Women's Part in the Ministry

Are women preachers mentioned in the Old Testament? Yes, as prophetesses. A prophetess is a woman preacher. Exodus 15:20 mentions "Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron." Judges 4:4 tells us about "Deborah, a prophetess." II Kings 22:14 gives us the account of "Huldah, the prophetess." Nehemiah 6:14 mentions "the prophetess Noadiah." Joel 2:28-29 tells us that God would "pour out of His Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy," and also the same for the "servants and upon the handmaids." This was fulfilled in Acts 2 and other New Testament scriptures. 

In Mark 16:9-10 we have Jesus giving Mary Magdalene the message of His resurrection which she was to repeat to the disciples. What greater message is there to give mankind than that of the resurrection of Jesus? And it was a woman that Jesus told to give this message to His apostles! (See also John 20:17-18.) 

In Luke 2:36, 37, 38 we have Anna, a prophetess, speaking the message of the Messiah's coming to all in the temple who were looking for redemption. In Acts 21:8-9 we have a record of Philip's "four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy." (If you wish a Bible explanation of the word "prophesy," see I Corinthians 14:3: "He that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, exhortation and comfort." Doesn't this mean preaching or speaking helpfully in a gathering?) 

Romans 16:1-2 Paul commended Phebe, and it is easy to recognize that she was one of the "lady preachers." In Romans 16:12, Paul wrote: "Salute Tryphena and Tryphosa, who labour in the Lord." These were, without doubt, two lady preachers.  

Then in I Corinthians 11:5, Paul mentions women praying or prophesying, and the context of that scripture is that they would be "in order” if they fulfilled certain conditions and "out of order" if they did not. The same was mentioned for men in that chapter. 

Galatians 3:28 tells us that in Christ Jesus all are one--whether male or female.  

In Philippians 4:3, Paul urges that the church help those women which laboured with him in the Gospel. This is all very much in line with the truth of the rest of the scripture; women can have a part in preaching the gospel as well as men. 

But what about I Corinthians 14:34? This is a verse that is very much misunderstood, and some religions have made a very decided false doctrine out of it. However, "Truth" doesn't come from the Bible; rather, the Bible came out of Truth. And in order to know what the Bible really means by any certain passage in it, we first must have a revelation of truth from God Himself-- then we can go back to the Bible and understand it as it was meant to be understood. We have seen that women, as well as men, have had a part in proclaiming Truth down through the ages--in Old as well as New Testament times. With this view, we must look at I Corinthians 14:34-35 from a different standpoint. 

    "Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church."  

It is quite evident from this text that Paul was referring to married women; otherwise, they would not have had "husbands at home" to ask of or learn from. This excludes about all the women preachers we are in fellowship with. More than this, it is a commonly known fact that many women have husbands who are not Christians, and this is a situation in most churches of which I am aware. How would those married women learn spiritual truths from unsaved husbands? Moreover, it is suggested that they were asking questions in the church worship service, and this is out of order. 

From these deductions, it is evident that some of the women folks in the Corinthian church were "out of order," in that they were asking questions in the church service; and also bringing up subjects that were not spiritual or edifying, but rather such subjects should only be discussed with their husbands at home. Because of this, Paul was censuring them to not speak about such subjects, but rather to keep silence. However, in this same chapter, referring to speaking in "edification, exhortation, and comfort," Paul gives the liberty for all to speak. (Read verses 24, 26, and 31.) 

Shall we look at I Timonthy 2:11-12: "Let the woman 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." Again in this text, it is evident Paul was referring to married women. However, even in the ministry, you do not see any of our women preachers usurping authority. Any authority they are using is only that which the Holy Spirit gives to them and that which our responsible brothers in the ministry give to them. This is true also of our Christian sisters who are not in the ministry. 

In the over-all picture in the home life, anyone realizes that no home is complete without influence of both the male and the female, of both the father and the mother. When either is missing, the other cannot make up that lack. It takes the balance of both working together.  By same token, the ministry of the New Testament is not complete without the influence of the brothers and the sisters; neither can fill the place of the other. Each have their touch that is necessary in the work of salvation of souls and shepherding of the flock. 

We repeat Galatians 3:28: "In Christ there is neither male nor female." It is not a matter of whether we are a man or a woman, but what counts is what the Holy Spirit is able to do in us and through us. We often come in contact with those who teach very strongly that women are not to have a part in the ministry. However, a number of these have been converted by the Holy Spirit. Then they were able to see those scriptures in an entirely different light. And the irony of their salvation is that they received it through the ministry of women preachers! 

Another "proof" that women have the Holy Spirit's blessing in the ministry and in speaking in the worship services is that we have seen it work so beautifully and helpfully amongst us. When we see bountiful evidence of the Lord's blessing on anything, then who are we to pass reverse judgment on such?!