Does God Authorize Women to Lead in Public Worship? – Don Smith

Don Smith


In this day and age, it seems that the old paths have been abandoned and the past forgotten. However, God will not have it so, and He forever directs our the aim of our life back to His righteous way—if we are willing: “Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein” (Jer. 6:16). We find this attitude of rebellion in modern society, in both morals and religious doctrine. Only a return to His Way will result in salvation and the hope of heaven in eternity. Of equal import, if we truly love Him, we will keep His commandments and teaching on this subject (John 14:15; 1 John 5:3).

Some of what causes man to abandon the will of God in various matters is ignorance of His Holy Writ. Hosea wrote:

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children (4:6).

Regarding whether God authorizes women to lead in public worship or not, the denominations simply do not care. They have rejected the knowledge of God. What is most alarming is that there are congregations that wear the name of the church of Christ on their buildings who seem not to care what the Bible teaches on this subject either. Perhaps some were once sound and stood on the principles of the doctrine of Christ. Perhaps they at one time required a “thus saith the Lord” for all they taught and practiced. However, for many, this seems not to be the case anymore. In this study, let us notice a pattern as a continual thread spanning from the beginning of time and through the Old Testament, to the home and the New Testament law for it, and into the scriptures that dictate the church on this subject. We will see that the pattern is uniform. With that being said, let us delve into the study of what the Bible teaches on the subject of women in leadership positions in public worship. Whether this be the first time of studying the subject, or having studied the subject many times in the past, let us be willing to examine our practices in view of what the Bible teaches on it.


For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope” (Rom. 15:4).

A Divine Order was set out from the start. In the beginning of time, when God set forth His creation in six days, He created man on that sixth day (Gen. 1:26-27). After seeing that “it is not good that the man should be alone” (2:18), God brought forth the woman of Adam’s rib in order for Adam to have an help meet—literally a mate to him (or before him) for help. The woman was created for the man in this divine order. Moreover, upon the fall, God stated, “and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee” (3:16). This was the order God laid down for Adam and Eve, and all of mankind moving forward.

Taking a look at Noah, his work, and his household, some inferences can be drawn about his wife. The fact that every imagination of the thoughts of man’s heart was only evil continually and all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth (Gen. 6:5, 12), and only eight souls (Noah and his household) were saved in the midst of such evil (1 Pet. 3:20), implies that Noah’s wife must have had a very significant role in the salvation of her household. It must also be considered that Noah was a preacher of righteousness (2 Pet. 2:5), walked with God (Gen. 6:9), and found grace in the eyes of the Lord (v.8). He certainly had his house in order, in the order which God set forth. There is no doubt his wife was a great help meet, working under his guidance and in accordance with his direction, contributing to the success of faithfulness in the household.

The same pattern can be found in Abraham and Sarah. Sarah reverenced her husband in calling him Lord (Gen. 18:12), showing her utter respect for him in his role as leader of the home. Peter, by inspiration, gives Sarah the credit for this, and she is set forth as an example for Christian women to follow (1 Pet. 3:6). It is certain that Sarah would not turn against the pattern and role set out for women. Moreover, Peter teaches that women who follow her godly example are to be called daughters of Sarah (ibid.). These examples of old teach us that God has had a certain pattern through the ages and across cultures for the role of women.

Marriage and The Home

Looking now to marriage and the home as the New Testament directs, the pattern is further outlined there. The new covenant of God teaches that within the home, the husband is the head of the wife (Eph. 5:23). Therefore, she is to submit herself to his direction for their lives, so long as such direction does not violate God’s law for us today (Eph. 5:22). It can be seen that this is the same role godly wives had in their marriage relationships from the old covenant. Faithful women in the past never shirked this important duty (as far as walking in such sinfulness), and such will not do so today.

Adding to this line of thought, husbands are the head over the children as well, in seeing that they are raised appropriately and with sound teaching. Fathers are directed to “bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). Equally, the father is to be sure not to provoke them to wrath or anger (Col. 3:21). Since the father has directives here, why does not the mother? It is due to the position of responsibility the father has as head over the wife and children.

