Should Women Be Pastors?
Should women preach?
The Bible clearly states that the man is to lead in the home and church, and the woman’s role is to submit to the man’s headship. There is widespread rebellion against this divine plan, though, and many women are being appointed to leadership positions in churches. Consider some facts from our files:
There are almost 4,000 licensed and ordained women in the Assemblies of God.
In 1984 the Southern Baptist Convention adopted a resolution saying the Bible “excludes women from pastoral leadership.” Like many things adopted by this Convention, the resolution was almost meaningless. In a September 1993 meeting of the SBC Executive Committee, a measure to expel congregations for ordaining women was rejected unanimously. The Fall 1997 edition of Folio, the newsletter of Baptist Women in Ministry, reported that there are 1,225 ordained Southern Baptist women. Roughly 200 of the ordained women serve as pastors and associate pastors. In 1979 there were only 58 ordained Southern Baptist women, but the number has increased rapidly in the 1980s and 1990s, during the same period in which the “conservatives” have dominated the national convention.
The United Methodist Church has ordained women since 1956 and today has 4,743 women “clergy.”
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has 2,419 female leaders. In 1979 the United Presbyterian Church, forerunner of the Presbyterian Church U.S.A., adopted a resolution REQUIRING the congregations to elect women elders. This politically correct denomination also voted to ban the ordination of any man who opposed women clergy and gave such men 10 years to change their minds or get out (EP News Service, June 21, 1980). So much for the supposed broadminded attitude of Modernists.
The United Church of Christ has 1,803 female leaders.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has 1,358 ordained women.
As of 1992, 15 of the 30 independent Anglican communions around the world had approved ordination of women priests. The Episcopal Church in the United States, which approved women’s ordination in 1976, has 1,070. The Episcopalians ordained the first Anglican female bishop in 1989. Though the “mother church” in England has not yet ordained women priests, the Church of England General Synod endorsed the concept of female priests in 1989 and they are moving rapidly toward finalization of the practice. In 1991 Queen Elizabeth showed her approval of this by appointing a woman as one of her royal chaplains in Scotland.
The Church of Scotland approved the ordination of women in 1968 and now has 100 female ministers.
The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, though more conservative than other Lutheran bodies, is beginning to allow women to preach in regular worship services. A survey showed that about 1,000 LCMS clergymen maintain that the Bible is not opposed to the ordination of women (Christian News, Feb. 13, 1989).
“Leaders of Youth With a Mission (YWAM) appointed their first female national director in March to oversee a 200-member staff in Switzerland. At a conference last year, YWAM founder Loren Cunningham spoke out strongly against what he called ‘cultural bias’ against women. He also warned that God’s blessing might be removed if YWAM did not commission female leaders” (Charisma, July 1993).
“Women now comprise at least a third of the student population at the leading interdenominational divinity schools; at Yale and Harvard, they’re more than half” (Ibid.).
“U.S. women ordained to full-time ministry in 1986 increased to 20,730 from 10,470 in 1977, and represented 7.9% of all U.S. clergy, according to a recent study by the National Council of Churches. … The survey showed that 84 of 166 denominations ordain women to full ministry… (National & International Religion Report, March 13, 1989).
These facts are evidence of the apostasy of the hour. Men and women in the world, having rejected Bible truth, are confused about the most basic things. Many men are trying to be like women in dress and manner, while many women are demanding the right to be like men, to dress like men, to do the same work as men, to play the same sports as men, to fight in armies like men. They want more than equal pay for equal work; they are demanding a man’s place in the home, church, and state.
Sadly, the church is always affected by society. Thus the rebellion of women in the world is causing similar problems in the churches, and we find women demanding leadership roles in many Christian groups.
The Bible speaks too clearly on this subject for there to be any confusion. The problem is that churches too often are looking to sources other than the Bible for guidance. God loves women as much as He does men. Women are as important to the home, church, and society as men are. In Jesus Christ, women enjoy the same spiritual position and blessings before God as men do. This does not mean, though, there is to be no difference in men and women in their appearance and roles. There is a basic truth which needs to be restated in the church and society today: Men and women are different!
Men and women were made for different roles. The New Testament affirms that men are to be the leaders in the home, church, and state. Women were not created to rule these divine institutions; men were. The prophet Isaiah was condemning Israel when he said women ruled over them (Isa. 3:12). In the church, according to the Bible, no woman is qualified to be a pastor or a deacon or in any other leadership position over men. Who says? God says!
