Women in Ministry

Women in Ministry

By Mac Hammond and Dr. Junius Pressey

In much of the world, the role of women in ministry is very controversial.  I think it’s probably the most abused and misunderstood and most fought-about topic in the Bible.

There are many ministries that believe women should not teach or preach in any capacity.

Then there are some that let women teach if they teach other women.  Different churches have different views on how much or how little they allow women to minister.

Teaching that women cannot teach is an erroneous doctrine and, for the sake of the body of Christ, needs to be corrected.  Women make up 60 percent of the Church.  If, indeed, it is inappropriate for that great percentage of the body of Christ to not teach or preach the Word of God, then we need to rethink our strategy for taking our communities for Christ.

The source of this erroneous doctrine is two portions of scripture. Let’s look at them.

1 Corinthians 14:34-35 “Let the 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.  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.”

1Timothy 2:11-15 “Let the women 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 not deceived, but the woman deceived was in the transgression.  Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in the faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.”

After reading these two passages of scripture, it’s easy to understand how one would come to the conclusion that women should not teach the Word of God.  However, the Bible tells us that we must rightly divide the Word of truth.  If the Bible can be rightly divided, then it can be wrongly divided.

Old Testament Women in Ministry

There are many places in the Bible where women not only minister but they hold five-fold offices.  I’ll list a few of the more prominent.

First of all, we see in Exodus 15:20, Miriam the Prophetess.  Miriam was sister to both Moses and Aaron.  She was used of God as a prophetess. A prophet is one who proclaims the word of the Lord.  A prophet teaches and speaks under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

In the fourth and fifth chapters of Judges, we read about Deborah who also was a prophetess.  It says about Deborah in Judges 4:4 that she “…judged Israel at that time.”  She was not simply a prophetess, but she also judged Israel.  God used a woman to direct the destiny of the nation of Israel  as both judge and prophetess.

Also in 2 Kings 22:14-20, we read about Hulda.  Hulda was a prophetess that was sought out by other prophets and kings for the direction and counsel of God.

We can’t forget about Esther.  God used Esther to bring deliverance and salvation to the entire Jewish nation from the evil intentions of a wicked man.

New Testament Women in Ministry

There are women standing in various ministry offices in the New Testament as well.

Anna, a widow, 84 years of age, was a prophetess also.  The Bible said she served God with fasting and prayer at the temple day and night.  When Joseph and Mary brought Jesus to the temple to present him to the Lord, Anna began to speak prophetically of Jesus “to all who were looking for the redemption (deliverance) of Israel.”  (Luke 2:36-38)

Also, God used a woman to preach Jesus to the Gentiles.  While Jesus was sitting at a well, a Samaritan woman approached the well.  Jesus began to talk to her and revealed to her that He was Messiah.  She ran back to the city and told everyone, “Come see a man, which told me all things that I ever did:  is this not the Christ?”  The Bible says they all left the city and went out to talk to Jesus.  (John 4:6-30)

The first people to know about the resurrection of Christ and to spread the news of it were two women.  The Bible says, “…came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulcher.”  An angel appeared to them and announced that Jesus was no longer in the tomb but that He had risen.  The angel told them to “go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead…”

We see in the book of Acts a married couple, Aquila and Priscilla, pastored a church together in Athens.  The Word makes is plain that Priscilla pastored with her husband.

In Acts 18, they ministered to a man named Apollos.  The Bible describes him as an eloquent man, mighty in the scriptures.  He was “fervent in spirit and spoke diligently the things of the Lord knowing only the baptism of John.” 

It says in verse 18:26 about Apollos, “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.”

It says both Aquila and Priscilla taught Apollos.  Now I want you to notice that it doesn’t say anything about Priscilla “usurping” the man’s authority.

So far, we’ve seen women standing in the office as prophet and teacher.  Now let’s look at one who stands in the office of apostle.  Romans 16:7 says, “Salute Andronicus and Junia (a woman), my kinsmen, and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.”

There is another very important scripture that is in reference to women in ministry in Acts 2:17-18, “And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out 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 myhandmaidens I will pour out in those days my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.”

This is a prophesy by the Old Testament prophet Joel about the last days.  Very clearly, women are to be used by God to minister.  God will pour out His Spirit upon them and they shall prophesy.

After having read all these scriptures, how could anyone doubt the fact that God does use and call women into ministry?  Galatians 3:26-27 tells us, “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.  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.”

Does God call an “earthen vessel,” which is what our bodies are, or does he call a spirit into the ministry?  He calls a spirit into the ministry, not a body, or earthen vessel.  God calls the spirits of both male and female.  We are all “one in Christ.”

Now then, after reviewing all these scriptures, there is no doubt that women are called into the ministry.  It’s plain and simple to see.  We must then come to the conclusion that the two scriptures we quoted at the beginning of the teaching must have a different meaning.

Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth

Let’s look at these scriptures more closely:

1 Corinthians 14:34-35 “Let the 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.  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.”

There is no word in the Greek language for wife.  The Greek word, gune, translated here as “women” is the same Greek word that is translated as “wives” in many other places in the New Testament.

We can ascertain that this is a reference to wives because it says “let them ask their husbands.”  So we know it’s referring to married women, not all women.

In order to rightly divide this scripture, you must take into consideration the culture of that time.  Women did not have the rights and privileges that men had.  They were truly second-class citizens.

In public, men and women didn’t sit together.  Wives sat on one side of the synagogue and the husbands sat on the other side.  The women received no education except through their husbands.  During their meetings in the synagogues, the women would shout across to their husbands questions about the message, if they didn’t understand what was being said.  As you can imagine, it created an atmosphere of confusion.

Paul was addressing a matter of church order, not church doctrine.  He said if the women were to learn anything, they were to ask their husbands these questions at home.  That’s why Paul said it was a shame for women to speak in the church.  They were disrupting the order of the service.

Clearly, Paul is not talking about women not teaching, because just a few chapters before, in 1 Corinthians 11:5, he is talking about women praying or prophesying in the church. Why would Paul contradict himself later saying women can’t teach?  It doesn’t make sense.

Let’s take a look at the scripture in 1 Timothy 2:11-15:  “Let the women 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 not deceived, but the woman deceived was in the transgression.  Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in the faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.”

This is also a reference to husbands and wives – not all women in general.  We know that because it’s making reference to the first husband and wife, Adam and Eve, and also because of the comment about childbearing.  It’s a reference to wives being in submission to their husbands.  She is told not to usurp authority over her husband.  The word “usurp” means:  “to act of oneself; to dominate.”  A woman must not teach or dominate her husband.

Conclusion:

As you can see, women are very much called of God to minister and teach the Word of God.  After viewing all the scriptures of women in the various offices of ministry, it would be impossible hold onto such an erroneous position which forbids women to teach.

Thank God!  It is when all believers, men and women, work together to fulfill the Great Commission that this world will be won for Christ.

Women!  You are free to answer the call of God to teach and minister the Word of God in whatever capacity He has called you.

 

This article was taken from the October 2005 issue of the News of Victory newsletter from Victory New Testament Fellowship, International in Mesquite, Texas.  Junius Pressey, PhD is one of their Fellowship Ministers.

 

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