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Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Women and the Church: What Does the Bible Say?



Prophetess, bishop, preacher, study leader, choir member, Sunday school teacher, church secretary, treasurer, mentor, women’s ministries, children’s club leader, nursery worker, praise leader, hospitality director . . . . What does the Bible say specifically about women in the church? How is a woman to lead? How many roles are for women, and which ones are for men?

Let’s see what the Bible actually says. 

I truly thought that Anna* was the last prophetess and that after Jesus was born, there were no more. I was wrong. Read with me: And the next day we that were of Paul's company departed, and came unto Caesarea: and we entered into the house of Philip the evangelist, which was one of the seven; and abode with him. And the same man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy (Acts 21:8-9).

So, for this one time in the New Testament, we have four sisters who prophesy. I was puzzled. What did they do, exactly? It is very helpful to understand what prophesy means. The word used here means: “to prophesy with the idea of foretelling future events; to utter forth something that can only be known by divine revelation; to prompt, teach, refute, reprove, admonish or comfort; or to act as a prophet.”** Since the Bible doesn’t describe exactly what these four young women did, we know they somehow spoke the Word of God to others--and they didn’t go against Scripture to do so. 

After these girls, Agabus, and a few other New Testament prophets, we don’t read of any more. Why? The Bible teaches that the sign gifts would cease. Most scholars believe they stopped when the Bible was completed. Today, we have no need of early church sign gifts or extra-biblical prophecy. We already have the complete Word of God in the Bible! 

We also read these admonitions for women in the New Testament: The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed (Titus 2:3-5). Women should teach women.

Furthermore, we read, But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence (1 Timothy 2:12). The context of this verse is the Apostle Paul training the new churches. Let’s read the verse that goes before it: Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection (verse 11).

Women aren’t to take the authority in churches away from men, and they’re to be silent. Does this mean a woman can’t teach? Obviously not, since it’s also in the Bible that women are supposed to teach women. Let’s look at one more verse on this subject. 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 (1 Corinthians 14:34).

So, it’s clear that women aren’t to teach or exercise authority in a church meeting where men are present. They’re not to be taking the leadership in a mixed group. They’re not to be teaching men. They’re to yield the leadership in a mixed church meeting to the men of the church.

Wow! We look at churches today, and we see just the opposite. In many churches, women lead. The men are the ones sitting in meek silence as the women take the reins. Something is terribly wrong with this picture. It’s not biblical. In addition, it actually takes away opportunities from the men of the church. They would rise up to lead if the women wouldn't usurp authority.

So, we ask these questions:

Q Should women be teaching adult Sunday school classes? 
Yes, if they're women’s classes. Not if they include men. 

Q Should women lead in prayer? 
A Not in a mixed church group, but yes, if it’s only women.

Q Should women teach men? 
A No, they’re not to teach men in the church (1 Timothy 2:12, above). 

Q Can women teach children? 
A Yes, because teaching children doesn’t contradict Scripture. It is obvious that many biblical women (Timothy’s mother and grandmother, included) taught children the Word of God. 

Q May women preach? 
Yes, but only to women and children.
You might think the Bible is sexist. You may think it’s unfair. It really isn't. God arranges order in the church, just as He puts order in the family—the wife yielding authority to her husband. The church is the Bride of Christ and mirrors the family, and vice versa. (Read Ephesians 5:22-33.)

What can a woman biblically do in her church? Let’s look to the Bible for ideas:
  • teach the Word of God to her children (Deuteronomy 6:6-7)
  • provide music (Psalm 68:25)
  • speak with wisdom and kindness (Proverbs 31:26)
  • exercise hospitality (Romans 12:13, 1 Timothy 3:2)
  • dress modestly (1 Timothy 2:9-10)
  • have a lovely spirit (1 Timothy 2:10)
  • be an example of holiness (Titus 2:3)
  • teach younger women (Titus 2:4)
  • love her husband (Titus 2:4)
  • love her children (Titus 2:4)
  • teach homemaking (Titus 2:5)
  • teach pure, holy living (Titus 2:5)

Of course, these principles open the doors for other ministries, as well:
  • take care of children in the nursery
  • clean, organize
  • secretarial work
  • hospitality at church—dinners, socials, etc.
  • Bible studies (women, children)
  • help with or lead Bible clubs for children
  • women for missions—support your missionaries in prayer and correspondence
  • summer camps (counseling, teaching)
  • Sunday school (for women, children)
  • help our husband’s ministry
  • community outreach (crisis pregnancy centers, mission work with women, jails, retirement homes, neighborhood Bible studies for women, updating the church website, etc.)
And, we can share our personal testimonies with anyone! How did the Lord change your life? Share the gospel! 

In the New Testament, women were vital members of the early churches. We think of Lydia, Dorcas, John Mark’s mother, Priscilla, Mary, Martha, and many more. They opened their homes to those early preachers, met the needs of the poor, hosted churches in their homes, and were faithful members of their church congregations. We have those same opportunities today! 

Christian woman, you have a huge role 
to play in your church!

_____________

*Anna is the ancient woman at the Temple, who greeted Joseph, Mary, and Jesus, eight days after His birth. (Luke 2:36-38) 
**Online Bible

2 comments:

  1. An interesting and well written article. You touch on very good topics. Thanks :)

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for reading, Heidi! God bless!

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