Visit our web sites

Visit Our Web Sites

For more free Bible study articles and materials, see our web sites at and

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Women's Role in Preaching and Church Leadership


Consider some changes that have occurred in church leadership roles in recent years.

* Some believe that women should be allowed to preach or lead prayer or singing in public worship assemblies.

* Some claim that women should be allowed to serve as elders/bishops or deacons.

* Some claim that women should be allowed to attend and speak in church business or decision-making meetings. Some claim women should have equal voice with men in such meetings.

* Some claim that churches must have "congregational meetings" in which all members, including women, discuss and make decisions. Some claim that such meetings must ratify or reject decisions made by the elders or men.

The purpose of this study is to examine the teaching of the New Testament about the role of women in such activities of church leadership and decision making.

(Note that this article is abbreviated from our online article at

No human authority should be obeyed if it instructs us to disobey God.

As we discuss various relationships involving people exercising authority over other people, the following limitation must always be understood:

Acts 5:28,29,40-42 - God had commanded the apostles to teach about Jesus, but rulers commanded them not to teach. Obedience to the rulers would constitutes disobedience to God, so the apostles obeyed God rather than men. The same rule would apply to any man-made decision that tells us to disobey God.

Note that the passage makes an exception, not for the case where the one possessing authority commits some sin, but for the case where the one under authority would sin if they obeyed the human authority. "We (the ones under authority) must obey God..." [Cf. Acts 4:18-20; Daniel 3:13-18; 6:3-16]

In no case does the passage give people under authority the freedom to do just whatever they choose or even what they think is wisest or best. We may disobey God-ordained human authorities only when that is necessary to obey God's authority. In no case are we permitted to refuse to obey authorities just so we can follow our human preference or strongly held opinion.

This limitation on human authority must always be remembered as we discuss various relationships in which people exercise authority over other people.

I. Controversy about Male Leadership

A. Power Struggles Are Well-Known in the Scriptures.

Conflicts between nations and within governments often result from power struggles: people want to take power that others possess. The same is often true in businesses, schools, families, and other organizations.

The Bible contains many examples of power struggles in general.

Numbers 16 - Korah, Dathan, and Abiram led a revolt against Moses and Aaron's leadership.

2 Samuel 15-18 - David's son Absalom led an attempt to overthrow David's rule.

1 Kings 12 - Israel divided when the northern tribes rebelled against Rehoboam.

The Bible records many other wars, assassinations, and intrigues based power struggles.

Women have often caused tragedies by taking leadership over men.

Genesis 3 - Eve led Adam in committing the first sin.

Numbers 12 - Miriam and Aaron criticized Moses' leadership. God struck Miriam leprous.

1 Kings 21 - Jezebel master-minded the death of Naboth so Ahab could take his vineyard.

2 Kings 11 - Athaliah killed the royal seed and ruled Israel for several years.

The Bible also records the lives of many godly women. The point is not that women are always wrong nor that men should ignore women's advice. Nevertheless, many power struggles throughout history have resulted when women sought to lead men instead of following them.

B. The Feminist Movement Promotes Roles for Women as Church Leaders.

Many quotations prove this to be a feminist goal.

"The Bible and the Church have been the greatest stumbling blocks in the way of woman's emancipation" - Elizabeth Cady Stanton (via "Why Women Need Freedom from Religion").

"Organized religion always has been and remains the greatest enemy of women's rights ... Why is there a religion-fostered war against women's rights? Because the bible is a handbook for the subjugation of women. The bible establishes woman's inferior status ... and God-ordained master/servant relationship to man" - Annie L. Gaylor, "Why Women Need Freedom From Religion."

"The scriptures are unredeemably sexist" - Ann Ware, Assoc. Dir. of the National Council of Churches Commission on Faith and Order (via Pulpit Helps, 11/82).

"We urge the [National Council of Churches] to ... [t]ake the lead in uniting women of all denominations and religious groups to work together to support efforts to recognize the right of women to be ordained in religious bodies where that right is still denied ... [W]e demand that the seminaries ... actively recruit, employ and justly promote women theologians ... We demand that ... religious groups no longer have legal sanction to discriminate on the basis of sex" - Revolution, pp. 17,18.

The feminist Evangelical Women's Caucus says they "urge all churches to grant to women ... ordination." They want feminists to work within the churches and "share your concerns subtly" - via "How Are the Churches Being Indoctrinated with Secular Feminism???."

Sadly, many examples show that, even churches that once were considered sound or even "conservative" are moving in the direction of allowing women to serve as preachers or elders, to lead in other worship activities in which men participate, to speak out in congregational worship assemblies, or to attend and speak in church decision-making meetings. Others argue that the whole church, including women, should meet to discuss and make decisions. Some claim the elders or men cannot make decisions without submitting them to the whole congregation for its agreement.

The parallels to feminism are too obvious to be coincidental. If the feminist movement had never arisen, and if denominations had not begun giving increased authority to women, surely we would not be facing such calls for increased leadership by women.

So what does God's word teach about church leadership and decision making? Let us start by examining various leadership and submission relationships.

II. Bible Roles that Involve Submission

(See our online article at to read this section.)

