Does God Authorize Women Preachers? – Jess Whitlock

Jess Whitlock

When I began preaching in the 1970s, I was aware that the man-made denominations of our age had women preachers. As a boy preacher I do not recall a single instance of women preachers in the churches of Christ. But the decades of the 80s and 90s were different stories. University church in Abilene, Texas encouraged women in praying and prophesying in worship.

At Dayspring church in Edmond, Oklahoma, women served at the Lord’s table and a woman publicly interviewed a prospective elder in the worship service. Highland church in Abilene, Texas had a funeral service preached entirely by women, University church in Murray, Kentucky, had a young lady to address the worship assembly, and at Brookline church in Brookline, Massachusetts women read Scripture, lead prayers and singing, serve the communion, teach adult classes and preach.

One church in Alabama issued a document to inform members that women would be reading Scripture, serving the communion, leading prayers, directing singing and, yes, preaching. They also said they would appoint deacons who “will be male and female.” The elders assured the brethren they would “initiate gradual change in the Sunday morning worship assembly.”

When one reflects upon the subject of apostasy among the Lord’s people, hasn’t it always been accomplished in a gradual manner, slowly, a little bit at a time? Whenever a new false doctrine has been admitted into a congregation hasn’t it been introduced little by little? Mark it down. When you enter a church building and find a woman in the pulpit, you are not in the church of my Lord. You are in a man-made denomination.

1 Timothy 2:8-14

First Timothy 2 has to do with a regular worship assembly and First Corinthians 14 has to do with a special worship assembly. If you do not agree with that conclusion, that’s all right, you can be wrong if you want to be. For our study at this time we want to look at the context of 1 Timothy 2.

Timothy was a young evangelist, in poor health, and suffered many hardships. He was working with a difficult congregation in Ephesus. Paul writes to encourage Timothy to set the church in order. Paul tells him how to establish elders and deacons in the congregation. There was a problem with materialism and a problem within the assemblies at Ephesus. Paul wanted to help Timothy know how to treat elders and false teachers. Timothy was instructed in how to treat older men and women, younger men and women, and older and younger widows. In First Timothy 2, we have a chapter dealing with the public worship assembly. In First Timothy 2:1-7 we learn that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving are to be offered for all men. The Greek word for “all men” is anthropos, which means “all mankind.” The study of anthropology, is a study concerning the development of mankind.

I desire therefore, that the men pray in every place, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and disputing” (1 Tim. 2:8 ASV).The word therefore refers to the fact that Paul is an apostle (cf. v. 7). Therefore, the Holy Spirit is the author of these words. The Greek word for “men” is andras, the plural of aner (man), and is not the generic word for “mankind” which would include the woman, but directly refers to males (cf. “men” in verse 1). Therefore, men—not women—are to lead prayers in the public assemblies. This would also include private settings, such as Bible classes, camps, devotionals, etc., where men and women are together. The men must pray without anger or disputing. The word aner is found 215 times in the Greek New Testament. It is rendered man 156 times, husband 50 times, sir six times, fellow one time, and twice it is not translated. However, there is not one single time where it is rendered woman or as men and women. If it had been Paul’s intention for men and women to lead in prayer he would have used the Greek word anthropos. Paul knew all about that word as we have previously noted in verse 2.

In like manner, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with braided hair, and gold or pearls, or costly raiment; but (which becometh women professing godliness) through good works” (1 Tim. 2:9-10 ASV). Women are to dress modestly in the public assembly. Some have perverted the phrase, in like manner, to mean that women likewise can pray. This is not at all Paul’s instruction. Paul is simply stating by apostolic authority, that men are to pray and women are to “adorn themselves in modest apparel.”

Remember that Paul is dealing with problems in the church at Ephesus that needed to be “set in order.” “Let a woman learn in quietness with all subjection. But I permit not a woman to teach, nor to have dominion over a man, but to be in quietness” (1 Tim. 2:11-12 ASV). The King James Version (KJV) renders the word as “silence.” It comes from the Greek word hesuchia, and Thayer defines this word as, “quietness: descriptive of the life of one who stays at home doing his own work, and does not officiously meddle with the affairs of others.” This is the same word in the Greek that Paul used in verse 2. This does not forbid a woman from making any sound in the worship assembly. It does not mean she cannot ask a question or make a comment in a Bible class, as some brethren contend. If it meant she could not utter a sound, then a woman could not sing a hymn, or make the good confession in order to be baptized into Christ (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16; Matt. 10:32-33).

