Questions Concerning Women in Ministry
William Dwight McKissic, Sr., Senior Pastor
Cornerstone Baptist Church
5415 Matlock Rd.
Arlington, TX 76018
This is the first of three consecutive posts that I plan to present regarding women in ministry.
Q. Does I Timothy 2:12 preclude women from preaching or teaching in a public worship service, or a seminary classroom?
A. The Apostle Paul stated in I Timothy 2:12, “and I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence” (NKJV). The Bible clearly teaches that when the church comes together for corporate worship, the general rule and practice is that the ministry of teaching/preaching is to be in the hands of men. Specifically, the elder(s), bishop or pastor of a congregation was primarily responsible for disseminating scripture to the church in public worship (I Timothy 3:2-7; 5:17; Titus 1:7-9, I Peter 5:1-4). The elders, bishops and pastors in scripture were always male (I Timothy 3:1, 2).
However, does the fact that preaching and teaching in corporate worship (biblically speaking) is primarily in the hands of men mean that women cannot ever under any circumstances exercise the spiritual gifts of prophecy (preaching), teaching, exhortation or evangelism in corporate worship to edify the body? If a woman gifted of the Holy Spirit with the gift of proclamation or teaching, uses her gift (assuming she’s married) with permission from her head (her husband) and at the discretion and invitation of the bishop, elder or pastor of a local church will she be in violation of I Timothy 2:12? ABSOLUTELY NOT.
Spiritual gifts are not given according to gender (I Corinthians 12:7). They are given according to God’s grace and sovereign will. The God of all grace (I Peter 5:10) anoints, gifts and equips women with supernatural abilities to minister just as He does men. Therefore women should be allowed to exercise these gifts in a local assembly at the discretion of the pastor – the same way in which gifted men in the congregation or outside of the congregation are given an opportunity to exercise their spiritual gifts of proclamation and teaching by invitation of the pastor.
There are two New Testament examples of women exercising proclamation and teaching gifts that illustrate my point. In I Corinthians 11:3-16, the same Paul who wrote I Timothy 2:12 says that it is perfectly permissible for a woman to prophesy or pray in a corporate worship setting with her head covered. Surely if Paul intended for his instruction in I Timothy 2:12 to have been an absolute injunction against women teaching or preaching in a corporate worship setting or a seminary – he would not have written affirmatively about women prophesying (preaching – expounding and proclaiming God’s truth – edifying, exhorting and comforting according to I Corinthians 14:3) in a public worship setting with her head covered. Men most certainly were present in this Corinthian assembly, that’s why it was necessary for the woman prophesying (preaching) to have her head covered as a symbol that she was under authority (I Corinthians11:10). Had men not been present the head covering would have been unnecessary. In our culture, a woman’s head being covered does not represent or symbolize that she’s under authority. If so, I would believe it would be necessary for women who address a public assembly to still wear a head covering. In the Middle Eastern culture then and now the head covering symbolized submission to authority. The principle behind the symbol remains the same – those women who address a corporate worship must do so by permission and the authority of their husband (if married) and the pastor. Furthermore, Paul permitting women to address a coed assembly defied Jewish tradition and he emphasized men and women codependence on each other in ministry (I Corinthians 11:11, 12). Twentieth Century women often read Paul’s words with disdain. First Century women read Paul’s word with delight, because he elevated their status.
There is a second example of women addressing a corporate worship setting in Revelation 2:20-22. Jesus is speaking in these verses. He is addressing the “angel” of the church in Thyatira. Most Bible scholars agree that the “angel” of the church was the messenger or pastor of this congregation. Jesus said to the pastor at Thyatira (Revelation 2:20-23 NKJV), “Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality, and she did not repent. Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds. I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works.”
Jesus rebuked the “angel” (messenger – pastor) of the church at Thyatira, not for allowing a woman to teach – but for allowing her to teach false doctrine. (Men are rebuked repeatedly in the New Testament for teaching false doctrine). This woman was judged not for being a woman teacher but for failing to repent of false doctrine. If the problem at Thyatira was a woman preaching (prophesying) or teaching there is no mention of this in the text. Had the notion of a woman preaching been unacceptable to the Thyatiran congregation she would not have been allowed the opportunity to address the congregation.
Throughout the Old and New Testaments we see women exercising proclamation and teaching gifts without rebuke of their gender or doctrine. Miriam (Exodus 15:20), Deborah (Judges 4:4), Huldah (II Kings 22:25), Anna (Luke 2:36) and Phillip’s daughters (Acts 21:9). Peter preached at Pentecost, “And on my men servants and on my maid servants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; And they shall prophesy.”
In conclusion, since God was pleased to incorporate songs and statements by women in the Bible (Exodus 15:21; Judges 5; Luke 1:42-25, 45-46, etc.), is it improper to think that He may use women in expounding and applying His Word? Judge ye?