What does the Bible say about women pastors? What scriptures support a woman's right to preach and spread the Gospel?

 

1 Timothy 2:11-12

11 Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.

12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.

 

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

13 For Adam was first formed, then Eve.

14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.

 

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 them, teaching them publicly, and exercising spiritual authority over them.

 

There are many objections to this view of women in pastoral 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, then 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 men (1 Timothy was written to Timothy, the pastor of the church in Ephesus). Ephesus was known for its temple to Artemis, and women were the authorities in that branch of paganism—therefore, the theory goes, Paul was only reacting against the female-led customs of the Ephesian idolaters, and the church needed to be different. However, the book of 1 Timothy nowhere mentions Artemis, nor does Paul mention the standard practice of Artemis worshipers as a reason for the restrictions in 1 Timothy 2:11–12.

 

A third objection is that Paul is only referring to husbands and wives, not men and women in general. The Greek words for “woman” and “man” in 1 Timothy 2 could refer to husbands and wives; however, the basic meaning of the words is broader than that. Further, the same Greek words are used in verses 8–10.

 

1 Timothy 2:8–10

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

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;

10 But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.

 

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 just husbands and wives. There is nothing in the context that would indicate a narrowing to husbands and wives in verses 11–14.

11 Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.

12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.

13 For Adam was first formed, then Eve.

14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.

 

Yet another objection to this interpretation of women in pastoral ministry is in relation to women who held positions of leadership in the Bible, specifically Miriam, Deborah, and Huldah in the Old Testament.

 

It is true that these women were chosen by God for special service to Him and that they stand as models of faith, courage, and leadership. However, the authority of women in the Old Testament is not relevant to the issue of pastors in the church.

 

The New Testament Epistles present a new paradigm for God’s people—the church, the body of Christ—and that paradigm involves an authority structure unique to 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. Did Priscilla and her husband teach the gospel of Jesus Christ to Apollos? Yes, in their home they “explained to him the way of God more adequately”

 

Acts 18:26

“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”.

 

The Bible does not say that Priscilla pastored a church or taught publicly or became the spiritual leader of a congregation of saints. As far as we know, Priscilla was not involved in ministry activity in contradiction to 1 Timothy 2:11–14.

In Romans 16:1, Phoebe is called a “deacon” (or “servant”) in the church and is highly commended by Paul.

Romans 16:1

“I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea:”

 

But, as with Priscilla, there is nothing in Scripture to indicate that Phoebe was a pastor or a teacher of men in the church. Being “able to teach” is given as a qualification for elders, but not for deacons (1 Timothy 3:1–13; Titus 1:6–9).

Both Priscilla and Aquila spoke privately to Apollos at Ephesus (Acts 18:24-26), correcting his incomplete and flawed theology. Further, women clearly played a significant role in the work of the Apostle Paul. In his letter to the Romans, Paul identified sixteen significant helpers in ministry (Romans 16:1-16), at least ten of them were women.

 

Who knows what the health of the church at Philippi would have been were it not for Lydia (Acts 16:13-15), apparently a benefactor to the church, and others such as Euodia and Syntyche (Phil. 4:2-3). Women made a significant contribution to Jesus' ministry. Luke recalled with appreciation their financial support and company with Him (Luke 8:1-3).

 

The structure of 1 Timothy 2:11–14 makes the reason why women cannot be pastors perfectly clear. 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” (verses 13–14). God created Adam first and then created Eve to be a “helper” for Adam. The order of creation has universal application in the family (Ephesians 5:22–33) and in the church.

 

The fact that Eve was deceived is also given in 1 Timothy 2:14 as a reason for women not serving as pastors or having spiritual authority over men. This does not mean that women are gullible or that they are all more easily deceived than men. If all women are more easily deceived, why would they be allowed to teach children (who are easily deceived) and other women (who are supposedly more easily deceived)?

 

The text simply says that women are not to teach men or have spiritual authority over men because Eve was deceived. God has chosen to give men the primary teaching authority in the church.

 

Compare Titus 2:3-5 and 2 Tim. 1:5; 3:14,15. Paul states that women cannot teach or have authority over men. Which means, they cannot have a pastoral position, or perform the pastoral function, for that puts them in authority over men.

Near the end of Pauls life, ten to fifteen years after the writing of the Epistle to the Galatians, Paul wrote to both Timothy and Titus, giving them pastoral instructions about how the church is to be organized. Both 1 Timothy and Titus provide clearly for a hierarchical approach to church order in which men rather than women were to occupy that role.

 

Some have pointed to Galatians 3:28 as justification for women serving as pastors.“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”.

However, it is a misuse of Scripture to produce ecclesiastical patterns from soteriological passages! While Paul clearly affirms the equality of men and women in salvation, he equally and just as clearly affirms the priority of men in church leadership. There is no conflict. The contextual issue is crucial for an accurate exposition in this, as in all areas. Readers must exercise great care, therefore, to determine the nature of the issue under discussion in order to understand and apply the message relevantly today.

 

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 only activity women are restricted from is teaching or having spiritual authority over men. This precludes 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 them.

 

Someday neither the church nor the family will operate with such economic subordination. Marriage is only an earthly economy (Matt. 22:30). The church is the bride of Christ and will have a corporate beauty in the image of God (Eph. 4:11-16; Eph. 5:25-27). The organization prescribed for churches pictures God's functional organization in the Godhead.

 

1 Corinthians 11:3

3 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.

 

Therefore, based upon these texts and models, a woman's spiritual service is to be in those roles assigned her by God. These do not include the role of pastor.

 

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