“Let the woman learn in silence, with all subjection. But I do not allow 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” (1 Tim. 2:11-14).
“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 says 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. What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only? If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord” (1 Cor. 14:34-37).
How could a woman possibly be a pastor when she is forbidden to teach or to have any authority over men? Women can only be pastors if they openly disobey the Bible’s teaching.
Further, the Lord Jesus Christ appointed no female apostles. All of them were men. The standards for pastors apply strictly to men. Only a man can be the “husband of one wife” and can “rule his own house well” (1 Tim. 3:2,4; Titus 1:6).
WERE PAUL’S INSTRUCTIONS FOR ALL CHURCHES OF ALL CENTURIES?
Some are saying that the commands quoted above were meant only for first century Christians, or were only for the particular situation at Corinth. This cannot be true for many reasons. Consider:
First, Paul said that his instructions in 1 Corinthians 14 are the commandments of the Lord (verse 37). As such they must be obeyed by all Christians and by every church.
Second, the Apostle said that the instructions of 1 Corinthians 14 are a test of spirituality. He said that those who are truly spiritual must acknowledge that the instructions are the very commandments of God. “If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord” (1 Cor. 14:37). Those who are rejecting the teaching of 1 Corinthians 14 concerning a woman’s role in the church are proving themselves to be unspiritual.
Third, in 1 Timothy the Apostle gives the very same instructions concerning women, and this epistle was said to have been written to teach the proper order for churches in general. “But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15). The things contained in 1 Timothy are general instructions about church order to be obeyed by all churches in every century; and it is in this book, the book which contains standards for church leaders, that God has forbidden women from taking authority over or teaching men.
Fourth, in giving the instructions about women in the church, the Holy Spirit referred back to the original order of creation–Adam first, then Eve. The Holy Spirit, in guiding Paul’s pen, used this order of creation to prove that women must not take authority over men. Therefore, since the order of creation has not changed since 1 Timothy was written, and since it does not change in our culture or century, we know that the instructions of the New Testament about the woman’s role in the church apply to us today.
Fifth, Paul referred to the Fall for support of his teaching regarding the Christian woman’s subjection to the man. “And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression” (1 Tim. 2:14). Again this shows that the Apostle’s teaching about the woman transcends any one culture or generation. Though we have been saved from the eternal consequences of the Fall when we receive the Lord Jesus Christ, we are still living under the abiding consequences and conditions of the Fall as long as we remain in this world.
Redemption has three aspects which must never be confused–past, present, and future. The three are seen in Romans chapter eight. Romans 8:1-10 speaks of the past aspect of our salvation–we have been saved from the eternal consequences of sin. Because of what Jesus Christ has done for us on the Cross we have been made eternally free from any fear of the wrath of God or punishment for our sin by God’s holy law. Hallelujah! Romans 8:11-17 speaks of the present aspect of our salvation–we are being saved from the power of sin in our daily lives by the Spirit of God who indwells us. Romans 8:18-25 speaks of the future aspect of salvation–we will be saved from the very presence of sin when Christ gives us our resurrection body and comes to renew this fallen creation. We have eternal redemption right now as a present possession, yet we still “groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body” (Romans 8:23).
Likewise, the woman who trusts Christ receives eternal freedom in Him from the wages of sin, but she is not yet free from some of the consequences of Eve’s rebellion in the Garden of Eden. She still is to be in subjection to the man.
Sixth, Paul referred to human nature to support his teaching regarding women. “And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression” (1 Tim. 2:14). The woman has a different makeup than the man. She was designed for a different role in life–that of a wife and mother. Her emotional, psychological, and rational makeup are geared perfectly for this, but she was not designed for leadership. In the garden of Eden the devil deceived her. This was not true for Adam. He sinned, but he was not deceived. Eve had allowed herself to be thrust into a position of decision making she was supposed to occupy. It is no coincidence that women have been responsible for starting many of the false Christian movements and have played key roles in spiritism, new age, mind science cults, and such. Human nature has not changed and neither has God’s restrictions against women preachers.
Seventh, Paul commanded that his instructions were to be kept until Christ’s coming. “That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Tim. 6:14). This command is given at the end of the epistle in which the Apostle had so clearly required that women be in subjection to men in the church (1 Tim. 2:9-15). Since Jesus has not yet appeared, we are to continue to maintain these restrictions.
