Woman Preachers Forbidden In Bible
By Dr. John R. Rice
Chapter taken from Evangelist John. R. Rice's brilliant book "Bobbed Hair, Bossy Wives and Women Preachers" Pg. 38-44;
Should women preach? Does God call women to be pastors? Evangelists? Song leaders? Bible teachers for mixed classes of men and women?
If we try to settle this question by the opinion of men, it would never be satisfied settled. The great preponderance of opinion among responsible Christian people is indicated by the fact that most churches never call a woman preacher as pastor. Most seminaries never employ a woman teacher of theology. And relatively very few women find positions of any sort on the faculties of seminaries and the Bible institutes. Most churches have men to conduct evangelistic meetings, if they have such meetings. So the majority opinion would decide for men preachers and against women preachers. But opinions would vary with the preferences. The followers of Aimee Semple McPherson, the large Pentecostal and Holiness groups, the volunteers of America who have been led so long by Maud Ballington Booth, The Salvation Army where women preachers have always been welcomed, though in actual practice they did not have the actual leadership-all these and many others would insist on the right of women to preach, to do work of an evangelist or pastor, or Bible teacher, the same as a man of like attainments.
The matter cannot be settled by opinion. It cannot be settled by observation. It cannot be settled by logic. There is only one place to settle this question of whether God wants a woman to preach or not. That is by the word of God itself! The Bible is the place to find what god wants people to do. The Bible is to tell us how the Lord's work is to be conducted. There is no other authority of the slightest value in this matter, except as it derives from the bible, and coincides with the Bible teaching.
Women sometimes say that they feel called to preach. They say sometimes that the Holy Spirit has told them plainly that they should preach. But we must remember that every false doctrine in the world is supported by the same argument. A mother who killed her afflicted child said that God told her to do it. Some people feel led of the Spirit of God to preach salvation by grace. Others say they feel led of the same Spirit of God to preach salvation by works! Some people feel led of God, they say, to be sprinkled for baptism, and others feel led of the same Spirit to be immersed for baptism. Some people feel led of God to persecute Jews. Some people feel led of God to start unscriptural cults with false doctrines; that is, they honestly believe themselves led of the Spirit of God. But the answer to all this is very simple. the Holy Spirit of God dictated the Bible. Holy men of God spoke as they moved by the Holy Ghost. the Holy Spirit will never contradict His own Word. Any leading that is though to be of the Holy Spirit should be checked by the Bible. Any leading that does not coincide with the plain teaching of the Word of God is false, and is not from God's Spirit. For this reason the Scripture commands us, "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world" 1st John 4:1.
This matter, then, cannot be settled by how people feel led except as it coincides with the Bible. No leading is from God if it goes against the plain statements of God's Word. This matter must be settled by the Bible, the supreme rule of faith and practice for Christians.
Let us very carefully consider the Scriptures that bear on this matter. The Bible is the Word of God; no passage of Scripture will contradict any other passage. And since man and woman and God have not changed, we will find that what God intended women to do in Bible times He intends them to do now, also. Let every reader with prayerful heart ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom, and then search out in the Scriptures you are given what God has to say about women preaching the gospel.
1st Timothy 2:11-15 Says No Woman To Teach Or Usurp Authority Over Men
The first Scripture to which I call your attention on this matter of women preachers is in 1st Timothy 2:11-15, which is quoted here:
"Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety."
I want you to notice the universal character of this Scripture. It is in the letter written by Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, addressed to Timothy. Paul had left Timothy at Ephesus to have oversight of the great work in that city, with many elders, as you will see in the first chapter of this book. verse 3 shows that Timothy was to keep any from teaching false doctrines. Verse 4 shows that he was to keep down confusion, and verses 6 and 7 show that he was to set right some who desired "to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm." It is important to notice in this epistle, the first to Timothy, that we that we have detailed instruction about the qualifications for a bishop (or pastor) and of a deacon (see chapter 3). No one can read I Timothy without seeing that it sets forth rules and instructions for all New Testament churches, as delivered to Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, by the Holy Spirit. So the passage we have read above is for all New Testament Christians Paul said, "Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection; but I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence." Paul did not allow any woman preachers or woman teachers, nor any women to have authority over men, in any New Testament churches. Paul's word was accepted as law throughout the length and breadth of the Roman empire among fundamentally sound Christian people. At Rome, at Corinth, at Ephesus, the great centers, and all between Paul's authority as an apostle of God is recognized. And in no place, Paul says, would he allow a woman to teach or usurp authority over men.
And this rule of Paul is not arbitrary, but fits into the plan of God from the time of the creation. Paul explains that "Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in transgression." God made Adam first. Eve was made second and as his helpmeet, subject to him. For that reason, says Paul, women are not to teach men in the church, are not to be chief officers in the church nor have authority over men. For women to take such authority is not properly and naturally theirs. From the creation, this Scripture says, women are to take the place of subjection, because they were not created to have authority over men to teach men.
