Is It Scriptural for Women to Preach?
By Roy Mason (1894-1978)
A Subject That Needs Restudy
Have Baptists decided to junk the teachings of the New Testament as their standard of faith and practice?
Have they decided that they will take only those Scriptures that coincide with their preconceived wishes and opinions as authoritative, and throw away the rest?
Have they decided to revise the Scriptures so as to make them suit the “trend of the times,” and the standards of this world?
It would seem that many of them have.
I could illustrate this by a number of different incidents and I could mention a number of different things in which many Baptist churches have plainly departed from the teachings of the New Testament, but I have in mind just now to mention one matter as illustrative of the charges that I have just brought. The one matter I refer to is The Woman Question.
Baptist churches in some sections ordain women to the ministry!
The Southern Baptist Convention puts women up to speak (or preach, for it is one and the same thing).
Some women missionaries on our Baptist foreign mission fields are carrying on a preaching ministry before mixed audiences of men and women.
W. M. U. secretaries in some states, like Florida for instance, fill the pulpits of churches whenever and wherever there is opportunity.
The women folk have charge of church prayer meetings in many Baptist churches—making talks, leading in prayer, etc.
I often see notice in the papers that Baptist churches here in Tampa have women to speak (preach) at the regular preaching services.
In some conservative quarters women have not been accustomed to exercise such a ministry as is indicated above. Attempt is being made to cast aside the standards of the past and to induct women into these public ministries such as I have just referred to.
WHAT ABOUT ALL THIS?
Plainly it is a reversal of the practice of Baptists and Baptist churches for nearly twenty centuries!
It is a repudiation of the interpretation of the Scriptures offered by the greatest Baptist scholars and exegetes who have lived, and it is a repudiation of the interpretation of the Scriptures offered by the greatest scholars of all denomination of all time.
Or else it is a declaration that it isn’t a scriptural matter—that it doesn’t matter a rap what the Scriptures may say—that the Scriptures are not to be considered the authority, but rather the customs of the times and the standards of this world.
Are Baptists prepared to assume this position? Many have assumed it, or so it would seem.
To those who do not believe the Bible and who consequently do not care what it says this article will make no appeal. I am writing mainly for those who have thoughtlessly drifted into the present way of carrying on church life and who have made no real study of the Scriptures concerning the place and ministry of women in the churches. Among these are most preachers and pastors, for it is true that the ministry of our day is more occupied with “Manuals,” and “Seals,” and the organized activities of the “Auxiliaries” than with the study of the Word of God.
Now if women ought to preach, deliver addresses before mixed audiences of men and women, lead in public prayer, etc., it is evident that Baptists have misunderstood the Scriptures for the past twenty centuries and that they have grievously wronged millions of women who have lived in the past and who have been denied these privileges. Certainly there are few persons who would charge that our Baptist forefathers deliberately sought to wrong their women folk by withholding from them the right to exercise their Scriptural privileges.
WON’T DISCUSS IT—GET MAD
It seems to me that in view of the Baptist claim that they make the New Testament their rule of faith and practice; in view of the fact of the attitude our Baptist forefathers took; in view of the teachings of our Baptist scholars from time immemorial, it is an exceedingly questionable thing to make changes as Baptists have been making in recent years on the “woman question,” without a careful restudy of the Scriptures. And yet it is the rarest thing to find a preacher or anybody else who advocates a public speaking ministry for women, who is willing to sit down with you and make a careful examination of the Scriptures that bear on the subject. The usual attitude on the part of such is one of impatience, ridicule, jest coupled with entire unwillingness to discuss the question from a Scriptural standpoint.
I want to lay down some self-evident propositions:
1—If the Scriptures teach that women should preach, lead in public prayer in mixed assemblies, teach men, etc., then they certainly ought to be encouraged to do it and the more the better.
2—If the Bible prohibits such, then those who encourage women to violate the Scriptures are doing the women folk a great wrong.
3—If the Bible prohibits such and Baptist preachers and churches willfully go contrary to the Word of God, then they had as well surrender their claim that they made the New Testament their rule of faith and practice. Then they have no right to raise their voice against modernists for they are themselves “whittlers of the Word,” just as much as those who whittle out Genesis or any other portions of the Bible.
4—If the Bible prohibits such and Baptists willfully violate the Scriptures, then they may expect the chastening hand of God upon them and they need not look for His blessings until they forsake their attitude of rebellion and come back to the place where they honor His Word.