Eighth, Paul’s letter to Corinth, in which he spoke of women being in subjection to men, was for all Christians, not just those in Corinth. In his introduction to this epistle the Apostle tells us plainly to whom he is speaking: “Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, WITH ALL THAT IN EVERY PLACE CALL UPON THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST OUR LORD, both their’s and our’s” (1 Cor. 1:2). It is clear that Paul’s instructions were not intended merely for some peculiar situation at Corinth.
Ninth, while Galatians 3:28 says there is neither bond nor free in Christ, other passages teach that this does not mean there are no servant/master relationships. The Christian servant is free in Christ–free from the eternal wages of sin–but he is not free from his earthly position and responsibilities of servitude toward his master (Eph. 6:5-8; Col. 3:22-25; 1 Tim. 6:1,2; Tit. 2:9-10; 1 Pet. 2:18-25). In fact, anyone who teaches against these instructions regarding submission of servants to masters is labeled proud and evil:
“Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honour, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed. And they that have believing masters, let them not despise them, because they are brethren; but rather do them service, because they are faithful and beloved, partakers of the benefit. These things teach and exhort. IF ANY MAN TEACH OTHERWISE, AND CONSENT NOT TO WHOLESOME WORDS, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; HE IS PROUD, KNOWING NOTHING, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, perverse disputings of men of CORRUPT MINDS, AND DESTITUTE OF THE TRUTH, supposing that gain is godliness: FROM SUCH WITHDRAW THYSELF” (1 Timothy 6:1-5).
These are strong words, and they refer directly to those who try to contradict the Apostle’s teaching requiring subjection of servants to masters, such as those who promote communistic “liberation theology,” and those who stir up all sorts of strife between workers and business. These words also apply to those who are trying to throw off the apostolic teaching referring to woman’s subjection to man in the church and home. Such are proud, ungodly, and destitute of the truth, and are to be separated from! We can see how serious this matter is.
Galatians 3:28 says there are no servants and no freemen in Christ, yet other New Testament passages teach there are indeed Christians who are servants and Christians who are masters. Galatians 3:28 also says there is neither male nor female in Christ, but other passages show us that this does not mean all distinction between the sexes are done away in this world, nor does it mean that the original order of creation has been dissolved in Christianity.
IF MEN WILL NOT LEAD, WOMEN WILL
One reason why women are taking leadership positions is that the man has too often failed to take his place. When men are weak, women must be strong. This is often seen in the church. Men should willingly step forward to lead the church in every area, but often the men are weak and lazy. They don’t give; they don’t go soul winning; they don’t volunteer to fill vacant positions; they don’t come out on work days. Someone has to lead, so the women step in and take control. Christian men should respond to the call of world evangelism, but few do. A great number of Christian men are too weak, or lazy, or fearful, or busy with selfish plans to be concerned about world missions. So the women do what they can.
When men are strong and obedient to God’s commands, there is not a serious problem with what the women should do.
DIDN’T GOD USE WOMEN TO LEAD MEN IN THE OLD TESTAMENT?
Why did God make DEBORAH a judge in Israel (Judges 4:4-5)? The answer is not difficult. God’s perfect will is for men to lead. That is too clear to misinterpret, but when men will not assume their responsibilities, God uses women. The men in Deborah’s day were very weak and cowardly. This is seen in the fact that Barak, the captain of the armies of Israel, refused to go into battle unless Deborah went with him. What a brave man! What a hero! The woman had to remind him that God had said it is time to fight; the woman had to encourage and challenge him to go; the woman had to go with him!
“And Barak said unto her, If thou wilt go with me, then I will go: but if thou wilt not go with me, then I will not go” (Judges 4:8).
Deborah clearly realized that this was not right nor natural, and she told Barak it would result in shame upon his name. “And she said, I will surely go with thee; notwithstanding the journey that thou takest shall not be for thine honour; FOR THE LORD SHALL SELL SISERA INTO THE HAND OF A WOMAN…” (Judges 4:9).
Obviously it was a period in Israel’s history during which God could find no man to do His will, so He used a brave, willing woman. We can praise God for women like Deborah who are willing to be strong when the men are weak. This has often happened, both in secular and church history.
