Since August 26 is Women’s Equality Day, this month is a good month to discuss the thorny question, “Can women preach in churches?”
Let me take the names of some women named in the New Testament. And from their names, I will explain the reason in brief as to why I believe women can preach in churches.
Phoebe: She is a ‘servant of the church’ in Cenchrea, a port in Greece (Rom. 16:1-2). The Nelson Study Bible indicates the word translated as ‘servant’ was used for the office of deacons (Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3:8,10,12). The Bible records that deacons such as Stephen and Philip were involved in proclamation (see Acts 7). So, there is no reason to believe that Phoebe was not.
Junia: She was named as an apostle in Romans 16:7. If apostle Paul and other apostles preached in all kinds of venues, there is no reason to believe also Junia did not. And there is no reason to believe women of today should not preach in churches!
The Mother of John Mark: A church met in her home (Acts 12:12). If the apostles believed that she was only to be a host and never to be a preacher to the people who met in her home, they could have well mentioned that.
Priscilla: A church met in her home as well (Rom. 16:3-5). She was there with her husband when eloquent speaker Apollos was corrected (Acts 18:26). Luke could have added this note: ‘Priscilla did not teach anything; the entire teaching to Apollos was done by Acquila. Priscilla was a mere spectator.’ But he did not. I believe there are indications that it was Priscilla who wrote the letter of exhortation called Hebrews (Heb. 13:22). Ruth Hoppins argued that ‘Priscilla — a woman who was a leader in the early church and an associate of Paul — is ultimately the only suspect who meets all the qualifications for the authorship (of the epistle to the Hebrews).’ Women not only preached, but what they preached perhaps became Bible books. From such Spirit-inspired women-authored Bible books authors we are called to teach doctrine (2 Tim. 3:16). So, why then should women not preach?
Jezebel: This woman false teacher is mentioned as being part of one of the local churches mentioned in the book of Revelation who taught a theology that made people comfortable in sexual sin (Rev. 2:20-22). Jesus could have well said this to Jezebel: “You are making two mistakes here Jezebel. First, as a woman you should not have taught any Bible truth! Second, even whatever you taught is wrong!” But the Jesus who promised a sick bed for her stubborn sexual immorality promoting false teaching, did not condemn the same woman for being a teacher of the Word of God! Jesus’ message to Jezebel was not this: ‘Repent, you woman who became a Bible Teacher without my permission!’
In conclusion, we have to ask this question: “What about Bible verses such as I Timothy 2:12 and I Corinthians 14:33-36 who seems to clearly forbid women from the church pulpit ministry?” To answer this question, I present this Bible Interpretation principle, “Clear Bible passages should be a guiding factor in helping us interpret seemingly clouded Bible passages!” And here is one clear passage which says it was God’s plan that women should proclaim God’s word: “Your sons and daughters shall prophesy” (Joel 2:28; Acts 2:17). To prophesy is to proclaim the Word of God in a way God’s people are led to Christian maturity (Eph. 4:11-16). Both, men and women were clearly called for this task!
So, why did Paul write what he wrote in 1 Timothy 2:12 and I Corinthians 14:33-36? The Spirit of Reformation Study Bible explains: “Many other Bible passages affirm women in various teaching roles (e.g. Judges 4:4; 2 Kings 22:14; Proverbs 1:8; 6:20; Acts 18:26; Titus 2:3). It is best to take this not as a prohibition against the act of teaching, but as a prohibition against the act of improper teaching in conjunction with the improper authority some women sought and perhaps wielded in Timothy’s context.” I agree.
As a seminary-trained man who married a non-seminary trained woman, I have encouraged my wife to preach! And it has been our joy to preach in tandem in different parts of India and overseas together!
Let us, as men, create an atmosphere for women to preach! As a woman, do not bury the preaching talent that God has showered you with!
Note: The following video of Duke Jeyaraj on the same topic will throw additional light: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sln8P4tOQWE&t=25s
(Rev. Dr. Duke Jeyaraj wrote this article for Aim magazine published by Evangelical Fellowship of India. This article was carried in the August 2020 edition of Aim magazine. Bro. Duke is the founder of Grabbing the Google Generation from Gehenna Mission, the G4 Mission. This is a reader-supported Indian ministry. Find out more at http://www.dukev.org. Follow Duke’s message videos at http://www.youtube.com/visitduke).