5—There is no essential difference between a woman getting up before a mixed audience and delivering a speech, and in preaching what is declared to be a “sermon.”
WOMEN PREACHERS PROHIBITED!
I desire to state that if the Scriptures teach anything, they most certainly teach that a woman should not preach, lead in public prayer before mixed audiences, teach men, or take the place in church leadership that the Scriptures assign to men. Anybody who is so devoid of the power to understand the plain simple language of the Bible on these matters is not capable of dealing with the Scriptures. How am I so absolutely certain that a woman should not preach, or exercise a public ministry as indicated above? I answer just as briefly and to the point as possible.
1—Because Jesus included no women among the preachers that He chose to follow Him, or among the twelve or the seventy whom He sent out.
2—Because there is no record of a woman preacher in all the New Testament. Personal, private witnessing is all that can be made out of the testimony of the women concerning Christ’s resurrection, Philip’s daughters, etc. No inconsistency in a single case.
3—Because the qualifications laid down in the Scriptures for bishops (or preachers) certainly preclude the female of the species. I Timothy 3:2 says that a preacher is to be “husband of one wife.” Until women can measure up to that qualification they are debarred!
4—Because I Timothy 2:8 plainly forbids women leading in public prayer in mixed assemblies. The Greek says, “I will that THE MEN pray everywhere.” That is, men as distinguished from women. (That of course has no bearing on women praying privately or in the presence of a group of women).
5—Because the word of God says plainly that women are not to teach men or to usurp authority over them. I Timothy 2:11-12, “Let the women learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.” It takes a moron to be unable to understand such language as this. What does this Scripture teach?
POSITIVELY: (1) She is to be silent. (As regards a public, speaking, teaching, praying ministry, for that is what is under consideration).
(2) She is to “be in subjection,” or in other words to accept man’s leadership.
NEGATIVELY: (1) She is not to teach men. (That’s what it says).
(2) She is not to usurp man’s authority. (By taking religious leadership out of his hands).
REASONS FOR THIS: (1) Man’s priority in creation (v. 13).
(2) Women’s priority and deception in the temptation and sin that ruined the race (v. 14).
6—Because the word of God says plainly that it is not permitted unto women to speak, (in the sense that we are discussing) In the church. I Corinthians 14:34, “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak.”
This 14th chapter of I Corinthians is perfectly clear. Note the following things:
(1) A mixed public assembly is referred to for verse 23 says, “If therefore the whole church be come together into one place.”
(2) The kind of “silence” that is enjoined is made clear, for Paul is discussing prophesying, (v. 29) exposition of doctrine, (v. 26) interpretation (v. 26), etc.
(3) That Paul is not merely meeting a “local” situation, but is laying down a teaching that applies to all churches is made clear for in verse 34 he says, “churches.” In verse 33 he speaks of “all the churches.”
(4) That Paul is not speaking as a “crabbed old bachelor” (as some charge) but as the inspired spokesman of God, is made clear, for in verse 37 he says, “The things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.”
(5) I have said that it takes a moron to misunderstand these Scriptures. Paul puts it in about the same way for in verse 38 he virtually calls the person who won’t be instructed along this line “ignorant.”
7—A seventh reason why a woman should not exercise such a public ministry as mentioned above is the fact that the one instance in which a woman is described as teaching a church is an instance that is condemned by the Word of God. Revelation 2:20 says: “. . .I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants—”.
What does this say:
(1) It says that the church at Thyatira had a woman in it that “called herself” a prophetess. (God’s Word does not recognize her as such).
(2) It says that she taught the people of that church and led them astray.
(3) I t says that the Lord Jesus held it against that church for permitting such a thing.
I could give plenty more reasons for my position on this question if space were available, but until some one is able to show that these Scriptures quoted mean something else than they say so plainly, there will be no need of going any further.
Ere I close I want to say this: I have a church in which the women folk seek to obey the Scriptures along these lines mentioned. We never have any quarrels or dissensions on this matter for our women want to be obedient to the Bible. As a rule when women disobey the Bible along this line they are urged into doing so by the men, and usually by a pastor who is not willing to take God’s Word at face value.
I cannot but feel that God is displeased at the way in which His Word is ignored or else treated with contempt on this question that I have been dealing with. Perhaps the distressing straits in which we find ourselves as a denomination is a mark of God’s chastening for the bold defiance of His Word in this matter. Certainly it is worth thinking about.
[From Milburn Cockrell, editor: The Berea Baptist Banner, April, 2002. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
More on Baptists: Various Subjects
Baptist History Homepage