The root problem in Deborah’s day was spiritual apostasy. When God’s people turn away from Him, He renders the men powerless against their enemies and removes wisdom from their hearts. It is a judgment upon apostate people. We can see this very thing today in apostate North America and Europe. The leaders are weak and seem entirely lacking even in common sense. We cannot control our little children, and women rule over us (compare Isaiah 3:12). It is God’s judgment because of the apostate condition of professing Christendom. Israel in Deborah’s day was in bondage to their enemies only because of their apostasy from the true God and His revealed will recorded in the Scriptures (Judges 4:1-2). This was why the men were so weak. God had removed their power as He did from sinful Samson.
Therefore the flight shall perish from the swift, and the strong shall not strengthen his force, neither shall the mighty deliver himself. … And he that is courageous among the mighty shall flee away naked in that day, saith the Lord” (Amos 2:14-15).
What about THE DAUGHTERS OF PHILIP? They were prophetesses (Acts 21:8-9). Doesn’t this mean women can preach to men in exercising their gifts of prophecy? The fact that God gave gifts of prophecy to women does not mean they are free to take authority in the church.
During our missionary years in Nepal I wrote a Gospel pamphlet entitled The Unknown God. The message was taken from Paul’s sermon on Mar’s Hill in Acts 17, an appropriate message to the idolatrous people of South Asia. Some months after we began publishing this illustrated pamphlet I was approached by a female missionary who began to reprove me for the pamphlet and for what she considered to be an overly negative approach to the Gospel. I was heading to the barber shop one fine afternoon when I saw her coming toward me on her bicycle. She had collared me beforetimes to correct this or that thing that she felt I was wrong about, so I did the only brave, manly thing I could think of–I tried to duck into the barber shop before she could catch me. Alas, though, I was too slow! She proceeding to take me to task as we were standing on the street in Kathmandu. She didn’t like the direct approach of condemning idolatry and preaching repentance. I reminded her that this was exactly what the Apostle Paul did. She countered that Paul was probably in the flesh when he preached that message. (I guess she knew that bit of information by revelation or vision or something!) I told her that Paul most certainly was not in the flesh when he preached the message recorded by inspiration in Acts chapter seventeen. I also told her that if God wanted to correct me, He would use a man to do it. Boy, that lit her smokestack! She turned my attention to the daughters of Philip who were prophetesses.
I then reminded her that when Paul was staying at Philip’s house, even though the four daughters were there who had the gifts of prophecy, God used a male prophet from another city to come and prophesy to Paul!
“And the next day we that were of Paul’s company departed, and came unto Caesarea: and we entered into the house of Philip the evangelist, which was one of the seven; and abode with him. And the same man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy. And as we tarried there many days, there came down from Judaea a certain prophet, named Agabus. And when he was come unto us, he took Paul’s girdle, and bound his own hands and feet, and said, Thus saith the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles” (Acts 21:8-11).
When I had made this point from the Word of God, this missionary lady got back on her bicycle and peddled furiously away.
My friends, there is no doubt that God gave the gifts of prophecy to women. Peter, on the day of Pentecost, had promised that God would do this: “And on … my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy” (Acts 2:18). But the Holy Spirit, the Spirit who gives the gifts, has placed restrictions upon the exercise of those gifts. 1 Timothy 2 and 1 Corinthians 11 and 14 are Holy Scripture. Immediately after forbidding the women from speaking in the church meetings, the Apostle Paul warned that those who ignore this instruction are not spiritual. “If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord” (1 Cor. 14:377).
DOESN’T ACTS 2:17,18 TEACH THAT BOTH WOMEN AND MEN WILL PROPHESY?
As for women prophesying, we know that Philip’s daughters prophesied, but, as noted previously, when God wanted to speak to Paul He brought a man to do it (Acts 21:8-11). God richly gifts women in spiritual things, but they are restricted in the exercise thereof. The woman’s ministry is to be focused on women and children (1 Tim. 2:15; Tit. 2:3-5). As noted earlier, it is very instructive that there were no women apostles, and the divine standards for pastors apply only to men (1 Tim. 3:2-4; Titus 1:5-9).
Recently a woman wrote to me and said she felt called to preach but she was confused by things she read from me and others who hold the position that the woman cannot preach to or usurp authority over men. I wrote to her and explained that the confusion came from her illicit desires, and that the confusion would cease if she would submit herself to the Word of God and accept the role God has given her. My wife is a wonderful, godly lady who has tremendous spiritual gifts. She went to Nepal as a single girl and worked in a remote hospital and witnessed for Jesus Christ, but she refused to teach groups of men or to usurp authority over them, even when she was encouraged to do so. After we were married, we went back to South Asia and started a church together, and she was a major part of its success. She led dozens of Asian women to Christ and helped ground them in the Word and will of God. She never stood before the church to teach men, though, and she did not have an authoritative position in the church. Today, among many other things, we work in a jail ministry together. She teaches the women and I teach the men. She exercises her gifts within the parameters of God’s Word; I do the same. There is no confusion when we obey the Scriptures.