In verse 11 Paul sets the stage for what he then commands in verse 12. The KJV reads, “But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.” Paul with all apostolic authority writes, “I permit not…” (ASV); or “I do not allow…” (NASB and Living Oracles); and “I do not permit…” (NKJV). Isn’t it somewhat ironic that elderships, preachers, and many churches are allowing women to do today, the very thing that Paul—an inspired apostle of Jesus Christ—would not allow them to do? Just as verse 8 will not allow the woman to lead a prayer in the public assembly, verse 12 now informs us that she is not to teach/preach in that assembly. Why not? Paul tells us, that the woman is not to usurp authority over the man. The word teach is from the Greek root word, didasko, defined as, “to teach, instruct, to provide information in a manner intended to produce understanding…” Paul is not forbidding a woman from any and all teaching, as some brethren contend today.

We know that God commands women to teach in certain situations (Titus 2:3-4). Women teach in the public assembly when they obey God’s command to sing (Col. 3:16; Eph. 5:19; 1 Cor. 14:15). Timothy’s mother and grandmother, Eunice and Lois, taught and trained him as a child, and both were praised for their good efforts (2 Tim. 1:5, 3:15). Aquila and Priscilla taught Apollos “the way of God more perfectly” (Acts 18:26). Here was a husband and wife (male and female) demonstrating an instance of women teaching. Yet, Paul says in clarion tones that he does not allow the woman to teach. But note his qualification: “…nor to have dominion over a man…” or “…nor to usurp authority over the man…” The kind of teaching that the woman is not allowed by apostolic authority is any kind of teaching in the assembly of worship where she would be exercising authority or dominion over the man.

Usurp authority” comes from the Greek term, authenteov, which means “to exercise authority or dominion over another, or to govern one.” Women can rightfully teach the younger women; they can direct a ladies’ Bible class; they can most assuredly teach children; and they can teach a man privately as in the case of Priscilla teaching Apollos. But she is not to exercise dominion or authority over the man. That is the thing that is opposed by apostolic authority in this context. Paul’s supportive arguments for this apostolic restriction are then stated in verses 13-15. Please notice that the two reasons listed have nothing to do with culture, custom, or the celibacy of Paul. It most assuredly has nothing to do with the old wives’ fable that women are inferior to men, for they are not.

Reason Number One

Adam was first formed, then Eve. God is the One Who created Adam and Eve and He determined who would be created first. Being the firstborn meant something in terms of authority under the Old Testament economy. (Exod. 22:29-31; 34:19; Deut. 21:15-17; Gen. 25:23; Exod. 4:22; cf. Jer. 31:9). In three New Testament passages Jesus Christ is referred to as the Firstborn among many brethren, (Rom. 8:29; Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:6). These references to Jesus Christ can be traced back to Psalm 89:27, where the Hebrew nation is alluded to as the firstborn of Jehovah God. The woman was made from the man to be a perfect helpmeet to him. This implies the male lead in spiritual leadership in the home—the first divine institution—and in the church—the last divine institution. (1 Cor. 11:8-ff).

Reason Number Two

The woman was deceived, while the man was not deceived. The words was deceived come from a Greek verb form which means that Eve was beguiled completely. Remember the punishment given to Eve, “…thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee (Gen. 3:16). Yet, Paul emphatically declares in Romans 5:12 ASV, “Therefore, as through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin; and so death passed unto all men, for that all sinned.”

The woman being beguiled fell into transgression. The Greek word is parabasei, and Thayer says, “absolutely the breach of a definite, promulgated, ratified law.” It was a high-handed total disregard for God’s authority. She was deceived into believing that God’s law did not really mean what it said. Notice her own words in the garden: “…God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die” (Gen. 3:3). Eve knew precisely what the Word of the Lord was, for she had actually reiterated His very command! She disobeyed direct orders from the Lord God.

Mark it down, every time a woman steps into a pulpit to preach the word, her presence there—where she does not belong—indicates she has a copy of God’s Word. We have just seen some of what God’s Word has to say on the subject of women preaching. God’s authoritative Word condemns such just as clearly as it forbade Adam and Eve from partaking of the forbidden fruit! Whenever a man or woman today determines he knows what the Word of the Lord is, and does what he wants to do, regardless of the teaching of God’s Word, it is a high-handed sin, as surely as it was in the Garden of Eden.

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Author: Editor

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