Can women serve as preachers in the local church?

Published 3:56 pm Thursday, May 21, 2020

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The apostle Paul said, “Let the women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but let them be in subjection, as also saith the law.” (1 Corinthians 14:34).
As we study 1 Corinthians, it is evident that Paul is referring to the public services of the local church. We read in 1 Corinthians 11:18 KJV, “For first of all, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it. Earlier in this same letter, the apostle had spoken of “coming together in the church” (I Corinthians 11:18). Earlier in 1 Corinthians 14:23, Paul states, “If therefore the whole church be come together into one place…”. We can conclude therefore that Paul is speaking about the church coming together in public services of the church.
We understand that in 1 Corinthians 14, Paul speaks concerning the regulation of the use of miraculous gifts in public worship (which we do not have now). However, the same principle must apply to any assembly of the church of a similar nature and at any time in history or future. In verse 34, Paul added, “as also saith the law,” this as well supports the notion that women must be silent in the public worship service. This very principle spoken of by Paul here in the New Testament was also in the Old Testament. Under the Law of Moses, women were not permitted to “lead” the public worship of God’s people in any way nor even to speak out. We must now understand there is a definite difference between our worship service to God where women are to keep silent and Bible study or class time which we often participate in prior to our worship or at other times during the week. In the later time frames mentioned (class) no prohibition exists as it is a time to sit together and study God’s Word for our edification rather than a specific time of worship.
On another occasion Paul addresses a similar situation. However, it does not appear to be a situation in which people are gathered to worship. In 1 Tim. 2:11-12 KJV, Paul said, “Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. (12) But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.” Verse 8 of this chapter shows the difference, men may (“pray in every place”); these are at public places outside of worship. In these places women are restricted and to violate this command would bring shame to both the husband and the wife. Regardless of the situation it must be the desire of both men and women to present themselves as proper Christians. This is not a matter of chauvinistic bigotry, but rather a matter of biblical teaching and following our God given roles as men and women.
None of the above restricts a woman from teaching or praying, if she does not violate the intended principles. We know through scriptures that women did teach (Acts 18:26; 21:9; 1 Corinthians 11:5) and were in fact commanded to teach (Titus 2:4, 5). Women must teach in various situations, but she is scripturally prohibited to do so in any public assembly where the noted scriptures are violated. Women would and should teach a group of women or a group of children, or even privately teaching a man (as Priscilla did, (Acts 18). While she may teach in several situations women are biblically prevented from being a “preacher” or otherwise “leading” in a public worship or in a public setting.
(Tony Hoss is minister at the Centerview Church of Christ, Elizabethton.)

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