WHY DOES BLESSING APPEAR TO BE UPON THE MINISTRIES OF SOME WOMEN WHO PREACH AND TEACH TO MEN?
We believe the correct answer to this question is given by E.W. Rogers in The Church of God: A Symposium:
People may ask why it is that sometimes blessing seems to attend the evangelistic work of women, even though they do not comply with the scriptural restrictions. We might ask a similar question in the reverse case: Why is it that some serve the Lord consistently with divine principles and see but little if any fruit? Who was it that said, `I have laboured in vain and spent my strength for nought’? It was our blessed Lord (Isa. 49:4)! God is not bound by His own restrictive principles that He cannot bless where there is non-compliance, but the servant must remember that `If a man strive for the mastery he is not crowned unless he strive lawfully’ (2 Tim. 2:5).
God often blesses the ministry of His Word in spite of the errors of the minister. But in such cases the minister (whether it be man or woman) will only receive personal reward for the labor in as much as it was done according to the Word of God (1 Cor. 3:6-15).
My friends, beware of being influenced by the rebellion of the hour. God forbids a woman from preaching and usurping authority over the man. He forbade this 1900 years ago, and He forbids it today.
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 (1 Tim. 2:11-14).
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 says 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. What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only? If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord (1 Cor. 14:34-37).
We conclude with the words of Pastor Allen Dickerson of the Maranatha Baptist Church, Elkton, Maryland. Pastor Dickerson started this church 40 years ago and God has blessed his stand for the Word of God. In his article “Ordaining Women Preachers,” Pastor Dickerson says:
The pulpit is a place of divine authority. It is a place where the compassionate but dominate qualities of God-ordained leadership are to be demonstrated. It is certainly not a place for a woman.
A woman who orders her life according to the Word of God is a crown jewel to her husband, an adorable and tender mother to her children, and a blessing and a benediction to her community, church and pastor.
I suppose a woman who is not married and desires to be ordained to the ministry has shunned marriage because she fears male dominance and she possibly feels that the pulpit is a place where she can assert some authority over men. The woman who is married and desires to be ordained to the ministry already has her husband under her thumb and is so delighted with her authority over him that she lusts for more power over the male creature.
I believe history has borne out the fact that God never intended for women to take the place of leadership in spiritual things.
A dominant woman named Jezebel, who married and ruled an indecisive, weak-kneed king named Ahab, poisoned the nation of Israel with the idolatrous worship of Baal and brought down the displeasure and judgment of God upon the nation.
Many of the false religious cults that have spread the venom of religious confusion around the world and have been responsible for damning multitudes of eternal souls, were founded by women who rejected God’s plan for them as clearly revealed in the Bible.
The cult of Spiritualism was founded by the Fox Sisters. The subtle and destructive cult of Seventh-day Adventism was founded by so-called prophetess Ellen White. Theosophy was founded by Madam Elena Blavatsky. The blasphemous cult of Christian Science, which is neither Christian nor scientific was founded by Mary Baker Eddy, and the Four Square Gospel Movement was founded by Aimee Semple McPherson who lived a questionable moral life and died a tragic death.
God’s plan for the woman is beautifully and tenderly spelled out in 1 Timothy 5:14: “I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, and give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.”
Another thing that has been very evident to me in my observations is that most of the fortune tellers, palm readers and those involved in the traffic of the black arts are women. This is no accident, but just another outgrowth of the rejection of God’s plan for womanhood.
I suppose I will receive a boisterous adverse response from the fairer sex who read this article–from some at least. But thank God for the good spiritually-minded women who find great delight in filling their God-given role–women who submit in love to their husbands, women who rejoice in the role of motherhood, women who love their home and exert a profound spiritual influence upon their children.
Godly, Bible-believing women are a blessing and benediction to the cause of Jesus Christ. They help form the rampart wall of a strong and enduring society, and be reminded that when society turns from the Bible pattern for womanhood as is happening in our day, it turns toward judgment.