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Women in Ministry

Dr. Grant C Richison



The unadulterated Word of God must govern our thinking on this issue.

Revelation, Inspiration, Canonicity revolve around this issue.

The system of hermeneutics is crucial to the issue.

If we affirm John 3:16 we also must affirm 1 Ti. 2:15

Is culture dictating to Scripture or Scripture to culture?



This view rejects the Bible as a timeless, absolute revelation. Bible texts are sexist and thoroughly androcentric. The Bible must be read with a critical eye.

The Bible is still regarded as a religious document by liberation theology, but it is not the only infallible rule of faith and practice.

Paul is viewed as a misogynist. It was only natural that a misogynist society would affect his writing of Scripture.


This approach affirms the Bible as the infallible rule of faith and practice. They view hierarchicalists as miss using texts that support hierarchy. There is a strong emphasis on giving full weight to the cultural conditioning of parts of Scripture. They pay close attention to the historically conditioned ad hoc passages.

They handle hierarchical passages in 3 ways:

deny the Pauline authorship of texts viewed as “antifeminist”

They consider that Paul intended the texts to be temporary in nature, either because of cultural contexts or because of local church problems

They affirm that Paul struggled to overcome his chauvinistic background as he strove toward the ideal.


Hierarchicalists affirm the position of traditional Judaism and Christianity. There is a different role between male and female. Males are to lead and females are to follow in church government. Only men are eligible for the office of teaching and ruling elder.

Hierarchicalists do not argue that women have no ministry in the church.

Hierarchicalists teach an authority structure where the man has priority over the woman in the church and home.


There is wide agreement between evangelical egalitarians and hierarchicalists in regard to the place of a women in society, home and church but both agree on certain things.

Both affirm woman as made in the image of God.

Neither teaches an ontological hierarchy of male and female.

Both agree that a woman’s role in the home and church is to a large degree culturally defined.

Both acknowledge the significant contributions women have made in biblical history and in the modern world.

Both take note of the place of women in the life of Christ as recorded in the Gospels and of the high esteem Jesus Christ placed on women.

Both insist that there are many clear passages in the NT where women have a significant part in church life:

prayed, Ac 1:14

prophesied, Acts 2:17-18; 21:8-9

engaged in benevolent work, Acts 9:36-43

hosted meetings of the church, Acts 12:12; 16:40; 1 Co 1:11; 16:19; Col 4:15

fellow-workers with the apostle Paul, Ro 16:3-5; Phil 4:2-4

hard workers, Ro 16:2,12

taught younger women, Ti 2:3-5

corrected a male’s deficient theology privately, Ac 18:26Both emphasize the giving of spiritual gifts to every member of the body of Christ, 1 Co 12:7.Both agree that women are not to be absolutely silent in the church, Eph 5:19; Jn 4:39-42; I1Co 14:34-35


Ro 16:1 (Phoebe was a deaconess in the church at Cenchreae)

Ro 16:7 (“Junia” is outstanding among the apostles)

1 Co 11:2-16 (“head” means source to the egalitarians and authority to the hierarchialists)

1 Co 14:34-35 (Why is it shameful for a woman to speak in the church?)

Gal 3:28 (Is this the complete equality of women and men in the church?)

1 Ti 2:11-15 (This is the Crux Interpretum passage; it is the pillar passage for the hierarchicalists and a problem passage for the egalitarians)

1 Ti 3:11 (Are deaconesses or the wives of deacons in view?)


This passage plays the central role in the debate.

Egalitarian efforts to reinterpret this passage are contrived.

The setting is public worship. Paul has just instructed the men to pray (vv1-7).

The word aner means male, not mankind. The word for mankind is anthropos.

Prohibition against women teaching

The words “suffer not” are in the emphatic position in v12.

“Teach” means to teach propositionally. This is formal teaching of God’s Word.

“Usurp authority” is a hapax legomenon (occurs one time in the Greek NT).

Paul derived his thinking from the Creation and Fall narratives of Genesis.

Paul’s first basis for denying women authority over men is that Adam was created first (2:13).

The second basis of his teaching is that Eve was deceived whereas Adam was not (Gen 3:6).

The idea of quietness is similar to I Co 14:33b-35.

As in I Co 11:9 so in I Ti 2:12 man’s priority in creation is the basis for his authority.

Cf. “Biblitheca Sacra” Vol 149 #594, “Women in Ministry: An Exegetical Study of I Timothy 2:11-15” by Ann L. Bowman of ISOT.

First Corinthians 14:33-34 is the only other passage that specifically restricts the ministry of women.

This passage is muddied by the affirmation of right of women to prophecy in church meetings.

The churches agreed on three points: Women are to be silent at church meetings, are not to speak and are to submit themselves. Paul backs this with 2 arguments: 1) the practice of the churches and 2) the Word of God.

The command to prohibit women from speaking in the church appears contrary to the teaching in I Co 11:2-16 which refers to women praying and prophesying. The word “speaking” seems to be a general prohibition. They could learn from their husbands at home.

Galatians 3:28

This is the foundation text of Christian feminists. Jewett calls this passage the Magna Carta of Humanity.

What does “neither male nor female mean?” Feminists believe Genesis 1:27 (implied in context–LXX) concerns the ontological nature of male and female–both were made in the image of God. Paul developed his teaching on the authority of roles for women from the Creation and Fall narratives of Gen. 1-3. Gen. 1:26-28 concerns the ontological nature of male and female. Both made in God’s image. The differences of the sexes is no longer relevant to their position before God.

