Women’s Role in the Church

Often questions come up in our churches, should the sisters preach sermons from our pulpits, because Apostle Paul writes, “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.” 1 Cor. 14: 34, 35.

But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.” 1 Tim. 2:12.

At the time that Paul wrote these verses both Greek and Jewish custom was that women should be kept in the background in public affairs. Violation of this custom would be looked upon as disgraceful and would bring reproach upon the church.

Ministry of Women in the Old Testament

God chose women to be prophetesses, and even as judges of His people.

“Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time. She used to sit under the palm of DeborahÉ and the people of Israel came up to her for judgment.” Judges 4: 4, 5.

The Old Testament does not exclude women from leadership positions but only from the role of priests.

The story of Huldah, the prophetess shows the important ministry that women fulfilled in the life of Ancient Israel. The king Josiah sent the high priest and other notables to the prophetess Huldah to inquire of the Lord for him. (2 Kings 22: 13, 14) He could have sent these men to Jeremiah or Zephaniah who were contemporary prophets, but he decided to send them to a woman prophetess. This shows that women were considered equals to men in this office.

Ministry of Women in the New Testament

Women as well as men participated in the prophetic ministry of the apostolic church. Acts 2:19 speaks of the four daughters of Philip, “who prophesied.”

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” Gal. 3:28.

“Women also should be chosen who can present the truth in a clear, intelligent, straightforward manner.” Ev. 472.

“Sister R and Sister W are doing just as efficient work as the ministers; and some meetings when the ministers are all called away, Sister W takes the Bible and addresses the congregation.” Ev. 473.

“Teach this, my sister. You have many ways opened before you. Address the crowd whenever you can; hold every jot of influence you can by any association that can be made the means of introducing the leaven to the mealÉ intelligent women, if truly converted, can act a part in this work of holding Bible classes. There is a wide field of service for women as well as for men.” Ev. 473, 474.

“The experience thus gained will be of the greatest value to those who are fitting themselves for the ministry. It is the accompaniment of the Holy Spirit of God that prepares workers, both men and women, to become pastors to the flock of God.” Test. Vol. 6, p. 322.

“Ellen White would not stand in the pulpit to speak at the Sabbath morning worship service if James White was present. He would take the Sabbath morning service, and she would speak in the afternoon. Only when he was stricken with paralysis in 1865 and for some time could not take his place in public work did she depart from this procedure.” Ellen G. White the Person, p. 20.

When a capable minister is not present, then sisters may have to stand in the pulpit and deliver a sermon.

Timo Martin