III. The Husband as Head of the Home

Just as decisions must be made in the church, so decisions must be made in the home so it can function as God authorized. While there may be differences between church and home, we will see that there are definite similarities. To help us understand decision-making in the church, note first the following passages that teach men to make decisions for the family:

Genesis 1-3

Genesis 1:26-28

God created man, male and female, in his own image and gave them dominion over the animals and the earth. Note that man and woman were both created in God's image, both possess authority (over the animals, earth, etc.), and both are subject to authority (of God). To teach that a woman should submit to her husband does not belittle her importance, nor does it deny that she does possess some authority.

Genesis 2:18-24

The man was created first, and woman was created from man to be his helper (vv 18,20).

Everything God made was "very good" for the purpose for which He made it (1:31). Like all of God's creatures, man and woman were each given the nature that suits the job for which they were created. Man was created to be the leader, so he has a nature suited to that job. Woman was created to be man's helper and follower, so she was given a nature suited to her job. By nature she is suited to be man's follower, not his leader.

Women do have leadership abilities, since they should exercise authority over children, animals, and perhaps other women. And degrees of ability vary from person to person. But in general a woman is suited for following a man, not leading a man.

To believe that women should lead men is to misunderstand the basic creation of woman.

Genesis 3:1-19

The serpent tempted the woman and she sinned. She added to this sin by leading her husband to sin (v6). As a result, God punished everyone involved.

V16 - Part of woman's punishment was that her husband would "rule" over her. So woman must submit to her husband's rule for two reasons: (1) woman was created to be man's helper, not his leader, and (2) part of the consequence of sin was that her husband would rule over her.


The first sin involved a woman leaving her proper role as a helper and leading her husband instead of following him!

She should never have so acted, both because God had forbidden it, and because she had not consulted her husband's will. She made the decision and acted without his authority. Then she urged him to follow her decision.

Adam sinned in improperly following the leadership of his wife.

Note v17 - Man was punished, not just because he ate the forbidden fruit, but also because he "heeded the voice" of his wife. He "hearkened unto" her voice (KJV, ASV). Adam should have rebuked Eve, both for disobeying God and for acting without his authority. Instead, he allowed her to take the lead. As a result God punished the man, both for eating the fruit, and for following his wife in a decision he knew was wrong.

Because the woman sinned in taking the decision-making role to herself, her punishment included restrictions on her role in decision-making - v16.

Woman's punishment was appropriate to her sin. She had failed to follow her husband's lead, then she led him to follow her into sin. So her punishment included that she must submit to her husband's rule.

Even before the sin, the woman had been instructed to have children (1:28), the man had been instructed to work (2:15), and the woman had been assigned the role of follower. In a paradise, all these acts would have been pleasant and "very good" (1:31). The punishment consisted of the fact that, in a sin-cursed world, all these acts would now require hardship, frustration, difficulty, and even pain. In particular, conflict of wills and difficult circumstances would make it hard for woman to submit to her husband's rule. This was the consequence of the sin.

Yes, it is hard for woman to submit to man, just as it is hard for man to provide family income. Yet we must not set aside God's decreed punishments because they cause hardship. Men ought to make decisions fairly, yet there will still be times when submission is hard for women. We must not allow the hardship of women's role to lead us to deny or undermine their responsibility to submit to men.

1 Timothy 3:4,12

1 Tim. 3:4,5 says an elder must rule his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence. Likewise v12 says deacons must rule their children and their own houses well. Other translations read: "one who manages his own household well" (NASB, RSV), "manage his own family well" (NIV).

Note that, while children are specifically mentioned, yet the husband must "rule" his whole "house," including his wife. If a man's wife persists in disobeying him, she is not in subjection.

But the passage discusses the ability of the husband (elder or deacon) to demonstrate the kind of leadership needed in the church (v5). So having ones wife in subjection requires that the husband lead his wife and children wisely and well.

Ephesians 5:22-33; Colossians 3:18,19

Wives should submit to their own husbands as to the Lord, for the husband is head of the wife as Christ is head of the church. The wife should be subject to her own husband in everything as the church is subject to Christ, and she should respect her husband (Ephesians 5:22-24,33). The same is taught in Colossians 3:18.

However, husbands should love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it. They should love their wives as their own bodies, which they nourish and cherish (Ephesians 5:25-29,33). They should love their wives and not be bitter against them (Colossians 3:19).

The terms "submit," "subjection" and "head" require obedience to authority, as in other authority relations we have studied.

These same contexts discuss various authority relations, often using similar terms.

In Ephesians

5:22-24,33 - Wives must submit to husbands and the church must submit to Christ.

6:1-4 - Children must obey and honor parents.

6:5-9 - Servants must obey masters, doing service with good will "as to the Lord."

In Colossians

3:18 - Wives submit to your husbands

3:20 - Children obey your parents

3:22 - Servants obey in all things your masters according to the flesh.

So, the wife should obey the decisions of her husband like a body should obey its head, like the church should obey Christ, like servants should obey masters, etc. She has no more right to reject his decisions or to insist that he accept her will than do people in these other relations.

Other important expressions used

To make sure there is no doubt about what submission requires of women, other expressions in the contexts establish the meaning.

As the church is subject to Christ

Ephesians 5:22 - Submit "as to the Lord."

