Can women teach in the church or not?

For some, this may seem like a silly question but in many churches, the women do not have the right to teach the Bible to anyone other than children or other ladies. Does Paul teach women that they cannot teach the Bible to men? This is an accusation that many skeptics of the Bible use to explain their reasons for not believing that the Bible is the Word of God or for their total denial of God. I would like to examine this subject as a whole instead of a small list of cherry picked verses taken out of context.

The Bible does teach that there are certain women who are not allowed to teach in the church, this is true. The Bible also teaches that there are certain men who cannot teach in the church either. I want to examine which women are able to teach, which ones are not able to teach, and then specific examples in the Bible of women who taught in the church.

There are passages that will cover bother aspects of who can and cannot teach so I will lay out the passages in the beginning and then we will discuss them in the light of the two ideas.

I Timothy 2:9-15

I Timothy 5:11-15

Titus 2:3-5

I Corinthians 11:4-5

I Corinthians 14:33-40

Romans 16

Women who are not allowed to teach in church

I would like to begin with the negative examples for the purpose of being able to end with the positive ones. God is not against women. God created women to be fellow heirs of the grace of God. A woman is equal to a man even though they have different roles. A difference in roles does not mean inferiority or superiority. The apostle Paul was not a male chauvinist who did not like women. There were issues in all of the growing churches during the 1st Century and like a good leader, Paul had to confront them in love for the good of the people. Most of the time he has to confront the men of the church yet there are occasions when he has to deal with the women as well. This list is based on women who were not being obedient to God and not based on the fact that they are women. As I wrote earlier in the article, there are men who cannot teach either and this has to do with their character and attitude and not their gender.

I Timothy 2:9-15 is the first passage that I want to cover which teaches which women cannot teach.

  • when she is not able to teach herself (or is not walking according to the teachings of God)
  • when she does not want to be submissive to her husband
  • when she tries to overtake her husband’s role of leadership as the head of the family
  • when she cannot submit to the leadership of the church
  • when she is not humble

The next text that we will cover is I Timothy 5:11-15, which again, explains which women in the church cannot teach.

  • those who are idle – the word idle is the negative form of the word that means to work to produce something positive. A woman who does not want to produce anything positive to help others is not allowed to teach because her attitude will influence her students.
  • in a way they are active, they go from house to house but look at what they do
    • busybodies (looking like they do so much but they have nothing positive to show for it)
    • they gossip, spreading their dangerous attitude from house to house
    • they talk about things which are not proper (just as an example, there are things between a husband and wife that should not be discussed with other people, from the context, one of the things that these women would want to talk about would be sexuality, things like, how is your husband “performing”? The wife may have some reasons to complain but that should be kept between her husband and her. This conversations stirs up the woman and then she and her husband end up arguing. The woman who “stopped by to chat” then goes to another house and shares “a prayer request” about the problems that so and so are having in marriage. Does any of this sound familiar?)
  • the women who give the enemy reason for reproach cannot teach in the church (these would be questionable acts that would cause people to point at Christians and say “hypocrites”)

Titus 2:5 is the next passage that addresses the subject of which women in the church cannot teach.

  • women who are not reverent in their behavior – the word reverent comes from 2 Greek words, one being sacred (holy, set apart, different, devout) and the other being “visible way of life”. A reverent woman is devout in her way of life that is dedicated to serving the Lord. A woman who is not like this is not allowed to teach in the church.
  • women who are malicious gossips are not allowed to teach in the church – their “Bible study” group will turn into a gossip fest very quickly. Unfortunately, I know of many Sunday School classes where this is the norm. The word gossip comes from the same Greek word as Devil, the accuser who openly claims things that are not true but does it in a subtle way (Let me just share this “prayer request” with you).
  • women who are enslaved to wine are not allowed to teach in the church
  • women who do not love their husbands and children are not allowed to teach in the church
  • women who are not sensible cannot teach in the church – sensible means well balanced in attitude, actions, speaking etc. She knows how to control her natural sinful desires. She practices self-control in all aspects of life. This can deal with emotions, language, attitude, actions, feelings, sentiments. It is very broad. It is a person who has found an equilibrium.
  • women who are not pure cannot teach – pure would be someone who is not controlled by the desires of the flesh (human nature, instincts). There is a saying in Romanian, “she’s got a good heart, it is just that her mouth is foul”. That best describes a woman who is not pure.
  • women who do not want to take care of their households are not able to teach in the church
  • women who dishonor the Word of God cannot teach in the church

I Corinthians 14:33-40 is the next passage for consideration. Before we get into this passage, it is very clear that God has established clear guidelines for who can and cannot teach in the church. What does that say about the philosophy of some churches that have the motto “if you have a pulse then you are a good candidate to teach a Sunday School class”?

  • the women who interrupt church service and cause confusion cannot teach in the church – as I write this I am thinking about a situation in a church where I attended a revival service. The preacher was preaching the Word of God and there was a lady in the church who kept “getting the spirit” and screaming and causing great distraction among the audience. This would be an example of a woman who is not to teach or speak at church. A friend of mine attended a church where one of the ladies would “get the spirit” during the service and decide to start playing the piano, no matter what was happening during the service. It could have been during prayer time or in the middle of the sermon. A person like this is not allowed to teach in the church.
  • women who cause divisions or arguments with their teachings, which create confusion in the church are also not allowed to teach.