And again Paul says that the weakness of a woman and her aptness to be misled is shown because "Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression." Satan found he could deceive Eve easier than he could deceive Adam. God made woman after such a fashion that she should be a comfortable and obedient helpmeet, a mate who would fit to his will and plans. So, in the nature of the case, women are not as well fitted for executive authority. If women are more easily led, they are not as good leaders. Every pastor knows that women are easier to enlist in good work. But careful observers must admit that women are also easier led into false doctrines and into errors of various kinds. But the argument here in I Timothy 2:14 is that Stan was able to deceive Eve when he could not deceive Adam, and that this is an evidence that women should not be placed in authority in churches and in Christian work. If he could deceive Eve easier in the Garden of Eden, he could deceive women easier now. This means that women leaders are more likely to lead into heresy in doctrine and unscriptural practice than men. Women are not fitted to teach men or usurp authority over men, says this Scripture. But also, in verse 15, God has a special duty and privilege for women in childbearing. If they submit themselves to God's plan in humility and meekness, then they shall be rescued and preserved, when pangs of childbirth are come upon them. Many Godly women have found sweet comfort and ease and help in the time when they go down into the valley of the shadows to bring forth a child for the Lord, receiving help from God because they were willing to take a woman's place in submission.
Let us consider carefully verses 11 and 12.
The woman is to learn in silence, with all subjection.
A woman is not to teach. Certainly not to teach men, but evidently not to teach general groups, including men.
A woman is never to have authority over men.
And then it is emphasized that a woman is to be "in silence" in such public services.
We know well that God does not want Christian women to remain silent outside the mixed public service. Titus 2:3, 4 plainly commands "the aged women likewise... that they may teach the young women." here we are plainly told that old women may teach young women, and should do so. But they are to to teach them, among other things, to be "obedient to their own husbands" (v.5). Women are to be in silence, then, as far as teaching the whole church is concerned, or teaching men, or groups including men, but older women may teach younger women. It is clear that a mother may teach her own children, as Timothy's mother and grandmother evidently taught him (II Timothy 1:5). Proverbs 1:8 commands: "And forsake not the law of thy mother." Proverbs 6:20 says: "My son... forsake not the law of thy mother." Proverbs 30:17 says: "The eye that mocketh at his father, and despiseth to obey his mother, the ravens of the valley shall pick it out, and the young eagles shall eat it." A woman may teach other women and may teach children. But none of these cases we have mentioned refers to public teaching as an official of the church, or teaching of large mixed groups. Priscilla helped her husband, Aquila, to teach Apollos the way of the Lord more perfectly. But in this we may be sure that she had the meek spirit of a helpmeet to her husband. She spoke in private conversation, and not as an official teacher or as one having authority.
So when Paul said, "I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence, " it seems clear to me he is forbidding a woman to take a place as a public teacher of men. A woman is to be silent in the public assembly in the sense that she is not to teach as an official of the church. She particularly is to be silent as far as teaching men is concerned. That is plainly forbidden. No woman, according to this passage, is to be allowed to teach a class of men, or to teach a mixed class including men, nor to teach the church in a public assembly, including men.
It is equally clear that no woman is to take a place as an official of a church, having authority over men. No woman could be pastor of a church, according to this plain verse. To do so would be a usurpation of authority that was forbidden her.
In New Testament churches a woman's place was to be taught, not to teach. A woman's place was to be silent, not to be a public speaker. A woman's place was to be in subjection , and not in authority. Certainly this Scripture forbids any woman to be a preacher or pastor or evangelist.
It is fitting at this place, when God has forbidden a woman to take authority in religious matters, to remind you that pastors do have authority from God. Consider the third chapter of I Timothy, which follows this passage, and its discussion of the office of a Bishop. The word bishop means overseer, and is a New testament word for pastor. Certainly an overseer has authority. This authority is indicated also in I Timothy 3:5 which says: "For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?" A man needs to know how to rule to be bishop or overseer or pastor of a church. But a woman is plainly forbidden to rule, so a woman could not be a pastor according to the New Testament plan.
In Hebrews 13:17 we are commanded to "obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves," and he speaks of spiritual rulers that watch over our souls, that is, pastors and Christian leaders. Again in Hebrews 13:24 the author says be inspiration of the Holy Spirit, "Salute all them that have rule over you," manifestly referring to Christian leaders. Pastors and preachers have a real authority from God to rule. But a woman is not to have authority over men, and so a woman could not be a pastor of a church, or a preacher of the gospel, in the ordinary sense.
An evangelist also must speak with authority. Paul commanded Timothy, "Do the work of an evangelist" (II Timothy 4:11, 12). An evangelist has authority from God and must not be despised, even though young. But no woman is to take authority over men, and no woman can be evangelists in the Bible sense. There were no women evangelists in Bible times and there should be none now.