Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Her Elders Teach Women Can Preach

Written by Ken and me

Some women are in such rebellion to the Word of God that they will use any arguments and proof texts they can to disregard the plain teaching of the Word concerning women being silent in the churches, not teaching men, nor being in authority over them. I received another letter from a woman trying to convince me that there should be women preachers, and she claims it is her church elders that teach this to the congregation. I am answering this in a blog post because I see many others trying to manipulate the Word in a failed attempt to prove that women can indeed be teachers, preachers and elders in the church. Her words, {let's call her Carol}, are in quotes and italics.

“I have read quite a few posts on women teaching the gospel and I understand that you don't believe women should do so. I am also aware of the verses in the Bible that back up your stance.”

These are the verses that eliminate any question on this matter: But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet {1 Timothy 2:12}. 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 anything, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church {1 Corinthians 14:34}. A qualification to be an elder or and deacon is to be the husband of one wife.

“However, I am wondering if you would be kind enough to take the time to explain to me why you use these verses to say that women should not be preachers when there are other verses that indicate that they can be? This is a very important question for me, as I have grown up in a Christian home that follows the Bible yet we have women teaching the gospel under the leadership of men. I do not write this email to argue with you, or say that you are wrong or cause any negativity, my question is a genuine one, and challenges the beliefs that I hold. I greatly respect your opinion, and I love that you are courageous enough and faithful enough to do what you believe God has called you to do in teaching women how to live more Godly lives through your blog. The verses that spring to mind regarding women preachers are these ones: Galatians 3:28 'neither male nor female ... for ye are all one in Jesus Christ' Act 10:34 'God is no respecter of persons.'"

Let's be clear here, these verses say nothing about teaching or preaching and to link them together is to wrestle the Word to say what one wants it to say. There is not a whisper of the word preach or teach anywhere around these verses, so how does one make this gigantic leap of logic to link the two? Instead, these verses speak to God's view of all people, no matter what their race or gender, intelligence or lack thereof. Each one of us is respected and valued by God just the same. One could say that God values all persons, just as the verse says, the saved and the unsaved, yet he finds no issue with sending the unsaved to an eternity apart from Him. So why can't He value all believers, but tells that women are not to teach in the church? One's value to God and one's equality in the body of Christ have nothing to do with the role God asks men and women to accept for the advancement of His church and Kingdom.

Carol asks about this verse: "Would God that all the Lord's people were prophets, and that the Lord would put His spirit upon them! "{Numbers 11:29}

Matthew Henry’s commentary explains "these verses seem to indicate that everyone who believes in God can be a laborer in the field of spreading the gospel.”

We are all to be witnesses in spreading the gospel and making disciples, but in the Church, God clearly instructs that men are to be the leaders and the teachers.  This same design held 100% true for the Old Testament saints too, as all the priests, leaders and teachers were men in the organization of the temple and synagogues. But in extraordinary times, women did indeed receive the spirit of prophecy, but this is not leadership or teaching in the Church.  Christian women, like men, are to evangelize their children, their friends, and whoever else God places in their path. All our lives and witness should be a testimony to the Good News of Jesus our Savior.

Carol then asks about 1 Cor. 11:5, "For every woman that prayeth or prophesieth...."According to my concordance, a prophetess is a female preacher.
Acts 2:17,18 "Your sons and daughters will prophesy..." indicates that women preachers are a fulfillment of Bible prophecy.”

So here we find in the immediate context of Carol's proof text verse, one of the most powerful passages explaining the authority of man over woman, and that woman was made for man:

But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God but the woman is the glory of the man. For the man is not of the woman: but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man” {I Corinthians 11:3, 7-9}.

It is in this context of authority and head coverings that Paul alludes to women prophesying. There is no doubt that such a thing existed in the early church, but was it in a church setting, or rather in private or a smaller home group? Follow the discussion below and it is hard to imagine the Apostle both saying women should be prophesying in a church setting and just a couple pages later telling women to absolutely "keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak" {1 Corinthians 14:34}. Notice the plural "churches" referring to all churches, not just the Corinthian church.

Remember, the context is of a Corinthian church that the Apostle Paul is hitting hard for its disorderly conduct and abuses. If one assumes that women are allowed to prophesy, and Paul is not referring to this as an abusive practice, then how does one reconcile it with his strong prohibition just a few verses later against women speaking at all in the church? One must assume that this prophesy is not in any formal church gathering, but perhaps in a smaller home group, or other setting. I will let Albert Barnes speak to this from his commentary as he seems to capture the various facets to the passage:

If it is now pled, from this example, that women should speak and pray in public, yet it should be just so far only as this example goes, and it should be only when they have the qualifications that the early "prophetesses" had in the Christian church. If there are any such; if any are directly inspired by God, there then will be an evident propriety that they should publicly proclaim the will, and not till then. It may be further observed, however, that the fact that Paul here mentions the custom of women praying or speaking publicly in the church, does not prove that it was right or proper. His immediate object now was not to consider whether the practice was itself right, but to condemn the manner of its performance as a violation of all the proper rules of modesty and of subordination. On another occasion, in this very epistle, he fully condemns the practice in any form, and enjoins silence on the female members of the church in public; 
1 Corinthians 14:34. Barnes Notes.

