Can Women Preach and Teach in Church?

Why are so many people so wrong about this?

In 1 Timothy 2:12, the apostle Paul writes: “But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.

This does not mean that women cannot serve God (the work of the ministry) because in Philippians 4:3 Paul writes that Euodia and Syntyche “labored side by side with me in the Gospel.

It does not mean that a woman may never speak in the church because in 1 Corinthians 11:5 Paul is writing about women who pray and prophesy in the church meeting, “But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven.

It does not mean that a woman can never teach a man about spiritual matters because in Acts 18:24-26 we read that Apollos started to preach, but he had no clear grasp of the Gospel. Then it says And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.

I have seen many explanations by many church leaders about this subject and most of them fail miserably because they do not take the relevant factors that existed then, into consideration.

The early church functioned in a very informal way, until about 387 AC, when the Roman Emperor, Constantine, built the first church building. This is when things started to become formal. Preaching, as we know it did start a bit earlier than that but it was not the norm in the early church. On the other hand, teaching in a formal setting was done quite early for we read about Paul formally teaching Christians in the school of Tyrannus in Acts 19:9.

The informal meetings which were the general practice since the planting of the church, were held in houses, until the late 300s AC. It can be compared to families getting together, eating together, praying together, and ministering to each other in a really informal way.

This informality had wonderful results and implications, but, it also had to be monitored constantly to ensure that everything is done in the orderly fashion God intended it to be. You can imagine that when people are allowed to function freely and informally as described in 1 Corinthians 14, some people with strong characters, men and women, by the way, had to be addressed and corrected when they misused these privileges. Just take a look at how those early congregations functioned when they got together:

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1 Corinthians 14:26-27

26. How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.

27. If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret.

Everything about the early church was informal. They were operating and functioning in the streets and marketplaces, the public square, houses and basically everywhere you could find people. They were not in official buildings with formal settings. Everything about the church was family-like and very informal back then.

Initially, quite a few things had to be addressed to get the members of these churches to conduct themselves as Christ Jesus expected from them. After all, Christ was and is the Head of the church and the Holy Spirit has to be followed as He leads the congregation or the church in general.

Some of the men and women caused an imbalance when they emphasized the speaking in tongues too much, and I am referring to “tongues” their prayer language, and not “tongues” the Gift of the Spirit that precedes prophecy. So “tongues” as the Gift of prophecy, and prophecy itself were neglected whilst they emphasized “tongues”, the personal prayer language which was supposed to be practiced at home or in private. So Paul had to address these things and he did it in his letters to these churches which was later accepted as divine Scripture.

Another thing Paul had to address was men arguing with each other in the meetings. Yet another thing Paul had to address was women arguing with men and their husbands in the meetings. This is why he instructed them to keep quiet in the meetings and to be taught at home by their husbands. After all, the husband was given the authority in the family. He is the head of the family and wives must submit themselves to their husbands. Obviously, all these problems led to frustration and dissatisfaction and Paul had to address them as Christ and the Holy Spirit led him to.

2 Timothy 2:23-24

23. But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes.

24. And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient…

So the Scriptures about Paul addressing all sorts of problems in the church are supposed to be in the Bible. They are not mistakes, but, in the organized church, these Scriptures do not always make sense. It has to be adapted to fit the organized church. How should we apply these Scriptures in the institutional church?

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I am not sure but I can see that women preaching and teaching in the institutional church do not cause all sorts of problems when they do preach or teach. This is because of the well-controlled rules of conduct in the church. Nobody is going to stand up and start to argue with such a woman because this is universally not acceptable in the institutional church. Such a person, even if he is a man and the speaker a woman, the Pastor or elder or the counsel of such a congregation will not tolerate that.

This is not about agreeing or disagreeing in silence with women preachers. Just as with male preachers, we have all the right to disagree with them but we cannot start arguing with them in the middle of a sermon or a teaching session. This is what it is all about because this is what Paul had to address in house churches in Biblical times. I do not think that women preachers want to force anybody to accept or believe what they are preaching or teaching, just as any male preacher does.

They do not take authority over men when they preach or teach. They are just preaching and teaching the word of God and not trying to compete with men. In fact, the authority that Paul referred to in 1 Timothy 2:12 was a result of women starting to argue with men (and other women) about the word of God and the will of God, which was quite easy in the informal house church setting that I explained. Arguing is bad because it has a very negative effect on the people who have to sit and listen to people arguing. This is why Paul said that women must keep quiet and learn from their husbands at home. The bottom line is that wives must submit themselves to their husbands (only their husbands) and the authority that God gave them but women are equal to any and all other men in every sense whatsoever.

Galatians 3:26-29

26. For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.

27. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

28. 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.

29. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.  

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It is because of verse 28 that women have all the rights and privileges that men have. We have seen that women are allowed to do the work of the ministry. They worked with Paul and with the other apostles. They are allowed to speak in the congregations and they are allowed to exercise the Gifts of the Spirit. They have the right, not only to pray and prophesy but even to take part in the discussions during the official meetings. They are even allowed to teach outside the meetings as we can see with Aquila and Priscilla (funny that Aquila was mentioned before her husband in the Bible, probably because she was the more prominent and well-schooled of the two). In the organized church, it is only when men openly start to differ from women and start arguing with them, that they are to keep silent.

Women should not get involved in any argument with a man when it is about the word and will of God. In fact, even men should not argue about these things, but, when a woman does so, arguing is nothing but usurping authority over the man. There is a reason why Paul said that the man came first and the woman second. There is also a reason why he said that it was the woman who was deceived and not the man.

1 Timothy 2:11-14

11. Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.

12. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.

13. For Adam was first formed, then Eve.

14. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.

My opinion is that women who teach and preach in the organized church are not causing any of the problems that Paul referred to because he was addressing problems in the organic house church meetings of the early church. The way we conduct our meetings today did not even exist at that time, and it is completely different. So I think women who preach and who teach may do this without feeling condemned unless they are members of house churches that function as Paul described in 1 Corinthians 14 and other Scriptures. In this case, they do have to comply with Paul’s instructions.

I hope that this post clarifies the true Biblical facts about this controversial topic.

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