Gospel Gazette, Bible Articles

Vol. 2, No. 5 Page 19 May 2000

Gospel Gazette, Bible Articles
By Louis Rushmore

Female Preachers

 

Fully appreciating those scriptures that forbid females to preach, I still very much profit spiritually from virtually all of the contemporary female preachers whom I watch on T.V. In doing so, am I breaking the law of God? Is this law (I Corinthians 14:35) in harmony with the needs of contemporary believers and the socio-cultural conditions in which we live? Is the Bible out of sync on this issue? If it is, how can this be so if he word of God is divine and infallible? This concerns me chiefly because I'm catching flack from my fellow Baptists! I personally find it ludicrous in this day and time to forbid female preaching. God knows His churches and His followers want and need all the inspiration, teaching, and hope that is available. ~ S. C. Surratt, (An Unhappy Independent Baptist) Winston-Salem, NC

 

It is true, of course, that the New Testament prohibits females from teaching or preaching under circumstances where they thereby subject males to them.

 

“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. 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 14:34-35).

 

“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” (1 Timothy 2:11-12).

 

There are occasions when women may publicly address female audiences (e.g., lectures) where, because males are not present, they are not prohibited from preaching. There are other instances in which a woman may teach privately, though men may be present (Acts 18:26), when she does not violate Scripture, since the other members of the religious discussion do not subject themselves to her. This would be comparable to any religious discussion or Bible class where a woman is not the teacher to whom all other participants are subject. In one sense, a woman teaches publicly, even in the assembly, with divine permission when she sings songs (Colossians 3:16). However, women are forbidden by inspired Scripture to preach in the presence of men.

 

Yet, women are not the least inferior to men intellectually and certainly not spiritually. It is no wonder, then, that many men and women benefit from the teaching afforded them by women who are students of God’s Word (e.g., children in the home or Bible classes, family members in the home including husbands and grown sons, men and women in Bible studies where no one is subject to another because there is no teacher as such, men and women in Bible classes where all class participants are amendable to a class teacher, written materials). However, it remains that God assigned differing roles in the church for men and women. Women are forbidden by inspired Scripture to preach in the presence of men.

 

Watching a woman preach on television, in my opinion, does not afford a circumstance where the viewer is obligated or subjected to the speaker; the viewer, man or woman, can change the channel or turn the television off at will. The woman, though, that proposes to “preach” to the public, including men, goes beyond the role in religion that God assigned her.

 

So-called “socio-cultural conditions” were never the criteria by which respective male and female roles in the New Testament were implemented. The relationship of the female role to the male role (i.e., women subject to men) pertains to the origin of each gender and the supportive role of woman at creation.

 

“For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man” (1 Corinthians 11:8-9).

 

Further, the order of creation affects the respective roles of men and women. “For Adam was first formed, then Eve” (1 Timothy 2:13). Additionally, woman, represented shortly after creation by Eve, was deceived, leading her to sin. “And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression” (1 Timothy 2:14). Eve was not only deceived, but she was the first human to sin. (Adam sinned as a result of his devotion to Eve and his failure to lead as God intended. Scripture, naturally, does not excuse Adam in his sin.)

 

The reasons given in God’s inspired Word for the respective roles of men and women in the church predate the development of “socio-cultural conditions.” Therefore, social and cultural considerations are irrelevant to the God-ordained roles of men and women in religion. The New Testament plainly assigns differing roles for men and women in the church and nothing in Scripture or since by any means mitigates, alters or changes in the least what God caused to be inscribed upon the pages of inspiration regarding this topic.

 

If God had granted me the option of assigning roles to men and women in religion, I, too, probably would make some changes. From a practical perspective, I cannot see the harm in allowing women greater freedom in religion, such as preaching or teaching publicly to audiences in which men are present. However, God did not ask for any human’s advice in this or any other matter on which he legislated in the Bible. If God’s Word can be understood clearly regarding the respective roles of men and women in the church (and it can), if God means what he says (and he does; Uzzah, 1 Chronicles 13:9-10) and if mankind will be judged by the written Word (and he will; John 12:48; Revelation 20:12), no one dare change the doctrine of the New Testament at all (Revelation 22:18-19).

 

The fact that many males may not rise to the occasion to be teachers and preachers is a sad commentary on men, but that human failure does not negate God’s law respecting the roles of men and women in the church. The fact that many males may not rise to the occasion to be the husbands and fathers in the home that they should be is a sad commentary on men, but that human failure does not, for instance, make a wife into a husband or make a mother into a father. The home needs both male and female roles to be the coordinated home that God designed it to be. Likewise, the church needs both male and female roles to be the coordinated church that God designed it to be.

 

The real question is one of authority. To whom shall we turn for authority in religion to make the laws by which the church will conduct itself ¾ God or mankind? The period of the Judges was characterized by a general failure to recognize the authority of God. “In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). The apostle Paul, though, cautioned in the New Testament that each of us must seek, for our own spiritual welfare, the authority of Jesus Christ. “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him” (Colossians 3:17). After all, Jesus said that he possessed all authority. “. . . All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18, ASV).


