“Women’s role in the church according to the Bible” is a topic of great interest and controversy among Christians today. Many different interpretations of Scripture have contributed to various opinions on the matter.
While some argue that women’s roles in the church should be limited based on gender, others believe that women should be able to serve in any position for which they are gifted and called.
In this article, we will explore the Bible’s teachings on women’s roles in the church and seek to understand how we can create a more inclusive and fulfilling community of believers that reflects God’s love and grace.
Women’s Role In The Church According To The Bible
The Bible has been interpreted in different ways regarding the role of women in the church. On the one hand, the Old Testament contains examples of women in leadership roles, such as Deborah and Huldah.
In the early church, women played important roles as evangelists and church leaders. However, some Bible verses have been interpreted as prohibiting women from teaching or having authority over men and instructing them to submit to male authority.
Despite this, women continue to participate in church activities, including worship services, and some have been recognized for their spiritual gifts and callings.
Women also play a role in marriage, family, evangelism, and missions. The interpretation of the Bible regarding women’s roles in the church continues to be a topic of debate and discussion in many Christian communities.
Women’s Leadership in the Old Testament
“Deborah, a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time. She held court under the Palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites went up to her to have their disputes decided” (Judges 4:4-5, NIV).
“Hilkiah the priest…went to speak to the prophet Huldah, who was the wife of Shallum son of Tokhath, the son of Hasrah, keeper of the wardrobe. She lived in Jerusalem, in the New Quarter” (2 Kings 22:14, NIV). Later in the same chapter, Huldah delivers her prophecy to the king and his officials.
“Then Miriam the prophet, Aaron’s sister, took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women followed her, with timbrels and dancing. Miriam sang to them: ‘Sing to the Lord, for he is highly exalted. Both horse and driver he has hurled into the sea'” (Exodus 15:20-21, NIV). Miriam is also described as a leader and prophetess in Exodus 2:4-8 and Numbers 12:1-15.
“Sarah lived to be a hundred and twenty-seven years old. She died at Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan, and Abraham went to mourn for Sarah and to weep over her” (Genesis 23:1-2, NIV). Sarah is also mentioned as a woman of faith in Hebrews 11:11-12.
“Before he [Isaac] had finished praying, Rebekah came out with her jar on her shoulder. She was the daughter of Bethuel son of Milkah, who was the wife of Abraham’s brother Nahor. The woman was very beautiful, a virgin; no man had ever slept with her. She went down to the spring, filled her jar and came up again” (Genesis 24:15-16, NIV). Rebekah is also depicted as a woman of strong character and discernment in Genesis 24:17-67.
These are just a few examples of women in leadership roles in the Old Testament.
Women’s Role in the Early Church
Here are some examples of women’s roles in the early Christian church, along with corresponding Bible verses:
“Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance” (John 20:1, NIV). Mary Magdalene is also mentioned as a witness to the crucifixion and burial of Jesus (Matthew 27:56, Mark 15:40-41, Luke 23:55-56).
“I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae. I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of his people and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been the benefactor of many people, including me” (Romans 16:1-2, NIV).
“Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was” (Romans 16:7, NIV). The exact identity of Junia is debated among scholars, but some suggest that she was a female apostle.
“Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in Christ Jesus. They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them” (Romans 16:3-4, NIV). Priscilla is also mentioned as a teacher of the Gospel alongside her husband, Aquila (Acts 18:26).
These are just a few examples of women’s roles in the early Christian church as depicted in the Bible.
Women’s Prohibition to Teach and Have Authority over Men
In some parts of the Bible, some passages suggest that women are prohibited from teaching or having authority over men in the church.
For example, in 1 Timothy 2:12, it is written: “I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.” Similarly, 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 is written: “Women should remain silent in the churches, and theythey are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says.”
These passages have been interpreted in different ways by scholars and religious leaders. Some argue they are specific to the cultural context in which they were written and did not apply to women’s roles in the modern church.
Others interpret them more strictly, believing that they indicate a permanent, God-ordained prohibition on women teaching or having authority over men in the church.
It is important to note, however, that other passages in the Bible suggest a more inclusive and egalitarian view of women’s roles in the church.
For example, as I mentioned earlier, there are instances of women holding leadership roles in the early Christian church, such as Phoebe and Junia. Galatians 3:28 is written: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” This passage suggests that in the eyes of God, there is no distinction between men and women regarding their standing in the church and their ability to serve and lead.
Ultimately, interpreting these passages regarding women’s roles in the church is a matter of debate and personal belief.
Women’s Submission to Male Authority
There are a few passages in the Bible that suggest that women are to submit to male authority. Here are some examples:
“Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.” (NIV)
“Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.” (NIV)
1 Peter 3:1-2:
“Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.” (NIV)
It is important to note that these passages, like the ones that prohibit women from teaching or having authority over men, have been interpreted in different ways by scholars and religious leaders.
Some argue that they are specific to the cultural context in which they were written and did not apply to modern relationships between men and women. Others interpret them more strictly, believing they indicate a permanent, God-ordained hierarchy in which men are to lead and women are to submit.
Women’s Participation in Church Activities
There are several examples in the Bible of women participating in various church activities, such as worship, evangelism, and ministry. Here are some examples:
In Luke 10:38-42, we read about Mary, who sat at the feet of Jesus and listened to his teaching. This was a radical act for a woman at the time, as it was not typical for women to be included in religious education or discussion.
In Acts 16:13-15, we read about Lydia, a wealthy businesswoman who became a believer in Christ and opened her home to Paul and his companions. She became one of the first converts in Philippi and helped to spread the Gospel in her community.
