What Women May Do?
Let us start by stating that we do not wish to leave the impression that a woman can’t do anything. The fact is there are many things that a woman may and even should be doing. (1) She may teach children (2 Tim. 1:5; 3:14-15). The influence of one godly woman should never be underestimated. (2) She may teach other women (Tit. 2:3-4). In fact, the older women have a duty here unto the younger women. (3) She may teach, that is explain the Bible to a man in the most private situations (Acts 18:24-27). (4) She may teach by way of example (1 Pet. 3:1-6). In fact, she should do this (Matt. 5:16; 1 Pet. 2:12). (5) She may do good deeds unto others, as Dorcas did (Acts 9:36, 39).
1. Women as Preachers
May a woman serve as a preacher over a mixed assembly (men and women) of God’s people?
a. 1 Timothy 2 is a key passage in answering this question
Verse 8: The word “men” is andras. This word is not the generic word used of mankind (anthropos, 1 Tim. 2:1, 4, 5). This word refers to males (cf. Matt. 14:21). Men are to pray lifting up holy hands (A posture of prayer, Isa. 1:15; Lam. 3:41; Psalm 143:6). The emphasis is upon holiness (Isa. 1:15; James 4:8).
Verse 11-12. Women, on the other hand, are to learn in silence. The term “silence“ (hesuchia) does not necessarily refer to an absolute silence. It has to do with being quiet, being tranquil (Vine’s). It is contrasted in context with teaching and having authority over a man.
The meaning is women are not to be the public worship leaders. She is not to be the teacher. She is not to, in any other way, have authority over a man in the public worship. Note: The KJV “usurp” is unfortunate. The original word means “to govern, to exercise dominion” (Thayer). The NKJV reads, “to have authority.” The NASB reads “exercise authority.”
Verse 13: Many try to say that Paul’s words are merely cultural. Such will not work. He grounded the reason in creation.
b. 1 Corinthians 14 is another key passage.
Verse 34: Women are to keep “silence” (sigao) and are not permitted to “speak” in the churches. The word “silence” refers in context to complete silence in the area of public speaking (1 Cor. 14:28, 30 ASV, 34). The word “speak” means in context to publicly speak, addressing the assembly (1 Cor. 14:2, 3, 6, 9, 11, 19, 28, 29, 34, 35). The context does not forbid her from singing as a part of the assembly. It doesn’t forbid her from making the good confession prior to baptism.
Women are to be “under obedience” KJV. The ASV reads “in subjection.” The NASB reads, “let them subject themselves.” The NKJV reads, “be submissive.”
“As saith the law”, this may be a reference to the law of creation (1 Tim. 2:12-13; 1 Cor. 11:8-9).
Verse 35: The words “at home” are suggestive much like 1 Corinthians 11:22. Marion Fox, “This (husbands – B.H.) could just as easily be translated ‘men’ and with the word ‘woman’ being used in verse 34, this should be translated ‘men’… In the first century women did not leave home and live alone, but they stayed with their father until they were either married or until the father died. If the father died they moved in with one of their brothers or another male relative” (The Role of Women, Vol. 2, page 107). The point is things can be discussed back at home, but a woman is not to be speaking up in the assembly.
2. Women Translators
The Bible says that a woman is to be in silence in the assembly (1 Cor. 14:34). In context this has to do with prophesying (1 Cor. 14:30 ASV, cf. 14:34), interpreting (1 Cor. 14:28 cf. 14:34), and asking questions (1 Cor. 14:34-35).
Moreover the word “interpreter” (1 Cor. 14:28) is masculine gender. Where does one draw the conclusion that such is permitted?
3. Bible Class
May a woman ask questions? She may not do so in the worship assembly. Such is the context of 1 Corinthians 14:32 (Notice 1 Cor. 14:23 cf. 1 Cor. 11:20; Acts 20:7). Bible class is not the worship assembly. A woman’s asking something does not seem limited strictly to the home (John 4:10, 19-20, 25; Rom. 16:2, etc.). Yes, I believe that she may ask questions in Bible class. One should not violate one’s conscience in this area or any area (Rom. 14:23).
If the Bible class is not the worship assembly, then may a woman teach a mixed adult class (Christian men and women)? It is acknowledged that a woman may teach, explain the Bible to a man in the most private of setting (Acts 18:24-28). However, the pattern seems clear to me: Whenever God’s people came together the men took the lead (e.g. Acts 21:8-12. Nothing suggests this to be the public worship assembly of the first day of the week). Even if the aforementioned passage did occur on a first day worship assembly, I fail to find one instance in all of scripture of a woman leading a public assembly of God’s people. [Caution: I would also point out that it is possible to teach and dominate a class through comments and questions. It seems to me that a woman should be very cautious in this area even in Bible class settings].
4. Women elders/deacons
An elder is to be “the husband of one wife” (1 Tim. 3:2; Tit. 1:6). So, also, is the deacon to be “the husband of one wife” (1 Tim. 3:12). I don’t see how a woman can meet this qualification biblically.
Some have thought that “wives” of 1 Timothy 3:11 could be rendered “women”. It is true that the original word can be rendered either way, “wives” or “women” depending on the context. It is also true that the possessive pronoun “their” is not in the original.
However, consider the following points: (1) There are three obvious possibilities: (a) This refers to the wives of deacons. However, if this refers to exclusively the wives of deacons but not elders one wonders why there isn’t qualifications listed for the elder’s wife. (b) This refers to the wives of both elders and deacons. Marion Fox says, “The Lord set forth certain qualifications for the wives of deacons (1 Tim. 3:11), since the work of elders is greater than the work of deacons, the qualifications of the wives of elders must be at least equal to the qualifications of deacons. In addition, if the wife of a preacher must be a believer (1 Cor. 9:5) and the work of an elder is greater than the work of a preacher, it is evident that an elder’s wife must be a believer. If the lessor is required to have these qualifications, then the greater is required to have these qualifications” (The Work of The Holy Spirit, Vol. 1 – 2003 edition, p. 596).. (c) This refers to deaconesses. Since there are three options it seems unwise to insist that this must refer to deaconesses. (2) There seems to be reason to conclude that this is not speaking of deaconesses. (a) These words find themselves in the middle of the qualifications for deacons. If he is speaking of deaconesses, doesn’t it seem strange he would talk of deacons qualifications, go to deaconesses, and then go back to deacons? (b) If this is talking of an office why the qualifications so brief in comparison with that of deacons? (c) I read about Bishops and deacons together (Phil. 1:1). Where is a clear passage which mentions a deaconess in a passage connected with Bishops or deacons?