Women in Ministry

By Edwin Christiaan

Over the years I have been asked the question many times whether women are allowed to teach in church or have a leadership position in church or ministry. Those who ask me this question usually ask because of the following scripture, which according to them is very confusing, since this scripture often has been used by religious leaders to justify the fact that women among other things should not be in church leadership position. Yet, there are many Christians who believe that it is perfectly fine to have women teaching or being the pastor of a church, but when they are asked to give a scriptural explanation by those who question it, they have a very hard time doing so.

Women should listen and learn quietly and submissively. I do not let women teach men or have authority over them. Let them listen quietly. For God made Adam first, and afterward he made Eve. And it was the woman, not Adam, who was deceived by Satan, and sin was the result. But women will be saved through childbearing and by continuing to live in faith, love, holiness, and modesty. 1. Timothy 2:11-15 NLT

Let’s clear out the misunderstanding! The apostle Paul who wrote this letter to the church in Ephesus did not forbid women from teaching. First of all, we know this because it was Paul who complimented and honored his co-worker in the ministry, Priscilla, who together with her husband Aquila, taught the preacher evangelist named Apollos.

Meanwhile, a Jew named Apollos, an eloquent speaker who knew the Scriptures well, had just arrived in Ephesus from Alexandria in Egypt. He had been taught the way of the Lord and talked to others with great enthusiasm and accuracy about Jesus. However, he knew only about John’s baptism. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him preaching boldly in the synagogue, they took him aside and explained the way of God more accurately. Acts 18:24-26 NLT

Greet Priscilla and Aquila. They have been co-workers in my ministry for Christ Jesus. In fact, they risked their lives for me. I am not the only one who is thankful to them; so are all the Gentile churches. Please give my greetings to the church that meets in their home. Romans 16:3-5 NLT

Paul also refers to other women who held positions of responsibility in the church, like Phoebe, mentioned in the book of Romans, chapter 16:1-2 NLT:

Our sister Phoebe, a deacon in the church in Cenchrea, will be coming to see you soon.  Receive her in the Lord, as one who is worthy of high honor. Help her in every way you can, for she has helped many in their needs, including me.

Paul continues to acknowledge many other women who worked for God in the ministry:

Give my greetings to Mary, who has worked so hard for your benefit. Romans 16:12 NLT

Say hello to Tryphena and Tryphosa, the Lord’s workers, and to dear Persis, who has worked so hard for the Lord. Romans 16:6 NLT

And now I want to plead with those two women, Euodia and Syntyche. Please, because you belong to the Lord, settle your disagreement. And I ask you, my true teammate, to help these women, for they worked hard with me in telling others the Good News. And they worked with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are written in the Book of Life. Philippians 4:2-3 NLT

So then, what did Paul really mean when he recommended that women at the Ephesus church should not teach men?

In order to fully grasp what Paul was saying, we need to understand the situation he was working in at that time. In the First Century Jewish culture, women were not allowed to study. Because of that, Paul encouraged the women to “learn quietly and submissively”, which does not mean that the women had to be totally silent, but instead have an attitude of quietness and composure, as they were allowed to listen in. Paul did not want them to teach others, since they did not have enough Biblical knowledge and experience to discern the truth. The Ephesian church had a particular problem with false teachers and many of the women were susceptible to their false teachings. (See 2. Timothy 3:1-9)

That is why Paul instructed Timothy, who was the pastor of the Ephesian church, not to put anyone, in this case women, into a position of leadership who did not yet have the maturity in the faith, as he pointed out in these verses:

An elder must not be a new Christian, because he might be proud of being chosen so soon, and the Devil will use that pride to make him fall. Also, people outside the church must speak well of him so that he will not fall into the Devil’s trap and be disgraced. 1. Timothy 3:6-7 NLT

Never be in a hurry about appointing an elder. 1. Timothy 5:22 NLT

In conclusion, we now also understand the text in 1. Corinthians 11:5 where the apostle Paul himself acknowledges that women publicly prayed and prophesied.

Copyright©2008 Edwin & Sophia Christiaan