Should women be preachers? The Scriptures answer that question resoundingly. But, before I get into the text, I want to disclose the reason for which I write. It has become popular, yet once again, to neglect the Scriptures in favor of emotional responses and unsupported claims of divine calling. Beth Moore said in a recent tweet:
I did not surrender to a calling of man when I was 18 years old. I surrendered to a calling of God. It never occurs to me for a second to not fulfill it. I will follow Jesus—and Jesus alone—all the way home. And I will see His beautiful face and proclaim, Worthy is the Lamb!
The burden is on Moore to prove she was called by God. No child of God is obligated to listen to someone who can’t ground their “calling” in the Scriptures. How do pastors know they were “called” by God into the office of elder? Is it because they had an experience? Is it because they heard a “still, small voice”? Is it because they feel like it’s right?
It’s because they desire the office of elder; and it’s because they meet the qualifications for it given in 1 Timothy 3. It’s not a passing feeling, it’s not an emotional impulse, it’s an unquenchable desire which is totally informed by—and made subject to—the holy Scriptures.
So, if someone desires to preach or teach, should they do so merely because they want to? Should they do it because they feel like it’s the right thing to do? Why don’t we put the touchy-feelies aside for a moment and ask the question that’s currently not being asked, What does God say?
Here are five biblical reasons why women (insert Beth Moore) shouldn’t preach:
I. The Law Forbids It
Or, at least, that’s what the apostle Paul says.
In 1 Corinthians 14:34, Paul says, “The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says (NASB).” Now, admittedly, it’s not clear exactly what portion of the Law Paul refers to, but that’s quite beside the point. An apostle, writing under the inspiration of God the Spirit, says that the Law of God commands women to keep silent in the assemblies. It’s possible he’s cryptically referring to Genesis 3:16, where God says the husband will rule over the wife. The Westminster Reference edition of the KJV also cites Numbers 30 as a possible cross reference. While Paul’s Old Testament interpretive method may not sit well with many, the New Testament clearly grounds this ecclesial practice of female quietness in the Law of God, not in some cultural phenomena.
A possible objection may be that Paul is speaking about the civil laws in Corinth. This would be historically impossible. In a town where the Aphrodite cult was at large, primitive feminism was nothing new. It was normal, in Corinth, for women to usurp the role of men. First Corinthians 11 serves to clarify the Corinthian Christian’s understanding of gender roles within the context of a debauched society where it was no big deal for a woman to “remove her covering [husband]” and act on her own self-perceived authority.
Oddly, there is a push for women in the church to begin doing the exact same thing. Perhaps they align themselves more closely with the Aphrodite cult of first century Corinth than they do biblical Christianity.
II. The New Testament Forbids It
First Corinthians 14, already cited above, demonstrates that women are not to speak within the assembly. Surely this would preclude preaching! Another place where this is clearly seen is 1 Timothy 2:11-15. There, Paul writes to Timothy:
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.
The word for let at the very beginning of the passage is in the imperative mood which means Paul is issuing a command. Verse 12 is even more enlightening. Paul says, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man.” The word for teach could also be rendered instruct. Is preaching instructing? If not, what is it? Isn’t preaching the instructing of an assembly in the things of God? If it is, then it’s not lawful for women to preach. The word for silence means quietness, and Paul uses it twice in this passage. A woman who obeys God and learns in silence adorns the Gospel and rightly understands Christian worship (Paul’s words, not mine).
III. Preaching Is the Duty of Elders
We have seen that women are not permitted to teach. But, if not women, who? According to 1 Timothy 3:1-7, men who are able to teach—among other things—are rightful candidates for the office of elder. This is one of the clearest linkages of the act of teaching to the office of elder in the Scriptures. Deacons are not required to teach, elders are. Men who desire to be elders must be able to teach. According to the New Testament, elders, or those who would become elders, are the only persons duty-bound to teach. There is no such thing, within the church, of a teaching or preaching ministry apart from eldership. If you write a blog, you’re not doing ministry. You’re writing a blog. If you have a podcast, you’re not doing ministry. You’re hosting a podcast. If you’re pulpit supply, that’s great. But, formally, you’re not doing ministry. Ministry happens within the church according to two offices: elders and deacons. The requirements for elders and, therefore, teachers, are found in 1 Timothy 3.
They must be qualified men.
IV. Caretakers of Souls are Men
In Hebrews 13:17 it is written:
Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.
The word for those is a masculine particle. These rulers are men who, as we know from 1 Timothy, are qualified leaders or elders within the church. These are men who are tasked with shepherding Christ’s flock. These rulers are intimately connected to the care of souls under the ultimate headship of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Do preachers preach for the sake of souls? If they do, shouldn’t they be men? Hebrews 13 seems to indicate that they’re men. Elders are men, teachers are men, rulers of Christ’s flock are men. We have no other example. To the contrary, we have commands in Scripture telling us that only men should be preachers and teachers in the church (1 Cor. 14:34; 1 Tim. 2:11-15). This should be clear enough so as to ward off any controversy.
V. Creation Bears Witness
One thing I did not cover in 1 Timothy 2:11-15 is Paul’s grounding his words in the created order and the fall: “For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.” Paul is saying, “And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence… [because] Adam was formed first, then Eve.” Adding to that, he uses the fall of man to bolster his point. It wasn’t Adam who was deceived, it was Eve. Satan aimed his attack at the woman because she was the most vulnerable part of the Eden family. Adam’s sin consisted (at least in part) in not loving his wife enough to protect her from such threats and, rather than lovingly correcting his bride, he capitulated to her behavior.
Instead of leading Eve away from disobedience, he followed her into it.
Women should not be teachers precisely because Satan’s crosshairs lie upon them. He will play on their tendency to nurture in order to soften their minds and their hearts, making them evermore vulnerable to corruption. This is no insult to women. But, it is a testimony to the differing roles and responsibilities God has infused into the created order.
Women are not meant to be pastors, and they’re not meant to act like pastors. They have another calling. Beth Moore claims to be called by God; but she couldn’t have been called by the true God of the Scriptures. That God has already spoken, and Moore stands corrected by divine words.