|Vol. 13 No. 10 October 2011||
J.C. Choate (deceased)
In our day, more and more women are becoming preachers. Many pulpits are now being filled by them, and they are often the speakers on religious TV programs. In a time in which the women’s lib movement is in full swing, the idea of “women preachers” fits right in with the idea of women taking the lead in many or all fields that were formerly reserved for men.
The question here, however, is not a matter of men suppressing women and forbidding them to preach, or not allowing them to enter a field of work where men have previously played a dominant role. The question is, “Does the Lord, Himself, authorize women to take the lead in doing this kind of public work in the church?”
When we look at the ministry of Jesus, we find Him choosing 12 individuals to serve as His apostles. Who were these apostles? They were all men! Later, when Judas betrayed Christ and another was selected to take his place, even though there were faithful women among His disciples, still it was a man that was chosen (Acts 1:26). Also, when one was appointed by God “out of due season” to become an apostle to the Gentiles, Paul – a man – was the selection.
After the church had been established and had begun to grow and spread throughout the world, there was a need for leaders in each congregation. According to 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, those Christians who were qualified were to be appointed as elders and deacons. In both cases, they were to be men – not women. In reply to those who believe that women can also serve as elders, someone said that, based on the requirements listed in the Scriptures, he did not know how a woman could be the husband of one wife!
After the Lord’s death, burial and resurrection, He appeared before the apostles – all men – and commanded them to go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15-16). Also, read Matthew 28:19-20.
Coming over to Acts 2, we are told that those same apostles – all men – were in Jerusalem on the first Pentecost after the resurrection of Jesus Christ. They were baptized with the Holy Spirit and began to preach to the great crowd of people that gathered there. As a result, many believed and asked what else they should do. Peter told them to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins and they would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. About 3,000 – both men and women – gladly received the Word and were baptized, and the Lord added the saved to His church. Read Acts 2.
Later, seven good men with an honest report and full of the Holy Spirit were appointed to help the apostles. These served the church in the capacity of deacons. Reading through the Book of Acts, you will note that it was always the men who publicly preached the Gospel and took the lead in other public work.
The overwhelming conclusion, then, is that the Lord chose men to preach and to lead the church in all of its public activities. Nowhere in the New Testament do you find women publicly preaching, leading in prayers, directing the singing and waiting on the Lord’s Table. God placed man in the leadership role, and we must respect His wisdom in doing that.
However, is it only by the emphasis on the work of men that we would conclude that women are not to be public leaders in the church of Christ? No, the Scriptures very clearly say by inspiration, “Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression” (1 Timothy 2:14). The reason given in this passage for the restriction concerning the work of women shows that the prohibition was not a cultural thing, but rather a law made by God’s direction. Notice also, “Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says” (1 Corinthians 14:34).
In the Old Testament, God spoke to the fathers by the prophets – all men. He used men to write the Scriptures; men were the kings and priests, and with only one exception (Deborah), men were the judges. Why was there one woman judge? Because in all Israel, there was no man with the courage to lead the people! That fact should set off alarms in the ears of men who would relinquish their God-given responsibilities today. God created men to lead, and women to be the helpers. We have no authority to change His order of leadership.
The home began to hurt when women left the home to take up work in the outside world. With the passing of time, many women have taken on the work of men, while their own work – for which they were especially designed by God – was neglected. In too many cases, now, men are not carrying their own responsibilities; they abandon their wives and families, and they live for themselves. With this change in roles, the home, the church and the world are in trouble. It is critical that we go back to God’s plan in which men assume their roles as leaders and women devote themselves to their homes, families and husbands.
Does the woman, then, have responsibility and work to do in the Lord’s church? We read of Priscilla, with her husband, teaching Apollos privately (Acts 18:26); the church often met in the homes of women (Romans 16); women provided help and support in the preaching of the Gospel. In segregated classes in the church, as well as privately, women are to teach other women and children (Titus 2:3-5). Women are also entrusted (1 Timothy 5:14) with the most important work of keeping the home and children. God bless them as they obey!