Ephesians 5:23 - Husband is head of the wife "as also Christ is the head of head church."

Ephesians 5:24 - "Just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands."

This shows that women should submit to their husbands in the same sense that we must all submit to God and Christ. This is how God Himself explains women's subjection.

"In everything" (Ephesians 5:24).

The body has no right to reject instructions of the head, so the church has no right to ignore instructions of Christ. Likewise, the wife should submit to her husband "in everything." She may not pick and choose. She may not set aside certain areas of her life and say the man cannot make decisions in those areas. She may not tell him that he must get her approval or that she must be allowed to have equal say. She must be subject "in everything" as the church is to Christ. The only exception is Acts 5:29.

Titus 2:4,5

Young women must be taught to be "obedient to their own husbands" (NKJV, KJV). Other translations say: "being in subjection to their own husbands" or "subject to" (NASB, NIV) or "submissive to" (RSV). This is the same word used in v9 that servants should be "obedient" to their masters, and in 3:1 that citizens should be subject to rulers.

Note: "That the word of God may not be blasphemed." When women in the church do not act as they should in the home, people are caused to speak against God and His word.

1 Peter 3:1-7

Wives should be submissive to their own husbands that, even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives. The context similarly commands citizens to submit rulers (2:13,14) and servants to submit to masters (2:18).

Submission is required even when leaders misuse their authority.

Women and servants (2:18) are expressly instructed not to justify disobeying their leaders on the grounds that the leaders are disobeying God. In particular, wives must not justify rebelling by claiming their husbands have misused their authority. Instead, the passage says that the leader's disobedience to God is just more reason to obey him, so you can set a good example for him and may even convert him.

A meek and quiet woman is "very precious" in the sight of God.

Modern society says women should be self-assertive, yet that is the opposite of meekness. The loud, boisterous, domineering spirit is clearly forbidden.

Yet meekness is not a sign of weakness of character, for it takes a strong person to submit respectfully to others. Nor does quietness mean she never has anything to say. All Christians are commanded to lead a quiet life, but this does not mean we never speak (1 Thess. 4:11; 2 Thess. 3:12). Likewise, a godly wife should be meek and quiet; yet the husband should honestly evaluate her views, provided she expresses them respectfully.

Old Testament examples of proper submission

Peter says to imitate godly women in the past who were modest and submissive to their husbands, specifically Sarah. Sarah was beautiful and influential, yet she was modest and submissive. She demonstrates that women need not be plain or shallow to be modest, meek, and quiet.

Note that she "obeyed" her husband even to the point of calling him "lord" (Gen. 18:12).

Husbands must honor and seek to understand their wives.

God not only tells the woman to submit, He also warns the husband to love his wife to the point of understanding her needs. Too many husbands think they get to do what they want without regard for the wife's needs or interests. When a husband thinks he does not have to respect his wife's needs, he will not only have an unhappy wife, but God will not even hear his prayers!

Further, the husband must honor his wife as the weaker vessel. He "honors" her by respecting, praising, appreciating, and valuing her. God views her as "precious" (v4). The husband must cherish her as his own body and as the Lord does the church (Eph. 5:28-30). He should praise a worthy wife for her goodness (Prov. 31:28-31). One who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor of the Lord (Prov. 18:22; 19:14).

Finally, the husband should realize the wife is a joint-heir of the grace of God (cf. Gal. 3:28). She will be saved by the same Savior, according to the same gospel, with the same eternal reward. Men and women have different roles in the home and in the church, but this does not in any way mean the man is more important or will receive a greater reward. He should not treat his wife as spiritually inferior or less important than him. Instead, man and wife should help one another serve God so both can receive eternal life.

[1 Corinthians 11:3; 14:34; 1 Timothy 2:12-14]

Observations and Conclusions Based on the Scriptures

1. The leader (man) is responsible to make final decisions. All followers (family members) should submit to his decisions.

Other family members may not disregard the husband's will, nor may they seek to bind their decisions on him. When he believes necessary, he has the right to change or annul their decisions or to instruct them to make different decisions, but not vice versa. All this has been emphasized repeatedly in our study by the terms "submit" (or "be subject"), "obey," and "head."

2. Followers (family members) may refuse to obey the leader's decisions only when obedience to the leader requires disobedience to God.

Acts 5:29 - We must obey God rather than man. Remember that the passage does not make an exception for the case where the one possessing authority committed some sin, but for the case where the one under authority would sin if they obeyed the human authority. "

3. Leaders (men) should consider the well being of the followers (family) and make decisions in love for the good of all.

Consider Bible instructions about love

Matthew 22:36-40 - The greatest two commands, including loving our neighbor as ourselves, must motivate our conduct in all other commands, including our use of authority.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 - Love teaches us to be, not proud nor selfish, but patient. God gives us authority, not to promote our own selfish ambitions, but to serve others and please God.

1 Peter 3:7 - The command to understand the wife requires the husband to make decisions based on putting himself in the wife's place and considering her needs, not just to please himself.

Matthew 7:12 - As in all other relationships, leaders should treat other people the way they would want to be treated.

This does not mean leaders should do whatever the followers tell them to do. That would turn the followers into the leaders! The leaders should make the decisions, but they should do so based on what is best for the people they lead.

