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Question

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I've been talking with a person who says Acts 2:17-18 gives women the right to be preachers. I showed him 1 Corinthians 14:34-37 and 1 Timothy 2:11-12. I said woman have divinely been given a place, but that place is not to be in authority over a man.


"But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: 'And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, that I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams. And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; and they shall prophesy.'" (Acts 2:16-18).

The passage cited does prove that both men and women would be granted the ability to prophesy. Later in Acts, we find references to the daughters of Philip who were prophetesses (Acts 21:9). We also know that women prophesied because rules were given as to how they were to dress when prophesying, "But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, for that is one and the same as if her head were shaved" (I Corinthians 11:5). [A rule that women in the Pentecostal churches typically ignore, by the way.]

However, two errors are made in asserting that Acts 2:17-18 proves women can be preachers. First, there is an assumption that prophets and preachers were the same position in the church. Paul shows that this is not the case in Ephesians 4:11, "And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers." There were some who held multiple duties. In other words, there were some who were both preachers (evangelists) and prophets, but all preachers were not necessarily prophets and all prophets were not necessarily preachers.

The second error is to assume that all prophets did their work publicly in the assembly of the church. We know that some prophecies were delivered privately. For instance, Agabus delivered a message to Paul directly to him (Acts 21:10-11). Paul also tells us that when a prophecy was delivered was under control of the prophet. "And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets" (I Corinthians 14:32). Paul used this point to prove that multiple prophets in a congregation did not have to speak at once, but each could wait his turn. "For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged" (I Corinthians 14:31). Paul also limited the number of prophecies that could be given in one assembly. "Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge" (I Corinthians 14:29). So even if a congregation had many prophets, only two or three could speak in an assembly.

Now, if we understand and accept that prophecy could be regulated, then Paul's next words are understandable, even though controversial in today's society. "Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church. Or did the word of God come originally from you? Or was it you only that it reached? If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord" (I Corinthians 14:34-37). Notice carefully that Paul states, "it is shameful for women to speak in church" and he does so in the context of giving prophecy. His argument is that the word of God did not originally come from women, nor was it only directed toward women. He then issues a challenge that if any one wishes to claim to be a prophet, they must acknowledge that what Paul said was God's position on the matter.

So while there were women who prophesied, it is very clear that they were not allowed to do so in the worship assembly. Yet, the entire line of reasoning is for naught because prophecy has come to an end. "Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away." (I Corinthians 13:8-10). Proving that there once were women prophesying does not prove that women may preach.

One of the duties of a preacher is teach others in the worship assembly. How can this be done when Paul plainly states in forceful terms that women must keep silent in the churches? In addition, preachers are to teach others with authority, "Speak these things, exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no one despise you" (Titus 2:15). Yet Paul states in another letter, "And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence" (I Timothy 2:12). A woman is not allowed to teach a man, nor to have authority over a man. Hence, to fulfill this verse, a woman cannot act in the role of a preacher (speaking, exhorting, and rebuking with all authority) and not teach or have authority over a man.

This conclusion is supported when we scan through the Scriptures. There is no record of any woman preacher.


See also:

Questions and Answers regarding a Woman's Role
Questions and Answers regarding Prophecy
Questions and Answers regarding Preachers