Should Women Preach?

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There are scriptures that apparently oppose women’s preaching, thus creating some argument and sentiment against women’s laboring in that capacity. Because of such sentiment they are not only hindered in a measure from doing good they could do, but also their work is made doubly hard.


The following scriptures are the ones that give the above-mentioned impression: 1 Tim. 2:12-13, “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.” 1 Cor. 14:33-36, “For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints. 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.”


In the light of these statements some people honestly and sincerely believe that it is against the teaching of the Bible for women to preach. This is much harder to meet than insincere persecution. But, let us follow the scriptures on this subject through the Old and New Testaments.


2 Kings 22: 13, 14 tell that King Josiah sent Hilkiah the priest saying, “Go ye, enquire of the Lord for me, and for the people” concerning the words of a book they had found. So Hilkiah went until Huldah, the prophetess, the wife of Shallum, and they communed with her, and she said unto them, “Thus saith the Lord God of Israel.” We see here that although Hulda was a man’s wife, she was a prophetess of the Lord and God spoke through her to his people.


Also see Judges 4th chapter. Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, judged Israel at the time spoken of in this chapter. “And she dwelt under the palm-tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in Mount Ephraim: and the children of Israel came up to her for judgment. And she sent and called Barak the son of Abinoam out of Kedesh-naphtali and said unto him, Hath not the Lord God of Israel commanded saying Go and draw toward Mount Tabor, and take with thee ten thousand men of the children of Naphtali and of the children of Zebulun? And I will draw unto thee to the river Kishon Sisera, the captain of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his multitude; and I will deliver him into thine hand. And Barak said unto her, If thou wilt go with me, then I will go: but if thou wilt not go with me, the I will not go. And she said, I will surely go with thee: notwithstanding the journey that thou takest shall not be for thine honor; for the Lord shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman. And Deborah arose, and went with Barak to Kedesh.” By reading on we find that the Lord discomfited Sisera, and he was defeated, and that he fled and was killed by a woman. So God not only spoke through this woman to his people, but he through her led this great army to success.


Another example of woman’s leadership is that of Miriam, Moses’ maiden sister, who was a prophetess, and who took part in leading the children of Israel out of Egypt. Aaron recognized Miriam’s part in the great undertaking and said, “Hath the Lord indeed spoken only by Moses? hath he not spoken also by us?” (see Exod. 15:20 and Num. 12:2). Note also at Christ’s birth that a man and a woman both blessed him. Simeon came by the Spirit into the temple and took Christ in his arms and blessed him. Also Anna a prophetess coming in the same instant gave thanks to the Lord and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem (see Luke 2: 27, 28, 38).


A woman received the first message from Christ after his resurrection and delivered it. Mary lingered at the tomb. Christ spoke to her and said, “Go tell my brethren” (John 20-17).


Some may say that God spoke through women under the old dispensation, but that he does not under the new, that we have ministers in place of prophets now. Is it not true that a prophet and a minister are practically the same? The prophets of old looked forward to Christ and foretold future events mainly, while the ministers of today look back to a crucified Christ and expound his written Word—in both cases instruments used by God in speaking to his people.


In regard to the new dispensation ministry we shall notice it first in prophecy. We shall call your attention to Joel 2: 28-33. “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and y our daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions. And also upon the servants and upon the handmaidens in those days will I pour out my spirit.”


Let us turn to Acts 2: 12-22: “But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice and said unto them, Ye men of Judea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and harken to my words; For these are not drunken as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day, But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions and your old men shall dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy,” etc.


Peter made quotation of Joel’s prophesy, and said it was fulfilled on that day. We see here that God poured out his Spirit on men and women alike that both should prophesy in the new dispensation.


Acts 21: 8-9 speaks of Philip the evangelist, who had four daughters, virgins, who prophesied. In Phil. 4:3, Paul said, And I entreat thee also, true yokefellow help those women which labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other fellow laborers whose names are in the book of life.” So Paul had both men and women in his company.


In 1 Cor. 11:4, 5 we read, “Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoreth his head. But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoreth her head,” etc. This implies however, that both men and women prophesied in Paul’s time.


1 Cor. 14:3, “He that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.” We see here that “prophesy” covers the ground of preaching to an audience. Gal. 3: 27-29, “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, . . . there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” 1 Cor. 12: 13 reads, “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body,” etc. Verse 18, says “now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.” So we see that if women are baptized into the body, they are part of the body and have their God given functions to perform. Verses 8-12: “For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another diverse kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: but all these worketh that one and selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.”


The Bible does not teach a set of gifts for women differing from those for men.


“But,” you will ask, “what does Paul mean by those scriptures which say that women shall not preach?”


The Scriptures nowhere state that women should not preach. But Paul told the women at that particular time to keep silent. 1 Cor. 14:33 reads, “God is not the author of confusion, but of peace.” These women must have been out of God’s order and making confusion. So Paul commanded them to keep silent that the confusion might be stopped. The men also were making some confusion, and Paul told them to keep silent in the church when there was no one to interpret (see 1 Cor. 14:28).


In 1 Tim. 2:12, Paul says, “I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, . . . for Adam was first formed, then Eve.” To my mind he was here reproving those women who were usurping authority or ruling over their husbands and others, which is not consistent with the Spirit of Christ.


Bishop, S. (June, 1920). Should women preach? Gospel Trumpet, 8–9.


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