Consider the example of Jesus

The Bible upholds Jesus as the ideal leader we should imitate, so consider His example.

Philippians 2:2-8 - Love (v2) teaches us not to act from selfish ambition or conceit but to consider others to be more important than we are (v3). Pursue their interests as well as our own (v4). Jesus possessed ultimate power; but like Him, leaders should sacrifice our own will for the good of others (vv 5-8).

Ephesians 5:22-29 - Men should love their wives as Christ loved the church and as a man loves his own body. Christ has authority over the church, but He used His authority in love to the point of giving His life for the church [John 15:12,13]. Likewise, a man would not neglect his body, so he should not neglect his wife but nourish and cherish her.

No man has the right to make decisions without regard to the well being of his wife. And no man has the right to emphasize his own needs and desires above those of his wife. To do so would be a selfish, unloving abuse of authority. In short, it would be sinful.

In this sense, the man's authority is not a privilege but a responsibility. Men must put the well being of their followers ahead of their personal desires. Followers must still abide by the decisions of those in authority, even when they don't like the decisions. But to please God, those with authority must act in love.

[Revelation 3:19; 1 Sam. 25:14,17; 30:22-24; 1 Kings 12:6-16; Isa. 52:5; Jer. 23:1-15; Micah 3:1-12; Matt. 18:26-34; 24:45-50; Luke 12:42-47; Eph. 6:9; Acts 20:35; 1 John 3:16-18]

4. In considering decisions, leaders (men) should consult the followers (family).

Love should teach men to consider the views of others.

Ephesians 5:28,29 - Husbands should love their wives like they nourish and cherish their own bodies. But doesn't your body tell the head when it's hungry or tired or hurt or cold? How can the head know what the body needs, if it ignores the body's communication? So how can a husband provide for his wife if doesn't listen to her?

1 Timothy 5:8 - If a man will not provide for his household, he is worse than an unbeliever. But how can a man care for his wife if he won't listen to find out what she needs? One of the biggest mistakes leaders make is assuming we know what other people need without asking them.

1 Peter 3:7 - The husband should treat his wife with understanding. But no man is a mind reader. How can a man understand a woman, if he won't listen to her (1 Cor. 2:11)?

Matthew 7:12 - Love leads us to put ourselves in other people's place and treat them the way we believe we ought to be treated in their place. Often a man will make decisions that his family dislikes without consulting them. But let that man's supervisors do the same to him, and listen to him scream! We should learn to treat others the way we want to be treated.

[Matt. 23:4; Rom. 2:1,2,21-24; Phil. 2:3-8; Rom. 12:3,16]

Jesus' example should teach us to consider the views of others.

Ephesians 5:25 - Husbands should love their wives as Christ loved the church. Does Jesus consider the needs of the church? Does he allow the church to communicate its needs?

Matthew 7:7-11 - He said to ask, and we shall receive. Our Father considers our requests and gives what we need. This is what prayer is all about.

God does not always give exactly what we asked for, but He does give what we need. This is the example human leaders should follow. The point is that God does listen, and our requests often change the course of subsequent events. How can we as human leaders do less?

[Zech. 13:9; James 5:16-18; Phil. 4:6]

Good decisions often require advice and consultation with others.

James 1:19 - Every man should be swift to hear, slow to speak. People in authority often make poor decisions simply because they aren't willing to listen to other views.

Genesis 2:18 - Specifically, God created woman to be man's helper. She helps in many ways, one of which may be by giving good advice.

Just because a man should consider advice from others, does not mean he is always obligated to follow it. Not all advice is good advice. A leader must evaluate the input, especially considering the reasons people offer for their views. Then he must apply the standards of love, God's word, and the example of Jesus to objectively decide what he sincerely believes to be the best decision. Then the family must follow the decisions made - that is the nature of authority.

[Prov. 31:26; 11:14; 1 Sam. 25:23-25; Esth. 7; Matt. 14:1-4; 2 Sam. 12:1-15; 2 Kings 5:13]

5. The right to make decisions authorizes the leader (man) to decide how he will consult others and when and where he will make decisions.

We have seen that the man often should consult his family, but nothing inherently requires him to consult them in any particular way, time, or place. He may choose to discuss with them one by one, in small groups, or all together in a group. The right to lead is the right to decide how best to make a decision, subject to God's law.

In particular, the man is not required to make each decision in the presence of the family. Often a leader can make the best decisions when he is alone without the pressure of other people's presence. Then he reveals the decision to the group.

The right to make decisions inherently includes the right to decide when and where you will make them! The followers do not have the right to dictate when, where, or how you decide.

6. The leader's (man's) decisions do not need the followers' ratification.

They family has no right to veto, annul, override, or refuse to follow the husband's decisions (except as in Acts 5:29). This conclusion is inherent in the nature of authority and necessarily follows from all the Scriptures we have studied.

Every home has times of conflict when not everyone agrees regarding decisions. Sometimes, regardless of what is decided, someone will be dissatisfied. We naturally think our views are the best, so we think others should agree with us if they would just be reasonable. So, whenever someone makes a decision we don't like, we naturally tend to think they were unreasonable!

But in order for the family to function despite such conflicts, someone must have the power to make decisions and insist those decisions be followed. The main point of authority is that it enables the making of necessary decisions, even when people disagree.

