A GodWords reader asks:
Does God use women in ministry?
This is a topic that generates a LOT of heat. With strong opinions on all sides, my goal is to avoid replying with the traditions of men (and women), and to stick to Scripture. I’m proud of GodWords readers, because – when you disagree – you generally disagree with class. Please continue doing so.
American Christians are often taught that women should not teach men in church. Those who teach this often try to support their view with Scripture, suggesting that men should always be in charge, and that women should always be subordinate. Regardless of how COMMON such an idea is, we must look to Scripture to make sure it’s accurate. In my opinion, it is not. The idea that women should not teach comes, my studies tell me, from a simple misunderstanding of Scripture. This misunderstanding is made worse by those who look for verses to support their idea. The truth is that ALL of Scripture should help us understand this, and not just the verses we like.
Passages like 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 and 1 Timothy 2:11-12 are commonly cited. These passages (like all others) can be taken prescriptively or proscriptively. Proscriptively means “this applies to everyone”. Prescriptively means “this applies to you”, as with a medical prescription. An easy example of a prescriptive passage is 1 Timothy 5:23, where Paul instructs Timothy to drink wine to help his stomach. Nobody believes that Paul is giving instructions for ALL Christians there, of course. The question you’re asking has to do with whether to take 1 Cor 14 and 1 Tim 2 prescriptively, with regard to women. When we look at the whole of Scripture, it becomes abundantly clear that God has always used women in whatever roles He wished to, without limitation.
Obviously, Huldah‘s story in 2 Kings 22 contradicts the idea that God doesn’t want women to teach men. Dorcas, also called Tabitha, was a disciple (Acts 9 ). The word translated “disciple” is exactly the same as the one used for men. Phoebe was a deaconess (Romans 16 ). Junias was an apostle (Romans 16 ). Euodia and Syntyche were evangelists (Philippians 4 ). Deborah was a prophetess and a Judge of Israel (Judges 4 )…a pretty big deal. Miriam is listed as a leader, sent by God, alongside Moses and Aaron in Micah 6 . Anna was a prophetess (Luke 2) who taught everyone about Jesus in the Temple. I could go on. A final example is Balaam’s donkey. If God used a donkey to teach Balaam, why would he not use a woman?
Galatians 3:28 says this: There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. The cultural separation of men and women, Jews and Greeks, servants and masters, as practiced in the first century, was not to be normative behavior for the New Testament church.
There’s no question that women have filled ALL of the “spiritual roles” in the church that men have filled. We are all to use the gifts, talents, and abilities that God gives us to further His Kingdom…there is no difference. God would not contradict Himself. If God didn’t want women teaching men, He would not have put so many women in positions of leadership, where they taught men. The passages in 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy must be prescriptive…meant for those women, in those places, for specific reasons. They are the exception, not the rule.