In John 4:4-42, we read about the Samaritan woman at the well who encountered Jesus and became an influential evangelist in her community.
In Romans 16, Paul mentions several women who served in various ministries in the early church, such as Phoebe, a deaconess, and a benefactor to many, and Priscilla, who, along with her husband Aquila, was an essential co-worker in ministry.
These examples suggest that women were active and vital in the early Christian church, participating in various activities and ministries.
Women’s Role in Worship Services
There are several examples in the Bible of women participating in worship services. Here are some examples:
Singing: In Exodus 15:20-21
we read about Miriam leading the Israelite women in song and dance after they had crossed the Red Sea. Similarly, in 1 Chronicles 25:5-6, we read about King David appointing women as singers in the temple choir.
Praying: In Acts 1:14
we read about the women who prayed to the apostles in the upper room after Jesus ascended into heaven. Similarly, in Acts 16:13-15, we read about Lydia and other women who gathered with Paul and Silas by the river to pray.
Prophecy: In 1 Corinthians 11:5
Paul mentions that women can prophesy in worship services, although they should do so with their heads covered as a sign of submission.
These examples suggest that women played a vital role in early Christian church worship services, participating in various activities such as singing, praying, and even prophesying.
Women’s Role in Marriage and Family
Submission to husband:
As mentioned earlier, Ephesians 5:22-24 and Colossians 3:18 instruct wives to submit to their husbands.
Respect and love:
In Ephesians 5:33, husbands are instructed to love their wives as they love themselves, and wives are taught to respect their husbands.
This passage describes the ideal wife as capable, hardworking, and dedicated to her family. She manages her household well, cares for her children, and is a provider for her family.
This passage instructs older women to teach younger women how to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, and kind, and to manage their households well.
These examples suggest that the Bible has a high view of marriage and family and that women have an essential role in the care and management of their households.
While there are specific instructions for wives to submit to their husbands, there are instructions for husbands to love and respect their wives and for older women to mentor and guide younger women in their roles as wives and mothers.
Women’s Spiritual Gifts and Callings
The Bible teaches that women are not excluded from receiving spiritual gifts and callings from God. God explicitly called several women in the Bible for particular purposes, and there are no restrictions in Scripture that would prevent women from exercising their spiritual gifts. Here are some examples:
Miriam: In Exodus 15:20-21
Miriam is called a prophetess and leads the Israelite women in song and dance after crossing the Red Sea.
Deborah: In Judges 4-5
Deborah is described as a prophetess and judge who leads the Israelites to victory over their enemies.
Huldah: In 2 Kings 22:14-20
Huldah is described as a prophetess who guides King Josiah regarding the discovery of the book of the law.
Priscilla: In Acts 18:26
Priscilla is described as a co-worker with her husband Aquila in instructing Apollos in the way of the Lord.
Philip’s daughters: In Acts 21:9
we read that Philip the evangelist had four unmarried daughters who prophesied.
These examples suggest that women are not excluded from receiving spiritual gifts or callings from God. Women are described as prophets, judges, and co-workers in ministry and are given the freedom to exercise their skills within the church context.
Women’s Role in Evangelism and Missions
There are several examples in the Bible of women playing a significant role in evangelism and missions. Here are some examples:
The Samaritan Woman: In John 4,
Jesus engages in a conversation with a Samaritan woman at a well, and she shares her encounter with Jesus with her entire town, leading many to believe in him.
Mary Magdalene: In John 20:16-18,
Mary Magdalene is the first person to see the risen Jesus and is commissioned by him to go and tell the disciples.
Lydia: In Acts 16:14-15,
we read about Lydia, a successful businesswoman who becomes the first convert in Philippi and subsequently hosts Paul and Silas in her home.
Phoebe: In Romans 16:1-2,
Paul commends Phoebe to the church in Rome, describing her as a deacon and a helper to many.
Priscilla: In Acts 18:26,
we read about Priscilla and her husband Aquila instructing Apollos in the way of the Lord.
These examples suggest that women actively participated in evangelism and missions in the early church, sharing the Gospel and making disciples. The apostles commanded them and played a vital role in the church’s growth.
Women’s Role in the Church Today
The role of women in the church today varies depending on the denomination and individual church. However, many churches acknowledge the gifts and callings of women, and women are increasingly taking on leadership roles in the church. Here are some examples of women’s roles in the church today:
Pastors: Some churches ordain women as pastors, recognizing their spiritual gifts and calling to lead and shepherd a congregation.
Deacons and Elders: Women may serve as deacons or elders, providing leadership and oversight in the church.
Worship Leaders and Musicians: Women may serve as worship leaders, singers, and musicians in the church.
Bible Study Leaders and Teachers: Women may lead Bible studies and teach classes, sharing their knowledge and insights with others.
Missions and Outreach: Women may lead and participate in missions and outreach programs, sharing the Gospel and serving those in need.
Many churches recognize the valuable contributions women can make to the church and are finding ways to incorporate their gifts and talents into the church’s life.
While some churches still limit women’s roles based on their interpretation of Scripture, the trend is towards greater inclusion and opportunities for women in the church.
In conclusion, according to the Bible, women’s role in the church is a complex and multifaceted topic that requires careful study and consideration.
While some passages of Scripture appear to limit women’s roles, others demonstrate the significant contributions that women have made to the church throughout history.
As Christians, we must seek to understand and appreciate the diverse gifts and callings of all members of the body of Christ, including women. Doing so can create a more inclusive and fulfilling community of believers that reflects God’s love and grace.