Public Prayers by Women

 

Brother Rushmore: My name is Michael Moore. I am a member of the Mid Valley church of Christ in Sandy, Utah. (a suburb of Salt Lake). Last August the congregation we attended decided they were going to allow women to pray in public while men were present. What was odd; they used I Corinthians 11 and I Timothy 2 as the authority to do so. The issue was discussed and studied with the elders but they would not change their stance. Needless to say there was a split and hence the Mid Valley congregation was formed. To make a long story short, last October a young man became available to become our evangelist but we needed help to pay him. (which we came up short on) While we solicited support from congregations we were familiar with I received a response that surprised me. A congregation in Rogers, Arkansas replied that we could not use I Corinthians 11 against women praying since there are no longer prophets. Their reply was that I Corinthians 11 only dealt with women prophesying with their heads uncovered...do we force them to cover their heads today was their reply. My understanding is that, yes, there are no longer prophets (contrary to what the LDS believe here in Salt Lake) but Paul was correcting the Church at Corinth for allowing the women to have authority over the men. I have studied many different articles, and talked to different evangelist around the States. I have formed an opinion on this subject but I want to be sure. I respect your opinion. I have bookmarked your web page and use it often. What is your understanding on I Corinthians 11 and womans role in the worship service? If you know of someone who would be willing to come to Utah to preach (it's a wonderful mission field) would you let me know. We are in better shape to support someone at this time. In His Service, Michael Moore

 

You are correct that 1 Corinthians 11 was penned to re-establish in the Corinthian church the relationship of the roles of men and women to each other in Christianity.

 

“Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you. 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 11:2-3).

 

Further, the customs to which the apostle Paul referred included the conduct of Christian men and women as they prayed or prophesied. To ignore the presence of prayer in the passage is shortsighted if not also dishonest. Further, in the technical sense, we still have prophets today, too. Of course, then they were miraculously assisted, whereas today our “prophets” must rely upon the inspired, written, preserved revelation (the Bible) for their declarations. There is a widespread and fundamentally flawed concept on what the Bible means by the use of the term “prophet.” Nearly universally, people limit the definition of the word “prophet” to predictive activity. The prophet’s duty was basically declarative and secondarily may have included a predictive feature.

 

Though much of O.T. prophecy was purely predictive, see Micah 5:2, e.g., and cp. John 11:51, prophecy is not necessarily, nor even primarily, fore–telling. It is the declaration of that which cannot be known by natural means, Matt. 26:68, it is the forth–telling of the will of God, whether with reference to the past, the present, or the future . . .[1]

 

The first definition of the Greek noun for “prophet” is “signifies the speaking forth of the mind and counsel of God . . .” and the first definition for the Greek verb for “prophesy” is “to be a prophet, to prophesy, is used (a) with the primary meaning of telling forth the Divine counsels . . .”[2] Further, a companion passage relative to various offices of duty in the Lord’s church occurs in Ephesians 4:11. “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers.” In the context in which these appear, each of them was miraculously assisted (Ephesians 4:11-14). Miracles, though, according to the same context and 1 Corinthians 13:8-13 were slated to end (which they have). Yet, at least the offices of evangelists, pastors (elders) and teachers remain ¾ howbeit without the assistance of miracles.

 

In 1 Corinthians 11, Paul addressed the violation of customs by Christians, which customs were not wrong of themselves. However, the violation of the prevailing custom of women wearing veils over their heads to signify their subjection to men indicated to all onlookers that (1) Christian women refused to be subject to men, and (2) that Christian women were prostitutes, since Christian women attired themselves at least one way in which prostitutes attired themselves (i.e., refusing to wear veils). On both counts, Christian women in Corinth were wrong and brought reproach on themselves, their families, and the Lord’s church.

 

The subjection of the female role to the male role in the home and in religion predated the customs in Corinth that signified that relationship. God assigned those respective roles at creation and again following the sin of Adam and Eve.

 

“For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man” (1 Corinthians 11:8-9).

 

“For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression” (1 Timothy 2:13-14).

 

Irrespective of the fact that the custom of the veil on women does not prevail today in most of western civilization, the truth that was signified by veils on women in Corinth was instituted by God long before the development of social customs and culture. The inspired apostle Paul clearly taught that the respective roles that God assigned men and women from creation onward were yet effective under Christianity. No passage elsewhere in the New Testament nullifies these God-ordained roles for men and women. No one has the authority to countermand God in this (or any other) matter on which he has legislated in the Bible (Deuteronomy 4:2; Proverbs 30:6; Revelation 22:18-19).

 

The respective roles in religion and in the home that God established from the dawn of man’s earthly pilgrimage are still in force. By divine design, the role for public activity in the assembly of the church belongs exclusively to designated males. Consequently, women are forbidden to publicly teach over men.

 

“I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting. . . . 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” (1 Timothy 2:8-12).

 

Women are to be silent in the assembly, including praying, leading singing, preaching and interpreting (translating) per the context of 1 Corinthians 14 which addressed each of these items regarding male participation in them.

 

“Let your women keep silence in the churches [assemblies]: 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 [assembly]” (1 Corinthians 14:34-35).

 

The law of God respecting the subjection of the female role to the male role in the home and religion, which God instituted at creation, continued throughout Patriarchy and Judaism, and continues today as well. Judaism saw the reinstitution of that law of God and the same law of God respecting male and female roles was reinstituted in Christianity, too.

 

Endnotes



[1]Vine, W. E., Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, (Grand Rapids, MI: Fleming H. Revell) 1981.

[2]Ibid.



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