So how do Carol and her elders reconcile this passage with the idea that women may prophesy? Do they ignore the clear teaching for the one which is unclear? Especially when Paul makes it crystal clear that silence in the church for women is not his own personal opinion, but a command from God:

"The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. 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.  Was it from you that the word of God first went forth? Or has it come to you only? If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, let him recognize that the things which I write to you are the Lord’s commandment. But if anyone is ignorant, let him remain ignorant." {I Corinthians 14:34-38}

It is interesting that our debate is over the one issue that Paul claims absolute apostolic authority from God and relegates all those who are unwilling to accept this plain teaching as "ignorant." Such strong authoritative commands and language is rare in the scriptures, but Carol and her elders would have us neglect the command preferring instead a verse that is much less understood. It certainly cannot apply to the church setting, but it may apply to other smaller gatherings, or evangelistic meetings. And who do we you know who is truly prophesying in today's day and age? We are told immediately in the next chapter, “Love never fails; but IF there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away” {I Corinthians 13:8}.

Carol says, "God used women preachers in the Old Testament including Deborah, Miriam, Huldah, and Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz's Mother."

Yes, He used them but they were not leaders and preachers teaching the Word of God and being in authority over men, in the Church, Temple, or Synagogue. Not a one of them. And every one of them was the exception to the rule, not, as proposed, an example for other women to regularly follow.

"God also used women preachers in the New Testament: The first message of Christ's Resurrection was spoken by women to men. There was also Anna in Luke; Philip's 4 daughters who were all prophetesses; Priscilla who assisted Paul and taught Apollos and Pheobe in Romans."

Carol uses here a common technique in arguing for a position that has no merit. She and her elders reclassify as "preachers" these examples of how God uses women, significant women,  in the New Testament. Now we are to stretch our minds to see the first few words spoken of the resurrection as teaching or preaching to men? How does one argue with such a fanciful proposition? We have no example of these women preaching a sermon or message longer than a few phrases, but somehow this is now preaching?

The women who spoke of Christ’s resurrection were not preaching, but simply sharing the good news of what they had seen with the disciples. They were not exercising authority over men by teaching them 
in the church. Phoebe was a servant in the church. Priscilla was always mentioned alongside her husband and we know nothing of them except for their church planting work. If she is to be the model on which we base a new found belief in women preachers, then one has only a weak argument from silence, filled in by imagination. 

Think about it. If God had intended to bolster the claim that women may preach, why not have a sermon or two preached by a women in the Bible? Why did Jesus not pick a woman to be a disciple and apostle? Why would God clearly say women are not permitted to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet” {1 Timothy 2:12}? There it, at least four times plain as day. God did not leave this important area of debate ambiguous. It's just that it doesn't fit with the modern day churches' agenda.

So why would Carol and many churches like hers want to twist and wrestle the scriptures to meet a need in the church that does not exist? Are there not enough men who can preach and teach? On the contrary, there are thousands upon thousands of godly men who could fill a pulpit or teach, but the Church often does not use them. And now we are to bring in the women as back up because... Why?

The answer has nothing to do with God's Word, or His will for His Church. It is all about the Church trying to keep pace with a broken society. But the remnant does not march in step with society and its new feminism, but instead stays true to God's Word, even to the end. There is ample opportunity for Christian women to make a powerful impact on the church, and the advancement of God's Kingdom here on earth, without having to usurp the role of men in the church. Perhaps women can begin by taking their primary responsibilities of the home and raising the next generation of godly children seriously. But don't let anyone tell women that their role is a lesser role in the church or in marriage. It is simply a different and complementary role assigned to them at the beginning of creation. And this assignment transcends culture and time in the perfect and infinite purposes of God.

We stand with the apostles Peter and Paul on the matter, opposed to those who wish to wrestle the clear teaching of the Word to obtain their objectives. As Barnes eloquently writes of the apostles words:

"Let him be ignorant - At his own peril, let him remain so, and abide the consequences. I shall not take any further trouble to debate with him. Let him abide the consequences of rejecting the law of God. I have given full proof of my divine commission. I have nothing more to say on that head. And now, if he chooses to remain in ignorance or incredulity, the fault is his own, and he must answer for it to God. {Barnes Notes 1 Corinthians 14:38}

And as Peter says of the apostle Paul's writings, “There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures” {2 Peter 3:16}.