ORDINATION OF WOMEN?
The most widely used argument against the ordination of women comes from 1 Corinthians; therefore, that will be the text I use in this very basic defense of their legitimate call to ministry. This work is purposefully focused and brief. The following will mention the gift of tongues and prophecy, but my purpose is not to debate whether these gifts have ceased or not. I only mention them as they are in the context of women ministering in the church.
It must be remembered that the “book” of 1 Corinthians is actually an epistle, a letter. In communication today it is still rather common to carry on a conversation from a previous one through letters, emails, texts, blogs, etc. In fact, 1 Corinthians is the continuation of a previous conversation as can be seen by verse one of the seventh chapter:
1 Corinthians 7:1 – “Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman” (ESV).
We can notice a couple of things from this verse:
- 1. Paul is changing the course of his letter in order to address their previously written questions;
2. They must have had questions regarding the roles of women in the church at Corinth.
When Paul gets to chapter 12 he speaks about spiritual gifts, and in chapter 13 he contrasts the gifts with love, and in chapter 14 he contrasts tongues with prophecy.
Verses 34-36 are the source of much confusion, debate and even bickering in relation to the ordination of women. Paul says something that is discovered only by way of careful exegesis:
“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” (1 Cor. 14:34, ESV).
There is something very intriguing and suspicious to take note of in the above verse. The “Law” or “Torah” mentioned in the above verse never makes one single claim or command for women to be silent in the church. Yet, verse 34 still says, “as the Law also says.” How do we explain this? The only way to reconcile this is to conclude that Paul is referring to a cultural law. This can be supported by the fact Paul always taught believers to obey the government and laws of the land (see Romans 13).
The two verses located above are NOT instructions from Paul. Instead, it is Paul repeating what they had originally written to him in a previous letter so that they would know the context of his statements to come. He was reminding them of their own words by giving them a summary of what he was about to address.
1 Corinthians 14:36 – “Or was it from you that the word of God came? Or are you the only ones it has reached” (ESV)?
Paul’s question in verse 36 is rhetorical. In a sense he’s saying, “WHAT?!?!?” Did the word of God only come to men? Of course not, God gave His Word to both men and women; for example, Miriam and Deborah both prophesied the word of the Lord. In addition, he had earlier given instructions on how women were suppose to share the Word with the church in 1 Corinthians 11:5. And even in the context of that passage he points out that it is a cultural situation (1 Corinthians 11:2).
1 Corinthians 11:5 – “but every wife who prays or prohesies…” (ESV, emphasis mine).
1 Corinthians 11:2 – “…maintain the traditions…” (ESV).
From this it must be concluded that women are free to use spiritual gifts in the church. Paul gives the following commands:
“For you can ALL prophesy one by one, so that ALL may learn and ALL may be
encouraged” (1 Cor. 14:31, emphasis mine, ESV).
“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. If anyone does not
recognize this, he is not recognized” (1 Cor. 14:27, 38, emphasis mine, ESV).
“and do not forbid speaking in tongues” (1 Cor. 14:39, emphasis mine, ESV).
Again, this short treatment is not about tongues and prophecy. But these passages do show that women prophesied and that no one was to be forbidden from using tongues.
In conclusion, men and women clearly have different roles in the spiritual authority of their homes, that pattern is seen throughout Scripture. But, in the church, where we are all in Christ, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave or free, there is no male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28, ESV). Furthermore, it is Christ who is the Head of the Church, not man or even a pastor.