Gender and Preaching

This week, I have been studying the controversial issue of women preaching. For some it's controversial that I should even be studying it- it's so perfectly clear that it's right or wrong. However I first note that:

  1. We must not allow controversial subjects to divide us- disagreements are a measure of our love and patience.
  2. We must acknowledge that people holding different views to us are as sincere as we are.

Questions to ask:

  1. Does the Bible forbid women preaching?
  2. If so, does it apply today as it did back then?
  3. What is preaching and teaching?

Verses seemingly forbidding women preaching:

1 Timothy 2: 8 I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting; 9 in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, 10 but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works. 11 Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. 12 And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. 15 Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.

  • Does this mean women can’t even pray?

1 Corinthians 14: 34 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. 35 And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church.36 Or did the word of God come originally from you? Or was it you only that it reached? 37 If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord. 38 But if anyone is ignorant, let him be ignorant.

  • Does this refer to teaching, or just talking in the meeting?

The twelve apostles were male, and they were the ultimate teachers of the early church.

Verses seemingly allowing women preaching:

Acts 18:26: 26 So he began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.

  • Was she the teacher, or her husband, or both?

Romans 16:1 I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the church in Cenchrea,

  • As a deacon, does she teach?

1 Corinthians 11:5 but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonours her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven.

  • Is prophesying teaching?

Titus 2:3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in behaviour, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, 4 and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.

  • Are they only teaching women?

Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus

  • Is this referring to value rather than function?

Female Prophets:

Exodus 15:20 Then Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took the timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances.

Judges 4:4 Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, was judging Israel at that time.

2 Kings 22:14 So Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam, Achbor, Shaphan, and Asaiah went to Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tikvah, the son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe. (She dwelt in Jerusalem in the Second Quarter.) And they spoke with her.

Luke 2:36 Now there was one, Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, and had lived with a husband seven years from her virginity;

NB The only reference to female prophets teaching is negative:

Revelation 2:20 Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.

It is clear though, that she is no prophetess at all.

In Acts 21, Phillip has four unmarried daughters who 'prophesied'

Questions to ask:

  1. What is prophesying?
  2. What is teaching?
  3. What preaching?

For those opposed to women’s preaching: Is evangelistic preaching forbidden? Is sharing a testimony and a Bible verse forbidden?

For those in favour of it: Has God changed His mind? Are we allowing 20th Century ideology to shape our faith instead of the timeless word of God?

I did wonder why angels have never been tasked with teaching humans divine truth. Although I suspect their beauty would be something of a distraction and a stumbling block to idolatry, I do not doubt their greater intelligence and eloquence would aid, not hinder, their ability to teach. Yet God has thus ordained it that they should not. Humans should teach humans. And from what I read of Paul, male humans. It's not a question of intelligence, or shortage of ability or lack of value. It's simply respecting God's ordering of things. As a man, I may be disappointed that I have not been awarded the privilege of reproducing human life. I could argue that my blood stream contains as much oxygen and nourishment as any woman's. I could argue that a man could make as good a mother as any female. I could even list some bad mothers to help prove my point. But in God’s own ordering of things, it's a woman's privilege only.