It necessarily follows that authority means the leader may make decisions even when some members disagree. If members of the group may override or refuse to follow decisions, the whole purpose of authority is defeated.

But how the decision was reached is a matter of judgment. We may disagree with a decision, but that does not mean the one in authority sinned, unless we can prove that they violated specific Scripture - not just that they violated our wishes or even our opinions about Scripture.

7. This authority of men over wives includes church decisions and activities.

Note: "in everything" (Ephesians 5:24). Wouldn't this include in the church?

If men may not make binding decisions in the church without the agreement and approval of their wives, then wouldn't that mean that the church is one area in which women do not need to submit to their husbands? The view that men cannot enforce their decisions on the church without the approval/ratification of the group (including the women) necessarily constitutes a denial of husbands' authority over their own wives.

If the women in the church may nullify or refuse to follow the men's decisions, then that would mean the wives may refuse to submit to their husbands' authority. How can such a view be harmonized with the Bible teaching about the authority of husbands? So even without consulting passages that specifically discuss the church, we can conclude that wives must submit to the authority of their husbands in church decisions.

And further, all the above points are important principles of good leadership in essentially any leadership role. The same principles should apply for husbands leading wives, parents leading children, civil rulers leading citizens, and employers leading employees. So why should anyone think these principles do not apply in church leadership? In fact, it would take major, specific evidence for us to conclude that these principles do not apply in the church.

IV. The Value of Women in Their Scriptural Roles

God's word honors and values women for their work as highly as it does men for their work.

Spiritual Roles of Women in General

Women are joint heirs of eternal life equally with men.

1 Peter 3:7 - Husbands should honor their wives as heirs together of the grace of life.

Galatians 3:26-29 - In Christ Jew and Greek are one, slaves and freemen are one, and male and female are one. This does not say these people all have the same authority. Do slaves have the same authority as freemen? The context is discussing, not who possesses authority, but who can be children of God (vv 26,27) and heirs according to the promise to Abraham (v29).

Women in the Bible were valued for their important spiritual work.

* Luke 1:26-56 - Mary was honored to be Jesus' mother. But Jesus had no earthly father.

* Luke 10:38-42 - Mary and Martha were two of Jesus' closest disciples.

* Matthew 27:55,56; Luke 8:2,3 - Several other women followed and provided for Jesus.

* Acts 9:36-42; 16:11-15; Romans 16:1,2 - Dorcas, Lydia, Phoebe and other godly women are expressly commended for their good works.

* Acts 2:14; 5:14; 8:12; 12:12-17; 17:4,12,34; 2 Tim. 1:5 - Other passages mention women who were disciples, sometimes naming them, other times not.

* 1 Peter 3:5,6; Heb. 11:11,31 - Several godly women from the Old Testament are expressly upheld as good examples for New Testament women: Sarah, Rahab, Deborah, Ruth, Esther, etc.

* 1 Timothy 5, Titus 2 and other passages expressly list good works that women can do.

God has valuable work for women to do and offers them eternal life alongside men.

In particular, women are greatly valued for their role as homemakers.

Titus 2:3-5 - Young women should be taught to love their husbands and children, be discreet, chaste, homemakers, etc.

Proverbs 31:10-31 - The work of a worthy woman is described in great detail, stating that she should be praised for her good work. I know of no passage that similarly describes the work of men and urges people to praise them.

Proverbs 19:14 - Houses and riches are an inheritance from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the Lord. [12:4]

Proverbs 18:22 - He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the Lord.

God honors women in their role as wives, mothers and homemakers. Men ought likewise to appreciate and praise them.

[1 Timothy 5:14; Psalm 113:9]

God values people for their service, not their authority - Matthew 20:25-28.

Society greatly honors people with authority, but it is not so among God's people. Those whom God considers great are those who serve others.

One writer cited this passage to prove:

"When men, serving as overseers, override, overturn, or in any way attempt to countermand the concensus [sic] of the brethren IN MATTERS OF JUDGMENT [his emphasis], they are exercising the kind of lordship that Jesus expressly stated would not be part of the spiritual kingdom." - Dusty Owens, The Examiner, Vol 1, No. 3, p. 8

But the passage says no such thing. It nowhere forbids exercise of authority. Jesus used Himself as the example to imitate, but He possessed authority and He ordained other authority relationships, such as parents over children, civil rulers over citizens, etc.

The point is that possession of authority does not inherently make one great. People without authority can be as great or greater than those who do have it. Are rulers greater before God than citizens or employers greater than employees, simply because they differ in authority?

Likewise, the fact men have authority over women does not mean God honors women less than He does men. Women who serve in harmony with God's will are equally as valuable as men, regardless of differences in authority.

Responsibility of Women in Teaching and Imparting Spiritual Truth

Women may teach children and other women.

Exodus 15:20,21 - Moses' sister Miriam led the women of Israel in praising God.

Proverbs 31:1 - King Lemuel was taught by his mother.

Proverbs 1:8 - A son should hear his father's instruction and not forsake his mother's law.

Luke 1:39-56 - Elisabeth and Mary admonished and encouraged one another praising God.

