Are Women Preachers Permitted?

Q. Are there Scriptures that confirm that women can not be preachers? If so, what are their roles within the church?

A. There are a couple of places where Paul seems to be opposed to women teaching or preaching. But since they so clearly contradict Paul’s own practices, some scholars have wondered about them. For example, in 1 Tim. 2:12 he wrote, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to usurp authority over a man; she must be silent.” But in his own life, he seemed very comfortable with Priscilla being a teacher, even when she helped educate the great Apollos on matters of doctrine. (Acts 18:18-28)

The Greek word translated “usurp authority over” in 1 Tim. 2:12 is used only here in scripture and literally means to kill oneself or another with one’s own hands. Used symbolically, it can also describe someone who acts in an autocratic manner or assumes absolute authority.

I’m one of those who believe that what Paul intended here was that a woman should not have sole authority in the church, but could function in a preaching or teaching role under the authority of men, as an Associate Pastor or teacher reporting to a Senior Pastor or Board of Elders. This is how Priscilla acted, being under the supervision of her husband Aquilla, and if it’s what Paul meant, it removes the conflict between what he did and what he taught.

I don’t think that Paul was showing a lack of respect for women, or questioning their ability, but was reminding us of the order of Creation, first God, then the man, then the woman, and teaching us to respect that order.

There’s also the case of Mary Magdeline, who was the first to see the risen Lord and was instructed by Him to “go and tell’ the disciples about the resurrection. Some would say she was placed in the role of a teacher, at least in that instance.

In summary, I believe that subject to these provisions, a woman can hold any position in the Church for which her calling and gifting qualify her.

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