Dear Aebi ...

Women Preachers and Worship Leaders

Charles J. Aebi

Dear Aebi: "Why do some churches of Christ now have women preaching and leading in worship?

We will look at some reasons given by those who favor women preaching, teaching, or leading prayer publicly, and we will comment on their reasons.

(1) They say there is no distinction between men's and women's roles in the church, based on Galatians 3:28. It is argued that Jews, Gentiles, slaves, free men, males, and females are all equal in Christ, and, therefore, can all do the same things in the church. But the context (Galatians 3:26-29) shows that Paul is saying there is no difference between these groups as far as how they are saved is concerned. Men and women alike believe and are baptized into Christ (become children of God) in the same way, as do Jews and Gentiles, and as do slaves and free persons. Romans 10:12-17 also teaches this. Galatians 3 does not discuss the roles of men and women in the church; it discusses how they become Christians.

(2) Advocates of women leaders say that women are allowed by Paul, Peter, and Philip to prophesy and lead prayers publicly, according to 1 Corinthians 11:5; Acts 2:17-18; 21:9. But these passages do not say they led prayers, nor that they led prayer or taught publicly; those favoring women leaders just assume that is what was being done. These and other passages are subject to limitations stated elsewhere (like 1 Corinthians 14:34 and 1 Timothy 2:11-12). All Scripture on a given subject must be taken together: for example, salvation is by faith (Romans. 5:1; John 3:16), but it is also by baptism (1 Peter 3:21; Acts 22:16). We may not array one Scripture against another by isolating one and ignoring the other.

(3) They say it was only because of 1st century culture that Paul forbade women preaching to and teaching men publicly, and that today's culture does not so limit women. We answer that Paul in 1 Timothy 2:13-14 gives two reasons why women may not teach over men that Adam was formed before Eve, and that Eve was the first to sin and there was no culture then, so culture has nothing to do with it. Paul gives an additional reason in 1 Corinthians 14:34 "as the law also says." Those who classify God's commands as culture, not law, are not taking the Bible seriously. Such reasoning could be used to rule out anything one doesn't want to accept.

(4) They also say that 1 Corinthians 14:34 is only talking about the wives of prophets, not about unmarried women. Why would wives be limited thus, but not single women? Is celibacy a higher or holier state than marriage? Are wives of prophets less capable than singles? The ASV reads, "Let the women keep silence in the churches." It is inclusive of all women, not just wives of prophets.

(5) They insist that elders can authorize a woman to preach, teach men publicly, or lead public prayer; then they cite Hebrews 13:17 that we must obey the elders in this. But elders cannot authorize anything that the Bible forbids, 1 Corinthians 14:34; 1 Timothy 2:11-14 else they would be overruling the Bible and making their own laws. The authority of elders is only in matters of expediency or judgment, not law.

These are some of the reasons given by those who do not want to accept and obey the New Testament position on the role of women in the public worship of the church. We suspect that, truth be known, the attitudes that spawned the feminist movement have influenced modern churches to push women into leadership positions that violate God's structure for the church. We also suspect that men's having shirked their God-given leadership positions has opened the door to having women in unauthorized roles. 2660 Layman Rd, Vincent OH 45784.


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