2 Timothy 1:5 - From childhood Timothy had been taught the sacred Scriptures (3:15). The faith he possessed clearly came through his grandmother Lois and mother Eunice.

Titus 2:3-5 - Older women are commanded to teach younger women.

Note that Christian women are not only permitted to teach, they are commanded to do so! God's word does limit women's role, but to deny that women have a role in teaching God's word, or to restrict them so they cannot fulfill their role, would be to completely contradict Scripture!

[Ruth 1:8-17; 2:20]

Women may also discuss and impart truth in small group discussions with men, so long as they do not exercise authority over men.

Note the following examples:

Luke 2:36-39 - Anna the prophetess spoke about Jesus to people who came into the temple. This apparently occurred in small groups but in a public place of worship. She spoke to "all who looked for redemption," which would include men.

Luke 10:40-42 - Jesus had a spiritual discussion about proper priorities with Martha in her home. She made a comment and He responded.

John 4:19-26 - Jesus participated in a religious discussion with a Samaritan woman at Jacob's well (a public place). The discussion began on non-religious matters, but Jesus turned it to spiritual things. The woman asked Him spiritual questions and commented on His answers.

John 4:28-30,39,42 - The woman then told the men of the city the things she had learned about Jesus, imparting spiritual truth and asking them rhetorical questions. Nothing implies that she publicly preached a sermon or addressed a church (or synagogue) assembly. Yet she discussed God's word in such a way that many people sought further information. As a result many became disciples.

John 11:20-27 - Jesus and Martha conducted a spiritual discussion, each responding to one another by affirming spiritual truths. So, Jesus allowed women to state spiritual truth to men in small groups. [Luke 10:38-42]

Matthew 28:1-8; Luke 24:9,10; John 20:16-18 - An angel told women to report to men that Jesus had been raised. Jesus specifically told Mary to deliver to the brethren a message about His ascension. So several women met in small group meeting(s) with a number of men and delivered a spiritual message to them. This occurred by the specific authority of Jesus and an angel. __3811_230662889">The church had not yet begun, but would Jesus and the angel have instructed these women to do something that would violate the New Testament teaching for the church when it did begin?

Acts 18:26 - Apollos taught in the synagogue in Ephesus but lacked knowledge. So Aquila and his wife Priscilla explained God's way to him more accurately. The passage names both Aquila and Priscilla and says they explained God's way to this man. The language necessarily means that a woman was involved in helping teach (impart spiritual truth to) a man. They left the assembly to do this ("took him aside"), hence a small group meeting.

Acts 2:17; 21:8,9 - The Old Testament predicted that women would be prophetesses. As an example, the four daughters of Philip the evangelist prophesied, apparently in the presence of Paul and other men. The implication is that this was done in a small meeting (not the whole church), and men heard the prophecies.

These passages show women in spiritual discussions with men. They asked and answered spiritual questions and in some cases even imparted spiritual truth to men. But no passage says women imparted God's word in the congregational assemblies of the church, in the parallel synagogue assemblies, or in any capacity in which they would be exercising authority over men.

The Bible does not degrade women. On the contrary, the gospel views women with the highest respect offered by any major religion. The reason people criticize Bible teaching about women is, not because the Bible disrespects women, but simply because the Bible does not say what some folks want it to say.

[Matthew 15:21-28]

V. Male Leadership Roles in the Church

We have already learned that men should be the leaders in the home. We will here see that the same is true in the church.

The Head of the Church Is Masculine.

Ephesians 1:22,23; 5:22-33 - Jesus is head over all things to the church (Col. 1:18; Matt. 16:18). In fact, Jesus' headship over the church is used to illustrate man's headship over woman.

Jesus is also our only mediator with God (1 Timothy 2:5), and our High Priest (Hebrews 7:25-27). So the highest authority role in the church is occupied by a male authority figure who lived on earth as a man. This is a fact beyond reasonable dispute.

All Apostles Were Men.

Apostles exercised a leadership role in the early church.

Apostles accomplished several tasks in the early church, including teaching God's word publicly, bearing witness for Jesus' resurrection, and also leading in decision-making.

Acts 1:20 - Matthias was chosen as an apostle to take the place of Judas. This fulfilled a prophecy that one would take his "office" ("bishopric" - KJV; "overseership" - ASV footnote; "place of leadership" - NIV; "position of overseer" - NASB footnote; Greek is a form of the word for overseer/bishop).

Acts 4:35,37 - When the church took collections for the needy, the gifts were laid them at the apostles' feet, and they distributed to each as anyone had need.

Acts 6:2,3,6 - When the supervision of this distribution became burdensome, the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said to find seven men that the apostles might appoint over this business. Note that the apostles led in determining how to deal with the problem.

Acts 9:27 - Barnabas brought Saul to the apostles to explain that Saul had been converted and should be received by the church.

Acts 15:6 - The apostles and elders met to consider the problem of men from Jerusalem who were teaching that circumcision and keeping the law was necessary to salvation. (Cf. 16:4).

All these passages describe the apostles as having leadership and a decision-making role in the early church.

[1 Thessalonians 2:6]

Yet apostles were always men.

Matthew 10:1-34 - The original twelve were men (note: "men of Galilee" - Acts 1:11). [Luke 10:13-16; Acts 1:13,26]

Acts 1:21,26 - Matthias was chosen to replace Judas. He was a man.

