One of the biggest topics of debate among churches today is over the roles of women in ministry. The question that stands as a point of many denominational divisions is this: “Can women be ordained?” Naturally, these divisions result churches that ordain women, and others that do not. The National Association of Christian Ministers supports the position that women are called to ministry, and therefore recognizes the ordination of women. Biblical rationale for this position is offered herein. It should be noted that our members do not have to agree with this position in order to maintain their membership. However, they must respect it among the fellowship in order to maintain unity.
The most popular argument against women’s ordination comes from 1 Corinthians; therefore, we will use it as our text in defense of their equal call to ministry. In order to remain focused and brief, we present the evidence in the from of logical bulleted ideas. Additionally, the following will mention the gifts of tongues and prophesy. We are not making a case for or against the cessation of these gifts. Rather, we are only mentioning them in the context of women serving as ministers.
The book of 1 Corinthians is really a letter. Scholars believe that Cor 1 and 2 are actually a work of 3 letters, therefore we may be missing a letter. Further, it is believed that if that letter were available, it would be called 1 Corinthians and 2nd would be called 3rd. This is not an accident because the Bible is divinely inspired. However, it suggests that there may be information between Paul and the church at Corinth that would help to fill in the blanks if we had it.
In communication today it is still very common to continue a conversation from a previous one by a letter, email, etc. The Book of 1 Corinthians is in fact the continuation of a conversation evidenced by chapter seven and verse one. This is evidenced by his statement: “Now concerning what you wrote to me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman.”(1 Co 7:1 MKJV)
The above verse makes at least two things very obvious:
- 1) Paul is shifting his letter to address their previously written questions, and
- 2) they must have had questions regarding the roles of women in the church at Corinth.
- Then he gets to chapter 12 and speaks of spiritual gifts
- Then he gets to chapter 13 and contrasts the gifts with love
- Then he gets to chapter 14 and contrasts tongues with prophecy
Verses 34-36 are the source of much confusion regarding the ordination of women. Paul says something that only careful exegesis can reveal:
“Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law” (1Co 14:34 KJV).
Here we know something is suspicious because the “Torah” makes no command of women being silent in church. Therefore, we must conclude that Paul is referencing cultural law. This is fortified by the fact that Paul always taught Christians to obey the government and laws of the land (Romans 13).
He continues saying:
And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church. (1Co 14:35 KJV)
The above two verses are not an instruction from Paul! Rather, it is Paul repeating what they had originally written to him in a previous letter so that they would know the context of his following statements.
Then he proceeds to address the statement with a rhetorical question:
What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only? (1Co 14:36 KJV)
Paul is rhetorically saying “WHAT?” Did the word of God only come unto men? That is absurd, God gave His word to both men and women -for example Miriam and Deborah who both prophesied the word of the Lord. Further, he previously gave instructions regarding how women were supposed to share the Word within the church in chapter 1Corinthians 11:5. And even in that passage he points out that it is a cultural matter (1 Cor.11:2).
Therefore, we conclude that women are free to exercise spiritual gifts in the church. Paul issues the following command:
For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged, (1Co 14:31 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. (1Co 14:27, 38 ESV). Forbid not to speak with tongues (1Cor. 14:39KJV).
We conclude that men and women have different roles in the spiritual authority of their homes. However, in the church, where we are one in Christ, “there is no male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28 MKJV). Further, Christ is the Head of the Church, not man or a pastor!