Question: What does the Bible teach concerning women serving as pastors, preachers and public speakers?
One of the most beautiful passages of Scripture concerning the ministry of women in the church comes from the Old Testament, which is later quoted in the Acts 2 as confirmation of God’s gifting of women for spiritual ministry. That passage is Joel 2:28-29:
Joel 2:28-29 “And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days…”
The apostle Peter draws on this prophecy to explain to the crowd on the day of Pentecost the unusual commotion caused by 120 men and women praising God together in one room (a “no-no” in Judaism in those days) and “declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” (Acts 2:4-11). One of the first acts of the Spirit-filled church was evangelistic preaching by both men and women in a very public setting!
Rich and poor, slave and free, men and women in Christ are all free to worship together and exercise ministry in the church according to the spiritual gifts given them through the Holy Spirit.
The New Testament is replete with examples of women engaged in ministry. Women shared in Jesus’ public ministry (Lk. 8:1–3). Women were the first eyewitnesses of the resurrection, and were commanded by Jesus to give this good news to His male disciples (Matt. 28:1–10). Philip’s daughters were prophets (Acts 21:9); Dorcas exercised the gift of service (Acts 9:39–41); Lydia exercised the gift of hospitality (Acts 16:40); Priscilla instructed Apollos in the Scriptures (Acts 18:24–28); Paul commended Phoebe as a minister (i.e., “servant” or “deacon”) of Jesus Christ (Rom. 16:1–2).
The one scriptural exception is the role of Elder. Elder authority is set apart as a male role (Titus 1:6). Every elder in Scripture is male. In fact, the term itself is a masculine term. A pastor is by definition and practice an elder and therefore should be limited to qualified men alone. The foundation for this male-only eldership is God’s established order of headship:
1 Cor. 11:3 Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.
This hierarchy of authority in no way reflects any inadequacy in women as compared to men. Rather, it reflects God’s order and design. To recognize and accept our roles as male and female in God’s design brings freedom. That’s why Jesus did not feel somehow degraded by His role of submission to God the Father:
Phil. 2:7 …but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
Any ministry not requiring the exercise of elder authority, however, should be available to anyone, male or female, who demonstrates the appropriate gifts of the Spirit.
For further study on this issue, I encourage you to read Bible Gems #21 “Should Women Teach?,” and Bible Gems #20 “Saved Through Childbearing.”
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