Women in Ministry

“Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church.” 1Cor 14:34-35 “Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.” 1Tim 2:11-15

It would seem that this topic should have been played out by now, but if you are anything like me there may still be a need to discuss it. And you know that I’m willing to touch on the controversial things… so here it goes. I hope I won’t loose any friends over this, but even more, I hope you are willing to learn something. After all, some have drawn a line in the sand and refuse to go there. We must hold our peripheral doctrines loosely so that we can continue to grow:

Women in Ministry: We have seen them, admired their gifts and have been blessed by their ministry, but what about the prohibition passages found in 1Corintians 14: 34-35 and 1 Timothy 2: 11-15? I have been stumbling over these for years. I asked the Lord, read various authors, and still there was a lingering doubt. I did make progress though, mostly because my spirit was resonating with God’s Spirit and He was teaching me.

Some years ago I believed that a woman should not be a pastor. It was fine for her to be a prophetess or an evangelist but not a pastor who had authority over a man. As time went on, however, I began to embrace the concept of delegated authority. Do you know what I mean? I felt it was OK as long as she was under the authority of a man. Interesting how we grow, isn’t it? I mean, I knew godly women, anointed and filled with truth. They told me with all honesty that GOD had called them to be a pastor… and I wanted to believe them. In addition, many female missionaries, apostles as it were, have gone to the nations to bring the gospel and disciple the nationals… men, women and children. No one seemed to mind women doing that, but how did this line-up with scripture?

I was well aware that throughout history there have been many who strictly adhered to what they believed to be scriptural truth only to find that they had missed it…the Pharisees being a blatant example. So I did not judge. Many anointed male leaders had already heard from the Lord in this matter including Peter Wagner and Jack Hayford but I wanted to hear too. And it seemed that this process was moving at a glacial pace. Well, thank God for my assistant, a godly, submitted woman, who knew of my struggle and gently offered me an article written by Dr. Gary Greig, “Biblical Foundations for Women Alongside Men in Ministry.” Apart from the fact that his presentation was intelligent, logical and believable, it was also Spirit-life giving. In addition, and perhaps most convincing, Gary is an expert in Bible languages. This makes his interpretation of the aforementioned “prohibition” passages most palatable. Please hear what he says:

“1Cor 14:33-35 appears to forbid women from speaking in public worship. But a close reading of the Greek text shows that this passage forbids wives, not women in general from speaking out disruptively in the context of their husbands judging prophecy. Greek gune can be translated “woman” or “wife.” It requires the translation “wife” in this passage because husbands are mentioned in 14:35. The sense “wife” is the clear connotation of the Greek gune in 14:35. So we are talking about husbands and wives in this passage and not women in general. The picture we get in 1Cor 14:29-39 concerns judging prophecy. These wives were apparently speaking disruptively over their husbands who were the recognized authorities to judge prophecy. This certainly could not be referring to Philip’s daughters who were prophets in the church of Caesaria Acts 21:9. They would be crazy if they didn’t allow them to judge prophecy because they were prophetesses themselves. What we are talking about here are women who were not recognized with this authority speaking disruptively. It is a matter of order, not gender. It is a matter of respecting their husbands.”

In 1Tim 2:12 Paul says literally “I am not permitting.” Many translations translate the Greek present active indicative verb as if it were gnomic aorist “I do not permit (ever)…” It is not. The Greek present active indicative is a primarily progressive tense – it denotes action in progress now…not forever and ever.
“I am not permitting a woman/wife (gune) to teach or to domineer a man/husband.” The Greek word aner can be translated “man” or “husband.” “To have authority over” is not what the Greek verb authentein means. If we turn to the standard NT Greek-English Lexicon of Bauer, Ardnt, Gingrich and Danker Pg. 121 we will find good evidence for the fact that authentein means domineer. It does not mean simply exercising authority. Paul could hardly say that women were not permitted (to teach) or exercise authority over men if he was aware of Priscilla with Aquilla teaching Apollos and if he was commending Phoebe as a diakonos minister that exercised a certain amount of authority in the church of Cenchrea. What we are talking about in 1Tim 2:12 is domination. The use of authentein refers to a domineering spirit that these women had.

The context in this speaks of Adam and Eve, the first husband and wife. This fact should condition our translation of Greek gune and aner to be translated “wife” and “husband” rather than “woman” and “man” in this passage. I think the sole translation of 1Tim 2:12 required by the context is “I am not permitting a wife to teach or to domineer a husband. She must be silent.” Paul could not have meant all women in Ephesus since Priscilla had been his co-worker along with Aquilla, and Paul certainly knew Priscilla and Aquilla had taught Apollos. Also Paul cannot be referring to all women in Ephesus or in the church in general because he is no longer speaking of women in the plural as he was earlier in the chapter in verses 9 and 10.” (Mentioning Priscilla before Aquilla probably meant that she was the primary teacher. Remember in that day it was not “ladies before gentleman.”)

“The language of the prohibition then reflects the original problem. A woman or a restricted number of women in the church of Ephesus were being contentious and argumentative. The woman/women were also domineering her/their husband(s). This scenario and Paul’s correction of it is a far cry from the idea that Paul was issuing a blanket prohibition against all women everywhere teaching or exercising godly authority to which God is calling them to in the Body of Christ.”

Just one more point for you to consider: “Paul mentions Junia and Andronicus in Romans 16:7. He says they are prominent among the apostles. “Greet Andronicus and Junia, my relatives who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles and they were in Christ before I was.” Junia was a common Latin female name in the Roman Empire! That Junia as a woman was recognized among the apostles is understandable. They had Deborah as a prophet, senior judge and a mother of Israel and Miriam as a prophetic leader under Moses and alongside Aaron. Huldah was a prophetic leader and advisor under King Josiah and Esther, a leader in the late period. This wouldn’t have been a problem in the New Testament Church with this history of women in leadership in the Old Testament.”

Dear Church, it is time to accept the obvious – the evidence is quite clear. God has called women to serve alongside men in every aspect of ministry… including apostles.   Peter Whitehouse

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