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Can Mrs Jones Preach in Church?

05/04/2014

The Mothers’ Day Dilemma: Can Mrs Jones Preach in Church?

We have now passed the non-Christian, card-industry invented festival of Mothers’ Day, so I wonder if it is now safe to make a few comments about the practices of some churches (some of whom claim to be bible-believing evangelicals) of allowing the services on that ‘festival’ to be conducted, and preached, by women. To be totally up-front, I believe that there is no excuse for such a practice, and that the use of an artificial ‘festival’ to introduce non-Biblical worship into the Christian church is sinful, and that churches who do so should repent of it and seek to obey God’s Word alone in their worship.

Of course, the real issue is not whether women ‘can’ preach, but whether they ‘SHOULD’ preach. A number of years ago I was speaking at a Bible Study, where the assigned text was 1 Corinthians 14, and although the topic was not specifically about woman preachers, I had to touch on the topic to complete our study of the chapter. I pointed out that a woman should not challenge God’s established order, by usurping authority over the men, – and since preaching is an authoritative act, we should not permit women to preach to the gathered church. An elderly man, sitting right at the back of the hall must have been greatly stirred by the message! He rose to his feet and loudly shouted, “I have four daughters, brother, and every single one of them can preach better than you!” I replied that I’m sure that his assertion was true, but that did not give them the right to do so!

But why should a woman remain in the pews on Mother’s Day, (or at any other time) when it is an excellent opportunity (some would argue) for attracting extra people, and for evangelism? Let’s explore some basic reasons:

1. Evangelism must be done God’s way.
Evangelism MUST include the proper distinction between the Law and the Gospel. A sinner must be brought under the stern rebuke of the law, must be made to understand the weight and burden of sin that he is carrying, must come to the point of mourning over that sin, and sorrowing over it, understanding and sensing the hopelessness and lostness of his depraved condition. Only then will that sinner realise the need to turn to One who can rescue him for his lostness. Only then can the comforting message of the Gospel be proclaimed, – the good news that Christ shed his blood on the cross for sinners, and freely offers them pardon and forgiveness. That is the GOSPEL. How can we plead with sinners to repent of their sins and turn to Christ in a service that is designed to ‘celebrate everything that is motherhood?’

2. The gathering of the church is for believers.

An American megachurch has a membership covenant, which includes the line, “We want your seat.” What it really means is that its services are for unbelievers. Why? The point of the church meeting in a gathered format on the Lord’s Day is for the Congregation of Saints to lift their voices together and offer worship to God. It is for prayer, and confession and repentance and the ministry of God’s Word, – where pastors can break the bread of life to the people, can feed the sheep as they are commissioned by God to do, and where the divinely ordained sacraments of the church, baptism and the Lord’s Supper can be observed, as a visual reminder of the Gospel, and as signs and seals of the Covenant of Grace. That makes a church gathering vastly different from any other gathering in this world. It is not for entertainment, or for cultural expression. It is to exalt and please God and to build up the body of Christ. To wrest the worship of God from its context and purpose, and use it to ‘celebrate womanhood’ using the feeble excuse that it might draw in unbelievers is nothing less than accommodation with the philosophy and practice of this world.

3. God’s Word simply forbids it.

And that is the most important reason of all, and it brings us back to 1 Corinthians 14:33-40, where it seems that this is a problem that needs to be addressed. Paul writes:

33. As in all the churches of the saints,
34 the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says.
35 If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.
36 Or was it from you that the word of God came? Or are you the only ones it has reached?
37 If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord.
38 If anyone does not recognise this, he is not recognised.
39 So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues.
40 But all things should be done decently and in order.
ESV

 

Paul makes it clear that women should be silent in the church (He is speaking in this chapter about the gathered church, meeting for worship). Paul, working in a structured argument, working from lessor to greater gives four reasons why women should not preach:-

It is the practice IN ALL THE CHURCHES. As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. It just isn’t done. Not in Corinth and not anywhere else in the early church – except of course in false cults and schismatical movements (like the early Montanists). In fact it was not done in the orthodox church for two thousand years, – until we late twentieth century liberals, influenced by political activism and political correctness decided that we knew better than Scripture and better than the historical Christian thinkers of earlier (and arguably more theologically enlightened) times.

It is in keeping with the LAW. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. Women were not permitted to serve as priests in the temple in the Old Testament church. Why would this change?

It is SHAMEFUL. 35 If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church. Not shameful, of course in the eyes of the world, or in the eyes of this liberal, left leaning modern society, but shameful in the eyes of God, for it directly contradicts the system of order that he has established in the church,which was designed so that Jesus, the Head of the Church, should alone receive the honour and glory rightly due to Him.

Paul received this command as a DIRECT REVELATION from God. The apex of Paul’s argument.  In effect he is saying, ‘Jesus gave me this comand to give to you…’  Now this cannot be reversed by any such ‘revelation’ today. Pau received this revelation because he was an apostle, and there are no more apostles. Paul was the last one who would see Jesus, and the next time we see him will be when we meet him in glory, or when he returns for his church. There are no more instances of such direct revelation either, for God has finally spoken to us in his word, and given us everything that we need to know in order to understand our sinful condition, and our need of a Saviour, and who that Saviour is, and what He did for us, and to then, having trusted him, live lives that reflect our gratitude and thanks for his love for us. But Paul was an apostle, and he reminds the would-be theologians and men of discernment in Corinth that 37 If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord. 38 If anyone does not recognise this, he is not recognised. The fact that this is ‘the word of the Lord’ – a command directly from Jesus Himself would seem to me to be what settles the matter.

 

I know that many people (surprisingly, many evangelicals) will argue that this is a cultural instruction, given to the unruly women of the Corinthian church, who were distracting from worship by speaking out. They use the argument that Paul is speaking about ORDER in the church, and thus about proper reverence and respect in the house of God. Yet there is much more to the term ‘Order’ than this. In this context, ORDER is referring to the STRUCTURE of headship that God has ordered in the church, and to see that, we need to look at 1 Corinthians 11.

11:2-3 Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you. But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.

Christ is the sole Head of the church, and the appointed structure of authority in the church is designed by God to represent that order. Preaching is ‘taking authority’ over the congregation. It is not the task of a woman. A woman’s vocation is different, – her role of responsibility is to exercise a godly influence upon her home. In 1 Timothy 2:12-15. Paul writes:

I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.

Mothers’ Day services, woman preachers, – these things are in direct contradiction to God’s Word. They are disobedience, and as such they are SINFUL and sin cannot bring glory to God or convert sinners to Christ. We must repent of these ungodly and unwarranted practices and return to The Lord, and seek to obey his Word, not the culture around us.

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