I hope that you have realized that the majority of these rules apply to men as well. There are few that are just for the women but most of them apply to anyone who wants to teach in the church. Now let’s shift gears and see which women in the church can teach.

Women who are allowed to teach in church

  • Women who have teachable spirits who are taught can also teach others. (this is what quietly receive instructions means). Quietly does not mean that she does not open her mouth and say something. It refers to her attitude in the way that she speaks. She does not seek to cause arguments with every word said. A woman who does not quietly receive instruction is one who want to play devil’s advocate with every idea, every word, every phrase used by the teacher. Not that playing devil’s advocate from time to time is wrong but when it is your way of life then you do not have a teachable spirit.
  • women who are subject to their husbands’ leadership are able to teach
  • women who know their role in marriage and fulfill it are able to teach (all from I Timothy 2)
  • women who care for their homes and children are able to teach. They are examples in the home and are able to be examples in the church  (I Timothy 5)
  • women who are spiritually mature may teach in the church
  • women who are reverent in their behavior
  • women who are not malicious gossips
  • women who are not enslaved to wine
  • women who are sensible
  • women who are pure
  • women teach what is good for the hearers (the Word of God) can teach others
  • women who can teach first need to focus on the younger women, teaching them how to love their husbands and their children based on God’s Word
  • women who honor the Word of God (all from Titus 2)

I Corinthians 11:4-5 teaches us that women can speak at the church and can even teach the Word of God to the other members (both men and women). I do not want to get into the subject of head dress here. That is another theme. What I would like to point out is that women can prophesy. They word prophesy or prophecy literally means “to speak on behalf of someone, to pass on a person’s edict as it is written for the audience”. When a person “prophesies” it does not necessarily mean that he predicts something that will happen in the future. A person who expounds the Word of God for others to understand can also be considered a prophet because he is taking the message of another and delivering it to the audience. A prophecy could also mean “explaining hidden things” to others. The Bible teaches us that the ways of God are hidden from us because we are sinners and a prophet would be one who reveals those hidden things to us, or in other words, one who explains the message of God by using the Word of God. According to I Corinthians 11:4-5, women can do this. In order to be able to do this, they must also meet the above requirements that we have seen.

This brings us to our final section, examples of women who did teach, even in the church.

Examples of women who taught in church

This whole section comes from Romans 16. The apostle is writing to the church in Rome, where Priscilla and Aquila are the leaders and the church is meeting in their home. Paul sends his greetings and praises those who have served with him in the ministry. Many of the names in this list are women.

  • our sister Phoebe, who is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea (the word servant is literally deacon in the Greek). It seems that she served as a deacon in the church.
  • One of the conditions for being a deacon is that you must be taught so that you can teach others
  • she not only helped Paul, she has served with many other believers
  • Priscilla is a fellow worker in the Gospel. She was able to explain the Scriptures using the Scriptures to a man who was off track a bit in his doctrine.
  • These ladies risked their necks for the Gospel.
  • Mary
  • Junias
  • Tryphaena
  • Persis
  • Rufus’ mother
  • Julia
  • Olympas
  • Nereus’ sister

All of these ladies were workers in the Gospel with Paul. They served the believers. They met the above requirements that we learned.

What are you thoughts about women teaching the Word of God? in the church? to men? How do your views match up with what the Word of God teaches? The reason so many people are misinformed about this subject is because they do not study the Scriptures for themselves. They just take what others say at face value and never do any research themselves. The Bible is very clear on the subject. We need women to teach because they make up half the body of Christ. In fact, there are generally more women in churches than men. If we silence them by saying that they cannot teach just because they are women then we do a great disservice to the body of Christ. Also, just being a man does not qualify a person to be able to teach and serve in the church. There are very specific requirements that must be met and many of them apply to both men and women. May the Lord bless us as we seek to serve Him correctly and encourage others to join us, both male and female.

5 comments on “Can women teach in the church or not?

  1. Excellent article. Well articulated. As an ordained minister, I’ve never had the desire to “have a church” or to preach from the pulpit. I love chaplaincy work. Loving and touching others for Him. Teaching? How about sharing God’s Word…and that’s what we should all be doing.

  2. I’d love to get your views on head coverings. It’s confusing to me that women aren’t required to wear head coverings anymore but the Bible clearly states it.

  3. Pingback: Does God forbid women from teaching men? | Erik and Elena Brewer's Weblog

  4. Hi Erik, thank you for shedding so much light on this subject. There are some who continuously challenge a woman who teaches and constantly argue that it is not right with a lot of scriptures evidently pulled out of context. Particularly the ones you have mentioned. And I guess the confusion is that there are verses about which women cannot teach but no verses stating that women are allowed to teach. I believe women can teach others and I agree with everything you said, I just would like some instructions on how to convert with people who use the verses where it says a woman cannot teach. Because some know the scriptures and hold this view very strongly. Do you have any advice how to approach situations like these?

    • I wish I knew how to “convert” people to the correct way of thinking. Only the Lord has the power to do that. Don’t argue with them. They will pull you down to their level and beat you with experience. Know what the Word teaches. Have confidence that the Lord has called you and is equipping you. Continue to make disciples. While they are busy criticizing you, you will be busy storing up treasures in heaven. God will reveal all things in His timing. Don’t seek to please people who do not have a teachable spirit. I referenced this article in the article:

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