Women Pastors


One of the most debated topics in the Christian world today is the role of a woman within the church, especially when it comes to being a pastor or public preaching on the Lord’s Day. The only way to end these debates is to simply go to the Scriptures and ask the question, What do the Scriptures say about this topic?

In Christianity today, it seems that anyone who preaches or teaches is now classed as a ‘pastor’, even though they don’t have the qualifications to be a pastor. And let me say this too, in light of our topic, the Bible knows no such thing as a women pastor, if you look at the qualifications to become a pastor/elder, we see that an elder, needs to be male, the ‘husband of one wife,’ ‘a man whose children believe,’ and ‘men worthy of respect.’ 1 Timothy 3:1-13 / Titus 1:6-9

‘A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.’ 1 Timothy 2:11-12

I don’t claim to understand all the arguments when Paul makes it absolutely clear what he means here. Paul restricts women from teaching or having spiritual authority over men. Now it may not read that clear in the text at first glance, the focus is on pastoring or shepherding. A pastor’s duties are primarily teaching and leading, 1 Timothy 3:2 / Titus 1:9, it’s this shepherding role over men that God, through Paul, restricts to men.

As far as I’m aware there are a few arguments about the interpretation of what Paul means in relation to women pastors in 1 Timothy 2:11-12.


1. People argue that women in Bible times were uneducated, and therefore not qualified to be teachers. They say that the passage nowhere mentions education, they say that education isn’t mentioned as a qualification for church leadership in 1 Timothy 3:1-13 or Titus 1:6-9.

This argument falls on its face when we understand that, if education was a requirement, few, if any, of Jesus’ disciples would have been qualified. We’ve already seen in 1 Timothy 3:2 / Titus 1:9 that teaching is a requirement for a pastor.

2. Others argue that Paul was only dealing with Artemis worship at the Lord’s church, where Timothy was in Ephesus.

But again this argument falls flat when you read the context and all of 1 Timothy for that matter. You will notice that nowhere does it mention Artemis or the prominence of women in the worship of Artemis. If there was a problem with women assuming authority over men in the church in Ephesus, surely, Paul would have addressed it directly.

3. Others argue that Paul’s referring to husbands and wives, not men and women. They say that wives are not to teach or have authority over their husbands.

It’s true that the Greek words could refer to husbands and wives, but the context indicates otherwise.

‘Therefore, I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing. I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.’ 1 Timothy 2:8-10

Ask yourself these questions, are only husbands to lift up holy hands in prayer? Are only wives to dress modestly? Again, it’s all about context and the immediate context indicates that men and women, in general, are the subject, not husbands and wives exclusively.

4. Still there are others who argue that there are women in the Bible who served in ways that contradict this interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:11-12. Miriam, Deborah, Huldah, Priscilla, and Phoebe are the most commonly given examples.

With all due respect, and not to belittle these women, but Miriam, Deborah, and Huldah are meaningless to the issue, as Paul is addressing leadership in the church. Leadership in the old covenant of Israel isn’t the subject at hand.

And when we look at Priscilla and Phoebe, the New Testament nowhere describes them as serving in a way that contradicts 1 Timothy 2:11-12. Priscilla, with her husband Aquila, discipled Apollos in their home, Acts 18:26. Phoebe is simply identified as a servant of the church. Romans 16:1.

5. One more argument points to Galatians 3:28 which says that men and women are equal in God’s eyes.

‘There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.’ Galatians 3:28

Yes, men and women are absolutely equal in God’s eyes, but that’s not the issue. The subject of Galatians 3:28 is equality in Christ, equal access to the salvation Christ offers. Men and women, Jews and Gentiles, slave and free are absolutely equal in this context. Context, context, context, church leadership isn’t the subject of Galatians 3:28.

And again, as any Bible student will know that we can’t take one verse and use it to cancel out another verse. Both Galatians 3:28 and 1 Timothy 2:11-12 are absolutely true and they don’t contradict each other.

So, let’s get back to answering our question, if education, culture, or marriage aren’t the reason for the restriction on women in 1 Timothy 2:11-12, what is the reason?

‘For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.’ 1 Timothy 2:13-14

It’s amazing what we can learn if we would only read on and keep things in their proper context, isn’t it? The order of creation and the nature of the fall impacts spiritual leadership in the church, and in the family.