1 Corinthians 1:1; 9:1; 2 Corinthians 11:5; 12:11,12 - Paul was chosen as an apostle as one born out of due time. He was a man.

This was the highest role of human leadership in the early church. Each apostle was specifically and expressly chosen by Jesus Himself, and every one who served in that office was a man. With the completion of the New Testament, this office is no longer needed. Yet it fits the pattern that church leadership roles were exercised by men.

All Elders Must Be Men.

The elders had leadership authority in the local churches.

Note from the following passages that "elder," "bishop," and "pastor" are different terms referring to the same work or office in the local church.

Acts 20:17,28; 1 Peter 5:1,2 - "Overseers" ("bishops") "take oversight" of the local congregation. This word means "...a man charged with the duty of seeing that things to be done by others are done rightly, ... guardian, or superintendent..." - GWT.

Ephesians 4:11; Acts 20:17,28; 1 Peter 5:1,2 - "Pastors" (shepherds) tend the local church like shepherds guiding or caring for their flock.

1 Timothy 5:17; Hebrews 13:7,17; 1 Timothy 3:4,5 - They "rule" in the congregation, and others should "submit" to them and "obey" them.

Elders are also responsible to teach the church, including teaching men authoritatively (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:9-14; Heb. 13:17).

Note that the terms used for the leadership of elders in the church are similar to those used for the leadership of husbands in the home. They guide, oversee, and rule. The members should submit and obey. These terms show that elders have the right to make decisions that others are obligated to follow.

Decisions must be made in a local church. The men responsible to see that these decisions are rightly made are the elders. They must not lead the church into activities unauthorized in the gospel; but in carrying out authorized acts, there are many decisions that need to be made. These men are also responsible to teach men authoritatively and to address the assembled church.

Yet elders were always men.

* 1 Timothy 3:1,2; Titus 1:5,6 - Each elder (or bishop) must be the husband of one wife. "Husband" literally means "man" or "male" (the context is what indicates that he is married, hence a "husband"). Further, he must be a husband to one wife (literally "woman"). But a woman cannot Scripturally be a husband to a woman/wife (Genesis 2:18-24; 1 Corinthians 7:2-4).

* Further, an elder must rule well his own house (1 Tim. 3:4,5). But we have learned from other Scriptures that the husband, not the wife, is to rule the family.

Note that the passages say that the elders "must" meet the above requirements. This is not option or suggestion. These are God-given requirements.

Since the death of the apostles, the elders occupy the highest leadership role in the church, leading both men and women. They too are always and necessarily men, not women.

All Deacons Must Be Men.

Deacons were men.

"Deacon" means "servant," so one might be a deacon without exercising leadership. Nevertheless, the responsibilities might at times involve making decisions that other men in the church ought to follow.

1 Timothy 3:12 - Those who are qualified to serve in the office of deacon were always men, since like the elders, they must also be husbands of one wife, ruling their households well.

Acts 6:3-6 - The seven who were appointed to be "over" the business of distributing to the needy in the Jerusalem church definitely had some decision-making role. And all seven were "men."

Female "deaconesses"?

Some claim female "deaconesses" served in the early church (Rom. 16:1,2). "Servant" is the feminine form of the word that is elsewhere translated "deacon," however the word is more commonly translated simply "servant" or "minister," even for men who are not appointed to an office (1 Thess. 3:2; 1 Tim. 4:6; John 12:26). (This is similar to the word "elder," which is sometimes used to refer simply to one who is older, but not appointed to an office - Titus 2:2-4.)

So, the word for "servant" refers to an appointed office only when the context necessarily implies it. But no context anywhere designates a woman as appointed to any office in the church. We know that men were appointed to an office of elder, because we have passages that describe them being ordained (Acts 14:23) and passages that state the specific qualifications one must meet before being appointed (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). Likewise, we have a list of qualifications for men who serve in the office of deacon (1 Timothy 3:8-13).

But what passage anywhere states that women were ever appointed or ordained to any office in the church? And what passage states the qualifications they must meet in order to be appointed? In the absence of a description of their qualifications or a passage describing their ordination, the only fair conclusion is that there was no such office. If there was, we could never know who would qualify or who should be appointed.

Even more important, no passage anywhere describes any such women having leadership over men or a decision-making role equivalent to that of any man. In short, there is no evidence that any women ever served in an office of "deaconess" that involved them in leading men or making decisions as men did.

All Who Wrote Books of the Bible Were Men.

The Bible, of course, was written to teach authoritatively both men and women.

While we do not know the authors of some books, yet to the extent we know the authors, they were always men: Moses, Joshua, Peter, Paul, John, Matthew, Luke, etc. There is no evidence whatever that any woman authored any part of any book of the Bible.

Surely this evidence begins to mount up. Surely there is some reason why, in the New Testament, it was men - always men and only men - who occupied positions in the church that involved leadership or authority over men. The kind of thing that is advocated by feminists, denominationalists, and even some in the Lord's church simply never happened. Surely this is related to the Bible concept of women's subjection to men.

All Who Taught With Authority Over Men or Who Addressed Congregational Assemblies Were Men.

