Hi Pastor Joe,

This is something I struggle with because the Bible clearly says men should be the leaders in our church and women are the supporters. If we skew these verses to fit our own desires why should we trust the rest of the Bible to be true and Gods perfect design for us?

1 Timothy 2:12-13 ESV “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve;”

I sincerely need help knowing what to believe. I’ve struggled with this for over a year now. From what I’ve read in the New Testament the Bible clearly backs that up, but why do so many churches allow women to preach then? Thanks for taking the time to help me understand!

Sincerely,
M

Hi M,

Thanks so much for your email.

Good Christians who love God’s Word differ on whether women should be allowed to lead or teach. There are Scriptures to be cited on both sides.

Did you happen to hear Amy Miller’s message on this subject this past weekend? She also cited several good books on her outline. I’d recommend you check out her message and the resources she cited.

The three passages that are usually referenced to support the position that women should not teach in church or be leaders are: 1 Corinthians 11:1-16, 14:34-35, and 1 Timothy 2:12-15. While each of these may seem clear, they are in fact very problematic, and scholars and theologians have long debated them.

For example, in 1 Corinthians 11, women are to wear a head covering. In Paul’s day, this was a full-length veil. I don’t know any Christians or churches who observe this today—at least not in Western culture. Why? Because we believe Paul wrote this to a specific cultural context and interpret it accordingly. Also, this passage says that women can pray and prophesy (in church) as long as they are appropriately covered. How does that square with Paul’s instructions in the other two passages that women should be silent? Is it possible that what Paul wrote about women was written in a specific cultural context and needs to be understood accordingly?

Many scholars debate the meaning of the 1 Corinthians 14 command for women to be silent in church. Was this cultural? Was it due to divided seating? What made it disgraceful for a woman to speak? And why say this when he just said earlier that they could pray and prophesy?

And the Timothy passage is equally problematic. For example, what does Paul mean that women will be saved through child-bearing? Typically, if a passage doesn’t make sense, it wise to dig a little deeper. This is why scholars have wrestled—and continue to wrestle—with these passages.

On the other side, Jesus included women in his circle of followers—something that no other rabbi did. The apostle Paul also wrote in Galatians 3:28 that in Christ there is no Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female. If we believe that Jesus made Jew and Gentile equal before God, why would we not believe that about men and women? Why would we let Jew or Gentile lead, slave or free speak, but not women? In the book of Acts, when God poured out His Spirit on Pentecost, Peter described it as the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy that God would pour out His Spirit on all flesh, men and women alike, and they would all be gifted to serve and prophesy. If a woman is gifted by God to speak, why would we forbid her? There are women leaders and speakers in the churches in Acts, and in Paul’s letters, he refers to women leaders in the churches (for example, Romans 16).

The culture of Jesus’ day and Paul’s day was patriarchal; women had almost no rights. Jesus ignored that culture, and to some degree (though not entirely), so did Paul. It seems to me that the arc of Biblical teaching and God’s intent is to make us one. God gifts every person—no exception—so I cannot think of a good reason (or a Biblical one) to deny half the church the ability to use their gifts, particularly of speaking and leading.

That’s a short answer! Whole books have been written on this, by both sides—and again, by good Christians on both sides. I don’t believe it is a litmus test for true Christians—I think sincere believers can disagree about this and still be Christian. But I clearly believe that a gifted woman can speak or lead. I also recognize that their are differences between men and women—I’m not trying to deny that or dismiss those. In fact, those differences make it all the more important to me that we have female voices in leadership!

I hope that helps!

Joe

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