Overall, husbands are the head over their homes. Wives and children have the God-ordained responsibility to respect that in order for the home to be in harmony with God’s will. Husbands have all the forementioned responsibilities, and more, to fulfill their part under the authority of God for the home. Additionally, other matters of the home are under the husband’s direction, such as finances and upkeep, though he may delegate these as his wisdom dictates. God’s pattern for marriage shows that although the wife has a very important role in this institution, she is not in leadership over the husband within it.

The Church

Coming to the church, as the New Testament outlines its various aspects, a similar pattern is followed. First and foremost, Christ is the Head of the church, as it is His body (Eph. 1:19-23; Col. 1:18). He has been given all authority in heaven and earth (Matt. 28:18), and the church being His kingdom (Col. 1:13; Rev. 1:9), He reigns over it as its sovereign King (Rev. 17:14; cf. 1 Cor. 15:24-26). Everyone, therefore, is under His authority and dictates in accordance with His word (John 12:48), whether men or women. It was the same aforetime and in the home, as man has always been under the authority of God.

However, the Lord appointed positions of leadership in the church to men. Elders are to be appointed based on qualifications the Holy Spirit set forth in the word (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9; cf. Acts 20:28). Within those qualifications it is stated that an elder must be “the husband of one wife” (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:6). Since a woman can never be the husband of one wife, no matter how perverted left wing society’s subjective feelings about so called “gender identity” have become, a woman, by the dictates of God’s authoritative word can never hold the office of an elder, nor deacon for that matter (1 Tim. 3:12). Let us not forget, too, that there are many men who would likely never qualify for the office of an elder or deacon.

Coming to the pinnacle of our study, there are two passages from the New Testament that clearly settle our question at hand, does God authorize women to lead in public worship? The first passage comes from 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, wherein God, by the hand of Paul, sets the limitation on women leading in public worship. It states,

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.

It is clear that Paul is teaching them regarding a congregational setting, as verse 33 states, “For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints,” and the context goes on to women keeping silence in the churches. Therefore, this scripture teaches a woman is not authorized to lead in public worship, as it is a shame for her to speak in such a capacity. A woman could never, with the authorization of God, preach to a mixed assembly of men and women.

The second passage is, again, from the pen of Paul, wherein from 1 Timothy 2:11-14, he teaches more on this subject. The scripture says,

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. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.

This passage forthrightly states that a woman is to learn in silence with all subjection, and not usurp the authority of the man. By this, a woman cannot take any leadership position within the worship assembly, as it would usurp the authority of the man. Moreover, this is not limited to the culture of the time and region in which it was written, as it spans many cultures from Adam and Eve to the first century. This is certainly written for the church for all time, across all cultures, and all regions. God has simply laid it out in unmistakable language, that women have a very important role, but it does not entail the leadership positions in public worship, which are reserved for men.


God set out the order in 1 Corinthians 11:3, stating, “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.” The same pattern was followed in the Old Testament. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever, in the sense that His authority is to rule over our lives (Heb. 13:8). Although many aspects of the old law have changed (Heb. 7:12), a patterned principle pulls forward as New Testament law, that God has always been head, men lead their families in life and worship, and women honor the men in abiding by their sacred duty and important role. Why would God suddenly change everything when it comes to the church, and allow women to be in leadership positions in this sacred body? When it comes to the church, why would He depart from the pattern that has spanned from the beginning of time and through the Old Testament for the home and worship, and into the New Testament law for the home? Does it make any sense that He would suddenly change that pattern for the church and go completely contrary to everything taught on the role of women—especially in view of the New Testament scriptures that teach the forbiddance of women in leadership positions in the church?? He has not changed His way. Man has attempted to, but God’s word stands forever (Matt. 24:35). Let us be faithful in abiding by it, for His word is forever settled in heaven (Ps. 119).

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Author: Editor

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