The verses immediately preceding Gal 3:28 pertain to the nature of justification and how a person can be included in the Abrahamic Covenant. We enter that covenant by faith, not works. Man and woman are ontologically equal in position before God.

However, this does not mean equality in role or function in the church. The emphasis is upon the unity in the one man, not social equality between the pairs. To inject implications of function in society in a passage that deals with one’s position before God in salvation is to disparate the context. Any person has access before God. It is non sequitur to say that because we have the same position we should have the same roles before God.

First Corinthians 11:2-16

“Should a woman prophesy or preach before men?”

In context Paul was dealing with the abuse of freedom (chapters 9-10). He now corrects the abuse of freedom by some women in the assembly. The context is public worship.

Now Paul argues the inherent order of creation between male and female and God and Christ and Christ and man (v3). This refers not the essence of individuals since God is the head of Christ. This refers simply to function.

The significance of v3 lies in the word “head.” God, Christ and man are “head.” Feminists say that “head” means “source.” Of over 2000 instances of kephalj (head) in the classical and Hellenistic Greek periods, no clear instances of such a meaning exists. Only when the word is in the plural can that meaning be sustained.

Paul’s usage of “head” reflects its meaning in Septuagint when kephalj is used for the Hebrew roash. Though this is not the regular word for authority, it does connote authority.

The use of the term “head” in referring to Christ becomes paramount because the husband’s headship in I Co 11:3 and Eph 5:23 is paralleled with the type of headship Christ has.

If we argue that the woman comes from the man means that the man is the source one would have to argue that God is the source of Christ.

The key to a proper role relationship of man and woman is to recognize that Christ has headship over man even as man has headship over woman. Assuming the truth of the first and third parts of v3, Paul proceeded to demonstrate that the center portion of his threefold proposition is also true. Subsequent verses indicate that the headship of the man is the focal point of the passage.

Since women were allowed to prophecy in the Corinthian congregation, the nature of their activity must be discerned.


In the OT 4 women were prophetesses.

Miriam, Ex 15:20

Deborah, Judg 4:4

Huldah, 2 Kg 22:14

Noadiah, Neh 6:14

With the coming of the church age there seemed to have been more opportunity for women prophets, Ac 2:17-18.

Though a prophetess could give an inspired utterance, she was restricted from the office of teaching. Some people believe that women according to 2-16 and I Ti 2:8-15 can serve as preachers or teachers over men in public so long as they do not usurp authority over the men of the church. Preaching and teaching are founded on an intelligible exposition of the Word of God, whereas prophecy is based on revelation. To argue that since women prophesied in Corinth, women are allowed to proclaim the gospel in public worship does not follow. Preaching is honored over prophecy (I Co 12:28).

Certain women were prophesying in Corinth without having their heads covered. Such a practice was a lack of respect for their husbands. Women could operate in a prophetic role but in order to preserve their prophetic role they must wear a sign of functional subordination.

Man is the image and glory of God while the woman is the glory of the man. The word “image” means something that is similar or like another. To be in the image of someone is to be a representation of him. “Glory” signifies “brightness” or “splendor” or “honor.” Woman brings honor to the man by fulfilling her role of functional subordination and vice-regency with him, while man brings glory to God by fulfilling the functional role of leader in God’s creation.

Paul argues that the woman was created to meet man’s need (11:9). This reflects the narrative of Gen. 2. Man’s position of authority over woman resides in his priority and thus in his being economically the image of God.

11:10 is a transition verse relating to authority. Believers are in a cosmic spectacle before the angels. Covering their heads while prophesying served as a sign of their high position over angels. The term “authority” always has the active, not the passive sense, of possessing power. The covering is a sign of the woman’s authority. This is not a unilateral right; she operates as a vice-regent with man in the world and in the church.

The word “however” in v11 builds a bridge from the subordination of women to the interdependence of the two. Paul puts into proper perspective the administrative and ontological relationships of man and woman.

11:13-15 appeals to creation, not social custom. The evidence was plain enough through the created order for his audience to agree with him.

11:16 is an answer to 11:13.

CONCLUSION= where may women minister today?

Women were not allowed to serve in a position of spiritual authority over men in the church nor to teach propositionally.

Private teaching is possible, Ac 18:26. Priscilla set forth the way of Christ more accurately to Apollos.

This does not mean that women are not gifted equally with men.

Women worked along side the apostle Paul and other great leaders of biblical times. They played a powerful role in ministry.

Since women are equally gifted for the work of the ministry, and since they ministered with Paul, for example, women are to be encouraged to ministry through many avenues in ministry.

Administrative positions are not precluded by the above passages.

The Bible makes no assertions about para-mission organizations except in reference to traveling mission teams where women worked with men.

Contribution of women to the church in the first century:

prophesying, Acts 2:17; 21:8; 1 Co 11:5; Rev 2:20; cf. Ex 15:20; Jud 4:4; I2Kg 22:13-20; Neh 6:14; Isa 8:3; Lk 2:36

teaching, Ti 2:3; Rev 2:20; cf. Prov 31:26

ministering to physical and material need, Ac 9:39; 1 Ti 5:10

contribution of material resources, Lk 8:3

evangelistic witness, Jn 4:28-29,39; Phil 4:3

public testimony & praise concerning healing, Lk 8:47; 13:13 (not in the church, however)

deaconess, Ro 16:1; 1 Ti 3:117.

There are some kinds of service we never find women fulfilling:

apostles or elders

shepherding God’s people

miracles, healing, governing, distinguishing between spirits