollos into their home and they both discipled
him, explaining the Word of God to him more accurately (Acts
In Romans 16:1, even if Phoebe is considered a “deaconess”
instead of a “servant,” that does not indicate that Phoebe was a teacher in the
church. “Able to teach” is given as a qualification for elders, but not deacons
(1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:6-9). Elders/bishops/deacons are described as the
“husband of one wife,” “a man whose children believe,” and “men worthy of
respect.” Clearly the indication is that these qualifications refer to men. In
addition, in 1 Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:6-9, masculine pronouns are used exclusively to
refer to elders/bishops/deacons.
The structure of 1 Timothy 2:11-14
makes the “reason” perfectly clear. Verse 13 begins with “for” and gives the
“cause” of Paul’s statement in verses 11-12. Why should women not teach or have
authority over men? Because “Adam was created first, then Eve. And Adam was not
the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived.” God created Adam first and
then created Eve to be a “helper” for Adam. This order of creation has universal
application in the family (Ephesians 5:22-33) and
the church. The fact that Eve was deceived is also given as a reason for women
not serving as pastors or having spiritual authority over men. This leads some
to believe that women should not teach because they are more easily deceived.
That concept is debatable, but if women are more easily deceived, why should
they be allowed to teach children (who are easily deceived) and other women (who
are supposedly more easily deceived)? That is not what the text says. Women are
not to teach men or have spiritual authority over men because Eve was deceived.
As a result, God has given men the primary teaching authority in the
Many women excel in gifts of hospitality, mercy, teaching,
evangelism, and helps. Much of the ministry of the local church depends on
women. Women in the church are not restricted from public praying or prophesying
(1 Corinthians 11:5),
only from having spiritual teaching authority over men. The Bible nowhere
restricts women from exercising the gifts of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12).
Women, just as much as men, are called to minister to others, to demonstrate the
fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23),
and to proclaim the gospel to the lost (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8; 1 Peter 3:15).
God has ordained that only men are
to serve in positions of spiritual teaching authority in the church. This is not
because men are necessarily better teachers, or because women are inferior or
less intelligent (which is not the case). It is simply the way God designed the
church to function. Men are to set the example in spiritual leadership—in their
lives and through their words. Women are to take a less authoritative role.
Women are encouraged to teach other women (Titus
2:3-5). The Bible also does not restrict women from teaching children. The
only activity women are restricted from is teaching or having spiritual
authority over men. This logically would preclude women from serving as pastors
to men. This does not make women less important, by any means, but rather gives
them a ministry focus more in agreement with God’s plan and His gifting of