Can Women teach in the church?
Dear BPCWAians, Recently, someone imbibed and sought to convince some in our church the belief that women should not be allowed to teach women anything relating to doctrines. This person, before leaving our church, tried to sway people to believe that women can only teach things related to womanhood. And even if women were allowed to teach these things, the women must not do so in the church building, but in people’s houses instead. Is this a biblical concept? What does the Bible say about women teaching in the church? What can women teach?
The need to address this issue. Worshippers may hold different views about certain practices, but when the views are clearly unbiblical, it is no longer a case of personal liberty, but it becomes doctrinal error. Whenever someone seeks to promote any erroneous beliefs which challenge the beliefs and practices of the church, it needs to be addressed openly, since it is being promulgated to worshipers in the church. If not, there will be dissent, which will spread like leaven. Immature believers may be misled, and confusion will result. Eventually, if not addressed, the soundness of the church will be impacted, and her peace and unity will be threatened. Also, it is not uncommon for people who have left to continue to try to influence and disrupt the church from outside. If the church does not address such errors, then Satan will use people and the situation to his evil advantage.
Should women be allowed to teach? Are there Scriptural evidences that women did teach in the church itself? If so, was it prohibited? The instance in 1 Cor 11:4-5 clearly indicates that similarly with the men, the women did publicly teach and pray in the church, “(4) Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head. (5) But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven”. Both men and women were mentioned in public praying and prophesying in the church. The word prophecy means to foretell (ie prophesies of the future) as well as forth-tell (ie teach something forthrightly eg teach). The Apostle Paul did not condemn women publicly forthtelling in church at all. He mentioned both men and women. But it was women forthtelling (ie teaching) with the head uncovered that was the issue. Later, we shall see what the uncovering of the head refers to.
Should women be allowed to teach in the church building? The context for what the Apostle Paul was addressing above is found in 1 Cor 11:16, “But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God”. Paul stated that if any man wanted to argue with him about this matter, then please note that other “churches of God” practiced what he taught and also would not accept the custom of women praying and teaching without covering her head, or the man doing so with his head covered (1 Cor 11:13-15). This covering of head is obviously not referring to a private home setting but public church setting as he was dealing with the principles of church public practices. So there were women in the churches of God publicly praying and teaching in the church building itself (which Paul did not prohibit), except they needed to do so with their head covered.
Are there other instances of women teaching? Certainly. It is found in Titus 2:3-5 where the Apostle Paul specifically instructed Pastor Titus to tell the women to teach, “(3) The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; (4) That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, (5) To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed”. Again, God is not against women teaching.
What were women told to teach women? Unlike some who insist that women can only teach what are related to womanhood, and that women cannot teach any Bible doctrines, the Bible says otherwise. They were to be “teachers of good things” (Titus 2:3) and teach other women “to be sober” (Titus 2:4), among other things relating to being a wife and mother. Women were told to teach “good things” in general, and “soberness”, which are surely beyond just “doctrines relating to womanhood only”. Titus was told by Paul, “But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1). The Greek word for doctrine is didaskalia from the root word didaskalos. It means teachings, instructions, and precepts. Women were told to be “teachers of good things” (Titus 2:3). The Greek word for “teachers of good things” is just one word, made up of 2 parts kalo-didaskalos. The first part means “good” (from kalos), the second (didaskalos) is from the same root word as “doctrine” found in Titus 2:1. Perhaps some think that “doctrines” can only mean complicated theological concepts only, hence to be “sober” is not a doctrine then. But Paul told Titus to speak “sound doctrines” (Titus 2:1) to the young men which included soberness (Titus 2:2)! The word “teach” and “teacher” in Greek comes from this same root word didaskalos. You cannot separate doctrines from teachings. Biblical teachings regarding good things and soberness are instructions in doctrinal precepts. In order to teach a wife to love and submit to her own husband, you cannot avoid teaching about the doctrines concerning Christ and His Church in order to be sound and complete. To teach younger women to love their husbands and children without building it upon the foundation of Biblical doctrines is to teach mere moral interpersonal ethics. This is not true Christian living but is in effect teaching your own standard, not obedience to God’s expectations and standards. God’s standards are based on doctrines. To think that Paul only allowed women to teach things like sewing, cooking, cleaning, and wifehood is twisting Scriptures.
But what about women being told by the Apostle Paul to “keep silence in the churches” (1 Cor 14:34) and “I suffer not a woman to teach” (1 Tim 2:12)? Who can women teach? We shall look at these next week. However, for now, we have established clearly from Scriptures that (1) there were women teaching publicly in the church, (2) God did not condemn this public teaching, but warned about how women should do so (more next week) and (3) Pastor Titus was specifically instructed to tell the aged women to teach the younger women good doctrines, not just those relating to womanhood only.
Yours in our Lord’s service