Question: Dr. Luginbill, Does the Bible prohibit women from preaching or teaching in the church?
Response: Let us start with some basic principles. Every single believer in the Body of Christ has an important role to play, whether male or female. Every one of us is a "body part", and the Body needs all of its parts. There is no one who has accepted Jesus and who is faithfully following Him for whom God has not provided or is not preparing a ministry that person is meant to accomplish for Jesus' Church. The gifts given by the Spirit to accomplish the various ministries God intends are many, the rows in the vineyard are many, and the results determined by God are also of various sorts (1Cor.12:4-6), and it is on the basis of how well we carry out the actual ministries God assigns (rather than the role we may wish to play), that we are eternally rewarded (see the link: "The Judgment of the Church"). Therefore, from the very start, we need to approach this question as one of God's will, not our own will. Every believer has to respond to the will of God, to the leading of the Spirit, picking up their cross and following Christ. God will make clear to each and everyone of us what it is He wants us to do.
In 1st Timothy 2:11-15, it is pretty difficult to explain away Paul's words as only relevant in the culture of his day. Elders/bishops, the rulers of local congregations, are to be men (1Tim.3:1-7; Tit.1:6-9), and these would be, in the main, the ones who taught these early congregations. Paul's rationale, clearly given in verses 11-15, is one of authority: just as the man is to be the authority in a marriage (as has been the case since Adam and Eve), so in a local church, men should be the ones in authority. But this comparison has other ramifications as well, for it is clear from the many passages on marriage in the New Testament that men also have a greater responsibility in marriage (e.g., Eph.5:22-33; Col.3:18-4:1; 1Pet.3:7), and that women are far from being without rights - Galatians 3:28 states that in Christ there is no "male or female", and Peter emphasizes the fact that women are men's "fellow heirs of the grace of life" (1Pet.3:7).
I would put it in this way: no one (man or woman) should make a habit of teaching other adult Christians about the scripture unless 1) they have been given the gift of teaching by the Holy Spirit (1Cor.12:11); 2) they have prepared themselves by long and diligent study to do so (2Tim.2:15); 3) they have been led into a particular ministry by God (cf. 1Cor.12:4-6). Therefore if someone - male or female - is setting themselves up as a teacher of the Word of God without being gifted, prepared, and called by God to do so, such a ministry is clearly not of God. From my reading of these verses, it seems clear to me that women are not to take an authoritative teaching role in a local church. But let me quickly add that what we understand as a "church" today bears only some resemblance to the local congregations of Paul's day, and this difference between "then and now" is even more pronounced when we look at other sorts of organizations. Paul says nothing about seminaries, nothing about organized charities, nothing about Bible distribution groups, nothing about a whole host of church and para-church organizations where speaking and "teaching" of a sort are part and parcel of the administration of such groups/organizations. Even within the "local church", there are often (especially in bigger churches) a variety of venues, ministries, sub-groups, etc. where "Bible study" or at least grappling with scripture in administration is part of the approach. And what about "Sunday school"?
It seems clear that Paul is saying here just exactly what he is saying here, nothing more, nothing less, and it would be a mistake either to down-play or to over-apply these words: "I do not permit a woman to teach, nor to exercise authority over a man". In the "churches" of Paul's day, that would mean the elders who had the authority, both in teaching and in disciplinary matters. Now since the Bible does not give us any prescriptive form of local church government beyond the very general rules such as we are discussing here (see the link: "Some Questions about Church Polity"), there is really no way for anyone to say that the various and sundry offices that have been invented since the early days of the Church ought not to be given to a woman - apart from the persons who authoritatively teach the Bible to the congregation for several hours a week and are in charge of maintaining discipline within a particular local church. Of course, I know of very few churches where they actually teach the Bible to any substantive degree or maintain any true form of church discipline - which begs the question: if the "church" is not much of a church at all in God's eyes, what difference does it make what gender the person is who is leading this group in the wrong direction?
We live in a day and age when sound and substantive instruction in the Word of God is a rare commodity (a trend which is destined to intensify in swiftly approaching Tribulation; see the link: in CT 3A "The Situation of the Church-Visible on the Eve of the Tribulation"). In many groups who have lost their way, verses like 2nd Timothy 2:10-12 are being used for what amounts to political in-fighting. I am not personally worried about women preachers, because I am convinced that where Christians are truly following Jesus, such issues seldom arise. I am rather concerned about the increasing dearth of anyone willing to "feed My sheep" as Jesus commanded His apostles and their spiritual descendants to do (Jn.21:15-18). So from a personal point of view, I think that any woman who wants to truly serve her God will be led (just as all believers are lead) into the perfect ministry for her, whatever that may be. From a more general standpoint, it is true that women preachers are a sign of the times, but more one of the abdication of responsibility by men than of anything else.
For more on the authority issue involved here, see: "The Creation of Eve" in part 3 of the Satanic Rebellion series.
And see also: *More about Women Preachers*.
You might also find these links of use:
Some Questions on Church Polity
Church Polity et al.
The Local Church and Personal Ministry I
The Local Church and Personal Ministry II
Bible Teaching versus Sermonizing
I hope this helps in some way.
Yours in the Great Shepherd of the Church, our Lord Jesus Christ.