‘Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Saviour.’ Ephesians 5:22-33

Women aren’t to teach or have spiritual authority over men because women were created to be ‘helpers’ to men and because Eve was deceived into sin. Through creation, and because of the Fall, God has chosen to give men the primary teaching authority in the church.

Do you remember Eve’s punishment for her part in the Fall?

‘To the woman he said, ‘I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labour you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.’ Genesis 3:16

So, in practical terms, what does all this mean? What exactly is it that God is restricting women from doing?

The answer is straightforward, women are not to serve in any role which involves the authoritative spiritual teaching of men. By this definition, the role of teaching pastor/shepherd is reserved for men.

This is confirmed in the two passages which deal specifically with the qualifications for church leadership. 1 Timothy 3:1-13 / Titus 1:6-9. As I mentioned earlier, church leaders are described as the ‘husband of one wife,’ ‘a man whose children believe,’ and ‘men worthy of respect.’

God’s Design

We must always bear in mind that God designed man to be the ‘head’ of woman, this included in society, in the church, and in the home, 1 Corinthians 11:3 / Ephesians 5:22-24. This design of authority rests on two facts.

1. The original make-up of the sexes as created, and,

2. The woman’s role in the fall.

‘The LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’ Genesis 2:18

‘So, the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals. But for Adam no suitable helper was found.’ Genesis 2:20

Notice what this passage says, it says that woman was made as a helper for man, not the reverse.

‘For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.’ 1 Corinthians 11:8-9

‘For Adam was first formed, then Eve’. 1 Timothy 2:13

As to the woman’s role in the fall, she believed Satan’s lie that she might become as God, and hence, was deceived. Genesis 3:13 / 2 Corinthians 11:3 / 1 Timothy 2:14. Whereas Adam, wasn’t deceived, 1 Timothy 2:14, but merely sinned due to his weakness for the woman, Genesis 3:12. Accordingly, woman’s subjection was increased after her fall. Genesis 3:16.

Please remember that these facts don’t suggest for one moment that woman is inferior to man in any shape or form, but they do mean, that she is subordinate in rank to man. We should also point out that as Christ’s subjection to the Father involved no deprivation of dignity, Philippians 2:5-11, so there is none in woman’s subjection to man.

My wife always muses me when people start to talk about the role of a woman in the church, she always says, ‘as a woman, a wife and a mother, God has given me enough responsibilities to be getting on with.’

One of the problems of discussing women’s role within the church is that the focus is almost always on what they can’t do, rather what they can do and should be doing within the body of Christ. And make no mistake about it, God has called women to serve and use their gifts for His glory.

The New Testament authorises women a domain of authority within the home, younger widows are advised to marry, bear children, and ‘rule the household’. 1 Timothy 5:14.

In Philippians 4:2-3, Paul comments that Euodia and Syntyche ‘laboured’ with him in the Gospel, he calls them, along with others, his ‘fellow-workers.’

Countless Christian women have assisted Gospel preachers in numerous ways without ever having become public preachers themselves. Paul mentioned to the church in Rome that Aquila and Priscilla put their necks on the line for the Apostle Paul, Romans 16:4.

You will also notice when you read your Bible that women are nowhere restricted from proclaiming the Gospel to the lost.

‘Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervour and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.’ Acts 18:24-26

Women are encouraged to teach other women.

‘Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.’ Titus 2:3-5

When you read your Bible, you will see that women are nowhere restricted from teaching children. The truth of the matter is that women seem to excel, far beyond men, in some areas when it comes to using their gifts, they are great communicators, wonderful counsellors, very hospitable and great listeners. God’s women make a huge and important contribution to the kingdom of Christ on earth.

Whether they are continuing steadfastly in prayer, Acts 1:14, doing good works and charities deeds, Acts 9:36, showing hospitality, Acts 12:12 / Acts 16:14 / 1 Timothy 5:10, teaching the Word in harmony with God’s Word, Acts 18:26 / Titus 2:3-4, being good wives, Proverbs 31:10ff, raising godly children, 2 Timothy 1:5 / 2 Timothy 3:14-15, or accomplishing various other commendable tasks.

Ladies, you are such a blessing to any congregation and your acts of service are much appreciated, even though they go unnoticed at times. You are usually the backbone of any congregation which keeps things ticking over in the background.

And please understand this, you should see these restrictions from spiritual teaching authority over men, not as a punishment but as a refocusing of the ministries, skills, and gifts God has blessed you with.