Answer: There is perhaps no more hotly debated issue in the church today than the issue of women serving as pastors/preachers. As a result, it is very important to not see this issue as men versus women. There are women who believe women should not serve as pastors and that the Bible places restrictions on the ministry of women, and there are men who believe women can serve as preachers and that there are no restrictions on women in ministry. This is not an issue of chauvinism or discrimination. It is an issue of biblical interpretation.
The Word of God proclaims, “A woman should learn in quietness and full
submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a
man; she must be silent” (1 Timothy 2:11-12).
In the church, God assigns different roles to men and women. This is a
result of the way mankind was created and the way in which sin entered
the world (1 Timothy 2:13-14).
God, through the apostle Paul, restricts women from serving in roles of
teaching and/or having spiritual authority over men. This precludes
women from serving as pastors over men, which definitely includes
preaching to, teaching, and having spiritual authority.
There are many “objections” to this view of women in ministry. A common
one is that Paul restricts women from teaching because in the first
century, women were typically uneducated. However, 1 Timothy 2:11-14
nowhere mentions educational status. If education were a qualification
for ministry, the majority of Jesus' disciples would not have been
qualified. A second common objection is that Paul only restricted the
women of Ephesus from teaching (1 Timothy was written to Timothy, who
was the pastor of the church in Ephesus). The city of Ephesus was known
for its temple to Artemis, a false Greek/Roman goddess. Women were the
authority in the worship of Artemis. However, the book of 1 Timothy
nowhere mentions Artemis, nor does Paul mention Artemis worship as a
reason for the restrictions in 1 Timothy 2:11-12.
A third common objection is that Paul is only referring to husbands and
wives, not men and women in general. The Greek words in the passage
could refer to husbands and wives; however, the basic meaning of the
words refers to men and women. Further, the same Greek words are used in
verses 8-10. Are only husbands to lift up holy hands in prayer without
anger and disputing (verse 8)? Are only wives to dress modestly, have
good deeds, and worship God (verses 9-10)? Of course not. Verses 8-10
clearly refer to all men and women, not only husbands and wives. There
is nothing in the context that would indicate a switch to husbands and
wives in verses 11-14.
Yet another frequent objection to this interpretation of women in
ministry is in relation to women who held positions of leadership in the
Bible, specifically Miriam, Deborah, and Huldah in the Old Testament.
This objection fails to note some significant factors. First, Deborah
was the only female judge among 13 male judges. Huldah was the only
female prophet among dozens of male prophets mentioned in the Bible.
Miriam's only connection to leadership was being the sister of Moses and
Aaron. The two most prominent women in the times of the Kings were
Athaliah and Jezebel—hardly examples of godly female leadership. Most
significantly, though, the authority of women in the Old Testament is
not relevant to the issue. The book of 1 Timothy and the other Pastoral
Epistles present a new paradigm for the church—the body of Christ—and
that paradigm involves the authority structure for the church, not for
the nation of Israel or any other Old Testament entity.
Similar arguments are made using Priscilla and Phoebe in the New
Testament. In Acts 18, Priscilla and Aquila are presented as faithful
ministers for Christ. Priscilla's name is mentioned first, perhaps
indicating that she was more “prominent” in ministry than her husband.
However, Priscilla is nowhere described as participating in a ministry
activity that is in contradiction to 1 Timothy 2:11-14.
Priscilla and Aquila brought Apollos into their home and they both
discipled him, explaining the Word of God to him more accurately (Acts 18:26).
In Romans 16:1,
even if Phoebe is considered a “deaconess” instead of a “servant,” that
does not indicate that Phoebe was a teacher in the church. “Able to
teach” is given as a qualification for elders, but not deacons (1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:6-9).
Elders/bishops/deacons are described as the “husband of one wife,” “a
man whose children believe,” and “men worthy of respect.” Clearly the
indication is that these qualifications refer to men. In addition, in 1 Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:6-9, masculine pronouns are used exclusively to refer to elders/bishops/deacons.
The structure of 1 Timothy 2:11-14
makes the “reason” perfectly clear. Verse 13 begins with “for” and
gives the “cause” of Paul’s statement in verses 11-12. Why should women
not teach or have authority over men? Because “Adam was created first,
then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was
deceived.” God created Adam first and then created Eve to be a “helper”
for Adam. This order of creation has universal application in the family
and the church. The fact that Eve was deceived is also given as a
reason for women not serving as pastors or having spiritual authority
over men. This leads some to believe that women should not teach because
they are more easily deceived. That concept is debatable, but if women
are more easily deceived, why should they be allowed to teach children
(who are easily deceived) and other women (who are supposedly more
easily deceived)? That is not what the text says. Women are not to teach
men or have spiritual authority over men because Eve was deceived. As a
result, God has given men the primary teaching authority in the church.
Many women excel in gifts of hospitality, mercy, teaching, evangelism,
and helps. Much of the ministry of the local church depends on women.
Women in the church are not restricted from public praying or
prophesying (1 Corinthians 11:5),
only from having spiritual teaching authority over men. The Bible
nowhere restricts women from exercising the gifts of the Holy Spirit (1
Corinthians 12). Women, just as much as men, are called to minister to
others, to demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), and to proclaim the gospel to the lost (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8; 1 Peter 3:15).
God has ordained that only men are to serve in positions of spiritual
teaching authority in the church. This is not because men are
necessarily better teachers, or because women are inferior or less
intelligent (which is not the case). It is simply the way God designed
the church to function. Men are to set the example in spiritual
leadership—in their lives and through their words. Women are to take a
less authoritative role. Women are encouraged to teach other women (Titus 2:3-5).
The Bible also does not restrict women from teaching children. The only
activity women are restricted from is teaching or having spiritual
authority over men. This logically would preclude women from serving as
pastors to men. This does not make women less important, by any means,
but rather gives them a ministry focus more in agreement with God’s plan
and His gifting of them.
Two Views on Women in Ministry, Revised by James R. Beck, ed..