Can Women be Pastors?
A question came up last night between my
fiancé and myself about 1 Corinthians 14:34-35. This is from the New American
Standard: "Let the women keep silent in the churches, for they are not
permitted to speak. But let them subject themselves just as the Law also says.
And if they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home.
For it is improper for a woman to speak in church." Is it okay
for a woman to be a pastor or to even speak out in church? This happened
to come up after a guest speaker came to our church and taught something
that contradicts how we have always believed. This made us question this
scripture. Thanks for your help.
Brian and Lynne
Remember this letter was written in response to
the many questions the church was asking in another letter. 1 Corinthians
7:1 says, "Now for the matters you wrote about…" The
Corinthian church wrote a letter asking Paul questions. I believe the
passage you quoted was actually Paul quoting one of the false teachings
going on in the Corinthian church.
Notice the entire language of the statement about women being silent.
Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted
unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as
also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their
husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.
What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only. (1
Cor 14:34-36, KJV)
After this chauvinistic statement Paul exclaims "What?" Paul
is almost beside himself when he reads back this statement from the letter
written to him. Paul is not the one making the statement. Paul is quoting
from the letter. The fact Paul exclaims, "What? came the word of
God out from you?" shows that the statement came from the
Corinthian church, and they were claiming to exclude the women from
speaking based on the Law, which they claimed was the word of God.
Of course when you recognize that Paul did not teach the Law but Grace,
you realize Paul would never use the Law to prove anything. The author of
this statement about women remaining silent used the Law as the basis of
this practice. "But they are commanded to be under
obedience, as also saith the law." Paul would never use the Law
to enforce any behavior. Paul taught that the Law was nailed to the cross
(see Ephesians 2:15 and Colossians 2:14), so why would he appeal to the
Law to ban women? Paul did not agree with the statement but questioned it.
In response to this ban on women, Paul says, "Let him acknowledge
that what I am writing to you is the Lord's command" (14:37). Paul
taught and wrote that the women in Corinth could prophesy with their heads
covered (ch 11). He also wrote, "For you can all prophesy in turn so
that everyone may be instructed and encouraged " (14:31). All can
prophesy. That includes women!
Paul taught the equality of women and men. He recognized cultural
behaviors such as the ones in Corinth, (example: head covered), but he
also says, "In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man,
nor is man independent of woman" (11:11). He differentiates between
cultural norms and equality in the Lord. His famous statement in Galatians
should remove all doubt as to whether or not Paul was a "woman
hater" as some have claimed.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for
you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal 3:28)
Concerning the roles of women in the Lord, there is no ban from the
ministry. A woman can
do everything a man can do as far as the ministry is concerned. There
should be equality in the ministry. I believe a woman can pastor.
Some will argue that Jesus never ordained women to be His apostles,
thus, setting aside women from being in the ministry. If you argue against
women being pastors by appealing to the fact that the apostles were men,
then you must ban slaves and Greeks from the ministry, because Jesus only
chose free men who were Jews to be His apostles. I haven’t heard any
Gentiles willing to step down from the ministry, because the Apostles were
Here is the way I interpret passages, which appear to discriminate. I
will not use the Bible to discriminate against anyone. I always look to
use the scriptures to liberate people, not place them in bondage. I think
it is time to quit holding to interpretations that put people in bondage.
We must be willing to admit that we don’t know everything, and be
willing to side in with grace. Let our conscience guide us when we are
confused about certain passages.
A follow-up Question: Hey Tom, I got another
question for you. This time I want to know what is the deal with
female pastors. I can understand how you can twist around what Paul
said in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 to defend your beliefs, but what about 1
Timothy chapter 2? Now I believe that men and women are equal in God's
eyes, but clearly each gender has it's role when it pertains to church
leadership and authority. Please read over these texts, and let me
know what you come up with this time.
up Bible Answer: You wrote, "Clearly each gender has it's role
when it pertains to church leadership and authority." God's word is
logical, under what logic can you apply that forbids women leadership in
the church? Is there something in the female species that keeps them from
communicating the Word effectively (do females have problems talking), or
perhaps something in their psyche that keeps them from organizing ministry
effectively (are females dumb)? I do not get it. There is nothing in
church leadership requirements (preaching, organizing, counseling) that
keeps women from effectively doing their jobs. We are not asking them to
be football players. There is nothing physical about church leadership
that keeps women from doing the job. About the passage in 1 Timothy 2:12-15.
I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.
For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.
But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.
This is not dealing with "church" authority but authority in
the "home." The context proves it. Paul uses Adam and Eve as the
example of authority. What relationship did Adam and Eve have? They were
husband and wife, not pastor and sheep. Since there is no Greek word for
husband and wife, the word "man" and "woman" is also
translated "husband" and "wife", and based on the
context these words should have been translated as such.
Another Follow-up Question: As usual, some pastors,
like yourself, flip scripture to suit their own needs or those in the
church. But as usual you leave out 1 Tim 3:2 which says, "A Bishop must be
the husband of one wife." How can a woman be a "husband"?
Follow-up Bible Answer: When you look clearly at the
statement in 1 Tim 3:2 it is a prohibition against polygamy.
Someone might say, “But there is no mention of women being a bishop.” You
must understand the culture in Paul's day. The ancient world was
male-dominated; so rather than crusade against it, the apostles accommodated
themselves to it, but they had hoped that the gospel would change society.
In the meantime, however, Paul knew society would not accept women as
pastors so he presumes that the pastor would be a male.
Now the reverse is true. Most societies accept the equal rights of women,
yet many churches are fighting the reverse culture war by keeping women from
equality in the church. I think those churches that refuse to accept the
full role of women in the church actually hinder the gospel by showing
prejudiced against women. Doing this is contrary to the message and life of
Christ who was progressive in His view of women.
Every historian agrees at this point: that Jesus was way ahead of society
when it came to the equality of women. Yet, ministers are often way behind
society when it comes to the role of women. I think it is a shame that
governments, corporations, schools, and other institutions, are leading the
way for equality, while many churches lag behind. The traditional church has
been a bad example in this area.
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