Before Jesus' death, He established the pattern of male leadership in teaching.

Many examples during Jesus' lifetime illustrate teaching in a leadership role over men (and women). The church had not yet begun, but Jesus' teaching was intended to prepare for the kingdom. He taught people to obey the Old Testament as long as it remained in effect. But He also followed principles of teaching and leadership. Would He have established patterns in such matters that would violate the New Testament teaching for the church when it did begin?

Matthew 4:23; 9:35; 13:54 - Jesus taught in synagogue meetings. These were generally meetings of the whole assembly of Jews: men and women assembled together. These appear to me to be the closest equivalent during Jesus' lifetime to the assemblies of local churches. In every case, those who spoke are listed as men. I cannot find any case where a woman ever spoke in such a meeting. They not only did not lead the discussions, but there is no record that they even spoke to the group. Not one time. [Mark 1:21,39; 6:2; Luke 4:15,16,44; 6:6; 13:10; John 6:59; 18:20]

Matthew 5:1; 11:7; 12:46; 13:2,34; 15:10; 23:1 - Jesus also taught in "multitudes" or crowds. These do not appear to be as similar to our congregational assemblies as were synagogue meetings. The synagogue consisted of people committed to be part of it (like the local church). The multitudes were less formally organized. Some may have been smaller groups. These consisted of mixed groups of men and women. In rare cases, especially in smaller groups, women may have asked a question or made a comment. But in every case, those who led such studies were men, never women. [Mark 2:2,13; 3:7,20,32; 4:1; 5:31; 6:30; 7:14; 8:1; 9:14; 10:1; Luke 5:1,15; 6:17ff; 7:24; 8:4; 9:11; 11:29; 12:1,54; 14:25; John 6:2]

Luke 3:7 - John the Baptist also taught such multitudes.

So, those who led discussions of spiritual matters in mixed groups (men and women) were always men. And when the synagogue met as an assembled, organized body, there is no record of women ever speaking at all; only men spoke.

After Jesus' death, again men taught in leadership roles over men and in the assemblies of local churches.

Acts 9:20; 13:5,14-16,42,43; 14:1; 17:1-3,10,17; 18:4,19,26; 19:8 - Paul and his companions often taught in Jewish synagogues. These were no longer God's people, but teaching there involved teaching both men and women. And they still illustrate the nature of congregational assemblies similar to church assemblies. And when Christians taught in such mixed meetings, those who led were always men.

Acts 18:26 - Apollos taught in the synagogue, then Aquila and Priscilla explained God's way to him more accurately. Here a woman was involved in helping impart spiritual truth to a man; but note that they left the assembly to do this ("took him aside"), hence a small group meeting. So, numerous examples show men teaching in synagogue assemblies; but when a woman was involved in the speaking, it was not done when the entire body was assembled.

Acts 7 - Stephen addressed the Sanhedrin council (consisting of men). He authoritatively taught them and rebuked them for their sins.

Acts 6:2-5 - The apostles instructed the multitude of the disciples to choose seven men to be in charge of distributing to needy members. It appears that the whole group was involved in choosing the men (based on qualifications that were described), but how people indicated their choice is not stated. The only ones who are mentioned as speaking were men. The decision of how to resolve the problem was made by men (the apostles). And all the people chosen to be in charge of the work were men. (See further notes on this passage later.)

Acts 11:25,26 - The church in Antioch assembled and many people were taught. Those mentioned as doing the teaching were men. No women are mentioned as saying anything.

Acts 11:22-24; 13:1-3; 15:27,30-32,39-41 - Those who were chosen by local churches and sent out to proclaim the word were always men.

Acts 14:27 - Paul and Barnabas assembled the church together and reported about their preaching trip. Again, a congregation assembled, but only men are said to have spoken.

Acts 15:3,4 - Again, Paul and Barnabas assembled with several churches to tell about their preaching work. Only men are said to have spoken in these church meetings.

Acts 15:6-29 - The apostles and elders met to consider the issue of whether or not people must still keep the Old Testament law. The decision regarding the law was made in private by men, then it was revealed to the congregation who accepted it as a good decision. All the people who spoke were men, no women are said to have spoken. And the decision was made by the leaders. (Cf. 16:4.) (See further notes on this passage later.)

Acts 15:30-32 - The church in Antioch assembled to receive the letter from Jerusalem. The ones who spoke in this congregational meeting were men (v32).

Acts 20:7 - The disciples in Troas met to have the Lord's Supper. The one who spoke was a man (Paul). No indication that women spoke at all.

The pattern to this point is consistent, both during and after Jesus' lifetime.

The following pattern has been established by example after example, role after role, based on literally dozens of passages.

1) Only men, never women, were ever appointed to roles/offices in the church that involved leading men or making decisions for the group.

2) When men participated, spiritual teaching or discussions were led by men, never by women.

3) When churches assembled as a body or entire group for church functions, the only people who ever spoke or addressed the group were men - no examples of women speaking.

(Please see our article on for further discussion of 1 Timothy 2 and 1 Corinthians 14 and applications to women's role.)

(C) Copyright 2013, David E. Pratte, You are free to keep copies of this material on computer and/or in printed form for your own further study. If you have any other requests about the use of this material, please read our copyright guidelines at