Should women teach men or lead a local church congregation? We will answer this question with the following points.
The basic overview
The Bible speaks clearly enough on this issue: women are not to teach and have authority over local assemblies
1 Timothy 2:11-14 and 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 clearly say that women are not to teach men or exercise authority over them in a local church congregation. In other words, they are not to teach and lead a local church assembly. Only men with the gift of teaching may do that. This truth does not make women somehow inherently inferior or mean they aren’t as good at teaching as men when they do teach in the contexts in which they are allowed to (see below). Additionally, spiritual success and eternal reward depend upon how much each believer produces in proportion to what they have (Luke 21:1-4). God rewards those who respond to Him the most with the greatest love and zeal. Neither gender nor spiritual gifting – two things we cannot influence with our free will in the slightest – have anything to do with how much reward we can reap in the eternal kingdom. The only that matters is what we do with what we have actually been given.
However, women may still teach other women and children
Women may teach other women and children (Titus 2:4-5). Women that teach other women may learn the languages (Greek and Hebrew) and whatever other things they need to properly carry out their service to Christ. In this respect, they are not that different from male teachers. Effective preparation is critically important to ministry.
The authority relationships that currently obtain will not be around forever
The Bible clearly teaches varying levels of eternal reward in the kingdom (“who is the greatest in the kingdom?” Matthew 18:1-5, Matthew 25:14-30). Authority between men and women was not an issue before the fall and no longer will be once eternity commences. Those who loved the Lord the most in life will rank higher in the New Heavens and New Earth than those who loved Him less. So, for example, human marriage will end, which means that wives will no longer have to submit to their husbands anymore because marriage and the order between the sexes will no longer apply (Matthew 22:23-30).
Likewise, a large number of women serving in the church will undoubtedly rank higher than their male counterparts, even male counterparts claiming to be pastor teachers. Again, this is because spiritual success depends on the disposition of a person’s heart – how much they walk by faith and produce with what they have been given.
If the Bible actually directly addresses this matter of women teachers, why is there even any debate here?
Undoubtedly, many believers advocate for women teachers because male authority has been misused to improperly depreciate the role of women in the church. People naturally overreact to such abuse by allowing women to exercise leading positions over men. That is entirely understandable, since over the years, some have in fact treated women as spiritually inferior to men, which they clearly are not (Galatians 3:28). Nonetheless, it is still inexcusable, as it directly contradicts what the Bible teaches.
Ministry is all about service. Christ came to serve and not to be served (Matthew 20:28). Believers must not lord any authority and leadership they may carry over others because those who want to become the greatest must become the servant and least of all (Matthew 20:25-28). Despite their authority, male pastors must not treat women as lesser but as equals because that is what they are. Their conduct and behavior toward women should be the same as their conduct and behavior toward other men. Both sexes require equal respect. Moreover, people in leadership positions are no better than others just because they carry more authority. It’s just their job in the division of labor.
Dealing with some questions and potential objections
Could Paul’s words maybe only apply in his specific time and place?
1 Timothy 2:11-14 and 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 cannot be hand-waved away by trying to narrow their context of application to be the just culture of Paul’s time.
The example of Adam and Eve
1 Timothy 2:13-14 describes the relationship between Adam and Eve, and that example still holds just as much today as when Paul first spoke these words some 2,000 years ago. God created Adam first, while He formed Eve to be a helper. Additionally, Eve was deceived, not Adam. In this, Adam and Eve represent humanity generally. Dr. Luginbill of Ichthys.com puts it this way:
Adam and Eve are our precursors in many ways. Any woman would have done what Eve did; any man would have done what Adam did. That is why all that follows is just.
After the fall, God established male authority in marriage to represent the believer’s submission to God (see just below). After all, somebody has to lead, because otherwise there would be disunity and disorganization. Without leadership, neither marriages nor churches could function.
The marriage metaphor: the Church is the bride, and Christ the bridegroom
The church consists of all believers – from Adam and Eve to the last person to draw breath in the Millennium. The church is the bride while Christ is the bridegroom (Isaiah 54:5, Ephesians 5:25-27, Revelation 19:7-9). Male leadership in marriage symbolizes the believer submitting to God in the spiritual relationship, just as a wife submits to and follows her husband’s leading. Since the church represents Christ’s bride, those who lead and feed the sheep must be men. Otherwise, the creation analogy would make no sense and would be pointless in our present context. This fact alone debunks the argument that Paul’s instruction here was only for the church of Ephesus and not a universal command that applies to all believers of all time.
What about female prophets?
Female prophets did indeed exist during the Old Testament period. However, teaching and prophecy are not the same. Prophecy did carry higher authority during the early days of the church. But teaching is distinct from prophecy and cannot be compared to it. Only men fulfill the office of pastor teacher; only they can lead congregations. This point comes back to our discussion above about how God ordained the marriage relationship to symbolize our relationship with God (Genesis 3:16). Deacons (Phoebe) are not teachers, and neither are evangelists (Priscilla). Sharing the gospel involves some teaching, but that is not the same as leading an entire congregation. There is not one example of a single woman teacher leading a church in the New Testament. Also, the formal spiritual gift of prophecy has ceased to exist and is no longer available in the church (1 Corinthians 13:8-12, 1 Corinthians 13:11).
Can women teach men in a local church congregation? The answer to that is an obvious no. This is all about what the Bible says, if we care to listen to it.
But are women therefore less than men? Also an obvious no. Men being called to shoulder the responsibility of leadership is not indicative of a difference in male and female equality, but merely indicative of a difference in duties and responsibilities.