Tuesday, January 7, 2014


I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 1 Timothy 2:12 (ESV) 
Based on this one text alone, in the entire New Testament, some people want to exclude women from senior church leadership positions and from ministering as Bible teachers.

  • It is true that other texts instruct women to be quiet in meetings but this is to do with orderly behaviour when listening to teaching. 
  • It has nothing to do with whether women are allowed to address meetings or exercise spiritual gifts.

...the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. 1 Corinthians 14:34 (ESV) 

The Old Testament Law does not forbid female leadership. 

  • Deborah was one of the best rulers of Israel in the book of Judges. (Judges 5:7) 
  • The prophetess Huldah gave instructions to King Josiah. (2 Kings 22)
  • The Prophetess Anna announced in the Temple, that Jesus was the promised Messiah. 
    • Her special ministry was endorsed by Luke and the Holy Spirit and also allowed by the Jewish religious leaders under the strict Law of Moses.

In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul urges all believers to prophesy.

Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. 1 Corinthians 14:1 (ESV) 

We know Paul was also including women because he gave specific instructions to women prophesying in chapter 11.

...but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonours her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven. 1 Corinthians 11:5 (ESV) 

But some say women should only be allowed to pray or prophesy aloud in meetings for women. The New Testament says nothing about special meetings for women. 

When Paul tells women to be quiet in meetings, he is teaching them to be orderly and not to interrupt when they should be listening. 

If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church. 1 Corinthians 14:35 (ESV) 

Women in Corinth, who often had little formal education, were interrupting the meetings by asking their husbands to explain what was being taught.

  • Were there women in the New Testament who exercised teaching gifts?
  • Were there women to gave instructions to men in important matters of doctrine? 

We don’t know how many there were but there is one striking example of an important female teacher who gave important doctrinal instruction to a prominent male preacher.

Apollos was a powerful and influential preacher who had not been taught about the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. Acts 18:26 (ESV) 

Priscilla and Aquila were important leaders in the early church and they are mentioned six times, three times in Acts and three times in Paul’s letters. 
  • In four of these six texts, Priscilla is mentioned first, which indicates her ministry was more significant than that of her husband.
In both Old Testament and New Testament times, female leadership was exceptional but certainly not forbidden by God.
  • Why did Paul write that he did not permit a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man?       

  • If this is a general rule excluding women from preaching, teaching or leadership, why did Paul only mention it in one letter to one church leader? 

Paul wrote 13 letters to different churches. He taught about leadership and ministry in much of his writings but only here does he appear to restrict the role of women.

  • The last words in 1 Timothy 2:12 are “rather, she is to remain quiet.” 

This might indicate that Paul is not excluding women from preaching, teaching or leadership but rather insisting on women behaving themselves properly in meetings and in relationships.

  • In 1 Timothy 2:12 , Paul refers to a relationship between A woman and A man and then speaks of Adam (A man) and Eve (A woman). (1 Timothy 2:13-14)
  • This says nothing about women addressing meetings and in 1 Corinthians 11, Paul says women did and should prophesy in meetings.

So if you are a woman, PLEASE do not bury your talents or gifts.

  • If you are a man, PLEASE be an agent of change and set women free. 

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