Does God use women in ministry?

HomeChristianity and the BibleDoes God use women in ministry?

Does God use women in ministry?

Anonymous GodWords Reader

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.

The Problem

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.

Women

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?

Equality

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.

Conclusion

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.


Interact on TwitterInteract with me on Twitter!

Join the Conversation

9 responses to “Does God use women in ministry?”

  1. David Song says:

    Who is Junia? I mean I’m very confident that Junia is a woman not a man. But some versions of the bible states that she is just “well known” or “well-respected” among the apostles. What do you think, teacher?

  2. Anders says:

    hi Tony
    This topic certainly does generate a lot of heat. Or I should say “has generated” a lot of heat here in Sweden. The issue is moot now that half the priests in the Lutheran church are female, and no one who holds the complementarian view is permitted to study to be a priest. I won’t comment on the above article except to say that the truths that guide my thinking as a complementarian are 1) “that God is no respecter of persons” and 2) “God made woman to be a helper suitable for man”. James Brown sang the truth, It’s a man’s world! The home and the church function best when a man is the head. But before God and in Christ there is absolutely no difference between men and women.
    OK, I can’t resist just one comment concerning the list of biblical women above (and the list could, of course, be much longer). Miriam was indeed a leader, but she was a leader of… women. (Ex. 15.20)

    • Tony says:

      Anders:

      I’m confused. Here’s Exodus 15:20:

      Then Miriam the prophet, Aaron’s sister, took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women followed her, with timbrels and dancing.

      Are you suggesting, because this one event occurred, that Miriam wasn’t also a leader of men? I think you must be making a joke. If you look at the references to Moses and Aaron and Miriam, there’s no difference in how they’re mentioned in Scripture.

      My wife agrees with you. She’s more of a complementarian than I am. =)

  3. Anders says:

    Ha, ha! Remember God’s command in Gen. 21.12: “Abraham, listen to your wife.” Regarding Miriam, she had undeniable leadership qualities as demonstrated even as a young girl in the way she handled Pharaoh’s daughter by the river Nile. Paul bases his teaching on woman’s place in the church on Genesis 2; “the woman was created for the man”. Now that does not sit well with many women. Somehow being created to help a man makes them feel inferior. However, the chapter also teaches that man without a woman is useless. He is to “cleave to his wife”. There seems to me to be a balance there.
    I admit that there are unclear issues: for example, what does the Bible teach about female prophets? Didn’t they “lead” men? They certainly spoke the word of the Lord and they certainly counseled individual men. The instances are relatively few in the Bible, Deborah being the most outstanding example. Personally, I am of the persuasion that she judged Israel because men (Barak) shirked their responsibilities. Just as men are shirking their responsibilities in the church today and are being replaced by women. That is not a positive development according to Isaiah 3.12.
    Paul writes that a prophet “speaks to men to edification and exhortation and comfort.” (1 Cor. 14.3) There is no reason why a woman can not do that. But the bottom line is that woman was created to minister, not to rule.

    • Tony says:

      Anders:

      I’m sorry for the delay. I’ve been (thankfully) very busy! You see the trouble, obviously. There ARE unclear issues.

      I don’t think the idea that women led because men did not is a sound conclusion. If God really doesn’t want any woman to lead any man, it’s based on principles and not on circumstance. If God doesn’t want women to lead men but will make exceptions, where can we read about those exceptions?

      I haven’t drawn any final conclusions on the matter because the Scriptures seem, to me, to be unclear.

      • Anders says:

        I agree 100%. It’s not helpful to be dogmatic on this issue.
        When it comes to God making exceptions, it seems that a human monarch for Israel was an exception that God allowed. So maybe a female judge was, too. Just a thought.
        Anyway, one chapter that I have been looking att lately as I’ve studied this question of women in leadership is John 4. Jesus was drawn to Samaria evidently because “the fields there were white unto harvest”. And his chosen human instrument was not his 12 disciples — who were mainly preoccupied with finding their next meal. He chose a woman. And a most unlikely one. One preacher has called her “The Bad Samaritan”. She doesn’t even merit a name in the NT, but she was greatly use by God.
        So, I think the role of women in the church is an interesting and many-sided question. But like a friend of mine said to me the other day, “Will resolving that issue make you a better Christian?” Hard to say.

        • Tony says:

          Anders:

          It seems we mostly agree. It IS interesting to note that Jesus’ relationships with women were not conventional for His time. The Samaritan woman is a great example. Jesus came first for the Jews, yet the first person He revealed Himself to was a woman, and a Samaritan at that. She was the first evangelist, if you will. Jesus did a lot of things that, without proper context, aren’t understood very well. For example, when He healed the demoniac (possessed by Legion), He was in pagan territory. As with the Samaritan woman, Jesus told him to go home and tell how much God had done for him. He came first for the Jews, but gentiles were spreading the word about Jesus long before even His disciples understood who He is.

          I agree with your friend, and with you. It’s sometimes hard to say which things are really, really important. If women are never supposed to teach men, that actually seems important… at least for those women who don’t know it. If it’s okay for women to teach men in most cases, then the argument seems silly and irrelevant. Here’s something I strongly believe:

          If more Christians committed their own lives to following Jesus closely, there would be little need for websites like mine. The only reason I write here, and the only reason for the thousands of comments, and the only reason that millions of people have come here, is that most preachers and teachers have not done their jobs very well. That sounds highly critical, but – as a former pastor – I feel qualified to criticize. Imagine how life would be different if Christians in America and Italy lived as the disciples lived after Pentecost! Yes, it would be messy… but it would be better than it is right now.

          Should women teach men? I really don’t know for sure… but I’m not going to stand in the way of any human being who 1) commits to following Jesus, 2) preaches the gospel that was originally handed down, and 3) practices what they preach.

          I do appreciate our conversation, my friend.

  4. Anders says:

    Yes, it’s been a helpful exchange of views. I woke up this morning with 1 Cor. 11.7 in my inner ear. Some women might take offense, but my wife smiled when I quoted it for her as she was leaving for work. “The woman is the glory of the man.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

^