Women Can Sing But They Can’t Preach

Women Can Sing But They Can’t Preach September 6, 2023

Social media has become a very useful tool for sharing information.  We can become knowledgeable on a plethora of topics just by opening up an app or two and exploring.  One of the most popular pieces of content to digest now is videos.  We can consume videos of people dancing and singing, but they dare not be of a woman preaching.

I recently experienced this type of rejection on social media myself.  But get this, I wasn’t even preaching!  Our pastor was invited to be the guest speaker on a program and our choir was asked to sing.  As we were singing, a young lady was streaming live to Facebook.  Most of the commenters expressed contentment with the song, but not everyone shared this sentiment entirely.  One young man commented on the post saying, “Yes, she can sing, but God don’t call women to preach.”

Will We Escape Tradition?

Throughout history, women have been told what they can and cannot do.  Many roles exclude women, considering them the antithesis of men.  But is this true as it deals with our roles in the kingdom of God?  Must men and women operate with gender specific tasks as believers?

I can think of several women in the Bible who were used to carry out a kingdom task.  But the most important task of all was that of the virgin Mary.  Mary was chosen to carry the Living Word inside of her for 9 months.  She was special enough to bring forth God incarnate so that we could receive salvation.  If this is not proof enough of the importance of women in ministry, I don’t know what is.  But in case there is still some convincing to do, let’s go a little further.

Noteworthy Women in the Bible

Queen Esther not only gives us a really nice hero story, but she shows us something more beautiful.  She shows us that she, like Moses, could possibly be seen as a type of Christ.  Just like Christ gave His life to save humanity, Queen Esther sacrificed her life to save the Jewish nation.  She risked her life by requesting to go before the king, because God placed an assignment on the inside of her to carry out.

Had the Jewish people been eliminated, the Savior would not have been able to come.  So, God placed Queen Esther right where she needed to be when she needed to be there.  And she also did something that shows how beneficial unity is.  She asked that all the Jews come together to fast with her before she went in to see the king.  The actions of Queen Esther potentialized great risks, but because she knew the importance of the mission, she proceeded anyhow.

Another woman of significance in Scripture was a judge and a prophet, Deborah.  What makes the story of Deborah so powerful is not the titles she held but the respect she amassed.  When it was time to go to battle against Sisera, Barak basically told her, “Yeah, um, I’m not going unless you go.”  This goes to show the confidence Barak had in her and the extraordinary favor she had with God.

Operating with the Spirit

If we go on in Scripture, we see several women who labored in the Gospel.  Amongst these women are those who labored alongside Paul and the other apostles.  We see God’s Spirit at work in these people to do what needed to be done for the sake of the Gospel.

We also see a very special message from God about His Spirit and what it would allow for.  In Acts 2:16–18, Luke echoes the prophet, Joel’s words.

“But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:
‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams;
even on My male servants and female servants
in those days I will pour out My Spirit, and they shall prophesy.’”

If we were to examine these words carefully, we would realize that God speaks of His Spirit being poured out on all flesh.  Since God is spirit and we must worship Him in spirit and truth, we must also operate from that Spirit.  This would mean that God is not concerned with gender, but with how His Spirit is moving in those who say they are His.  God does not use a man or a woman to carry out His plans; He uses His Spirit.  The Spirit that does not discriminate because all He wants is for people to receive Him.

Other words that have been examined in Scripture are the words of Paul in 1 Timothy 2.  These words serve as the supporting argument that excludes women from certain ministry tasks.  But have these words been examined properly?

A Closer Look at 1 Timothy

When studying Scripture, it’s imperative to consider several things: language, history, culture, audience, and context.  Applying this to Paul’s 1st letter to Timothy will help to determine whether this is a general or specific letter.  Meaning, whether it is a letter for the body of Christ as a whole or for a specific audience.

In his letter to Timothy, Paul was addressing a specific problem. Therefore, he had to give specific instructions.  First, let’s look at what the word “quietly” means in 2:11.  If we were to say that women should not utter a word in the presence of a man ever, then that would mean that everyone else would have to do the same in order to live the “peaceful and quiet lives” Paul mentioned in verse 2.  So, paying careful attention to this word used in this letter would mean that context matters.  To be “quiet” here would not mean total silence, but rather, controlled, reserved, restrained, or without disturbance.

A Problem Still Exists

But in verse 12, Paul still says, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.”  If we look at this passage in view of its application, we find that we, ourselves, may apply certain instructions loosely.  When Paul speaks about how women should adorn themselves, some see this as only culturally applicable.  This is proven by how some men that believe women cannot preach or teach men approve of their wives’ costly ensembles and extravagant appearances.  But when he speaks about women being quiet, some take it to be universal.  Why is this?

Maybe it’s because at times, we interpret Scripture based on how we want it to fit our own preconceived biases and opinions.  To look at part of this passage as non-applicable and the other as fully applicable is taking the letter as a whole out of context.  If we do this and pass our own theology of women’s roles through these verses, we will end up with an inconsistent interpretation of what a woman’s function is in the kingdom entirely.

The Double Standard

I do not wish to sound harsh, and maybe this deserves disabuse.  But for a moment, let’s compare the rejection of women in certain ministry roles to racism.  Racism is a form of discrimination that distinguishes one group of people inferior to another based on their racial or ethnic group.  Prohibiting women from working in particular ministry roles is in essence doing the same.  It is deeming women too inferior to preach or teach God’s Word.  And this inferiority would leave us deficient in carrying out the Great Commission.

If women couldn’t preach or teach, think about all the souls that would not hear the Word of God.  Think about all of those who would remain lost.  There are not enough men in the world to carry the Word to all four corners of the world.  Do we really think God that derelict to forsake so many only because He doesn’t want to use a woman?  I would only imagine God saying, “if they are working for Me and are not against Me, then leave them be.”

Harmony in the Kingdom

Our world is already plagued with enough hate and division.  That’s the desire of the prince of this world.  So, we need not give in to the tactics of the enemy and tear down our own brothers and sisters. Those voices that are needed to preach to a lost world.  If you look at the schemes of division Satan employs, you’ll notice a few common themes—race, gender, and status.  However, if I remember correctly, Paul reminds us that these things are inconsequential in view of Christ.

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.   And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” (Galatians 3:28–29 ESV)

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