You simply cannot find reputable Bible-teachers who advocated for female preachers or pastors throughout most of church history. There is a reason for this, and it’s not misogyny. It’s because the notion is Biblically untenable.
In fact, the only notable female preachers in church history are famous for being heretics; from Montanus’ two prophetesses, Maximilla and Priscilla, to Ellen G. White to Aimee Semple McPherson, every notable female preacher has been an absolute trainwreck. Such is the consequence of overthrowing God’s established order within the world, church, and home.
The Bible could not be more clear on the subject.
Men are to be spiritual heads in the home (Ephesians 5:23), and likewise, the church (1 Timothy 3:5). Women are to remain silent when it is time to preach (1 Corinthians 14:34) and women are explicitly instructed to not teach men (1 Timothy 2:12). The qualifications for pastors in the epistles exclude women (1 Timothy 3:2). Pastoring and all its associated functions (to include preaching and administration of the ordinances) have always been seen historically as the role of men only (except with notable heretics, as mentioned above). Combined with the reality that only men were appointed to these positions and functions in the Holy Bible, the argument with feminists and egalitarians should not be a long one.
However, a few common arguments are routinely presented by women whose husbands are probably camped out on their rooves (Proverbs 21:9) or on occasion, their Beta Male husbands who probably sleep at their foot of their bed.
ARGUMENT 5. WHEREAS FEMALE PASTORS ARE FORBIDDEN IN THE BIBLE, FEMALE PREACHERS ARE NOT
Let me make a similar argument: Whereas I’m not a physician, I still practice medicine and perform surgeries. You would call me insane.
Although it’s nice that almost all egalitarians start out acknowledging the Bible says women can’t be pastors (it’s undeniable), once they accept female preachers, history shows they’re on the fast-track to female clergy.
Biblically, preaching is a function of the pastoral office, like baptizing converts and administering the Lord’s Supper. It makes no sense whatsoever to say that women can’t have the title pastor but can have the function of a pastor. I assure you, the Bible doesn’t forbid women only having the title, but the function; God is not into semantics.
The concept of ‘ordination’ which is derived from the Scriptural ‘laying on of hands’ (1 Timothy 4:14, 1 Timothy 5:22, 2 Timothy 1:6), is that the church recognizes ecclesiastical authority, thus giving their blessing to their preaching, ordinances, or ceremonial functions (like conducting weddings, dedications, and funerals). Preaching (in its classical sense, as done to an ecclesiastical body) is a task for ordained men.
This principle is not misogynistic to women. The Christian church has also forbidden the vast majority of men from preaching to church unless they have been ordained with such authority (authority forbidden explicitly to women in 1 Timothy 2:12).
ARGUMENT 4. JESUS EXALTED WOMEN IN HIS MINISTRY
It is absolutely true that Jesus was surrounded by godly women. Mary and Martha (the sisters of Lazarus), Mary Magdalene, Susanna, Chuza, Jesus’ mother, Joanna, Siloam, Elizabeth, and other women make cameos in the Gospels (some more than others).
Mary and Martha, in particular, seem to have been among Jesus’ closest friends from childhood. Mary Magdalene seems like a converted clinger-on who was passionately loyal to Jesus.
And yet, after the Gospel accounts, the women fade into the background, never to be heard from ever again. None of these women were mentioned in the Book of Acts, which was Luke’s historical account of the church’s first-century rise as written to Theophilus. The Book of Acts is the single greatest authority on first-century church history in the world. While some might accuse the epistle-writers of ancient day misogyny, conveniently leaving out the role of these women, they cannot accuse Luke of this. Luke is the one who records the single greatest compilation of female characters in the New Testament in his gospel, Luke 8:1-3.
Of 27 books of the New Testament, called “the words of Christ” in Hebrews 1:1, exactly zero were written by women. This means Jesus chose no women to recall his words or deliver them via Scripture.
Of 12 Apostles hand-selected by Jesus, plus Paul, zero were women.
History records the 70 witnesses sent out by Jesus in Luke 10, and zero were women.
Of all the elders (pastors, bishops, overseers, shepherds, etc.) mentioned in the New Testament, zero were women.
Women played an important role in Jesus’ personal life. And yet, he did not appoint any women to any ecclesiastical office. Of roughly 83-85 ecclesiastical appointments made personally by Jesus, zero were women.
ARGUMENT 3: JESUS APPEARED TO MARY MAGDALENE FIRST, AND TOLD HER TO GO PREACH
It is true that Mary Magdalene was the first known human being to have seen Jesus resurrected (John 20:1-18). He then appeared to Peter and then the other disciples and then his brother (James) and then 500 at a single time (1 Corinthians 15:5).
What precisely can be made of the significance of Jesus “appearing first” to Mary, if anything, is unknown. Logic would presume he appeared first to Mary because she was the first one to make it to the tomb and it has no significance at all.
Regardless, Mary was not later appointed to any ecclesiastical office (see #2, above). She faded into history and did not lead the church in any capacity.
The notion that Jesus sent Mary to “preach” should be corrected.
17 Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.
18 Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her (John 20).
Mary was told to relay a single-sentence message to the disciples. She was not told to “preach.”
“Preaching” is an authoritative exposition of Scripture and extended proclamation of holy truths as relayed from the Word of God.
If this is too complicated, remember that “preaching requires a sermon.” If there is not a sermon, there is no preaching. If it’s preaching, there’s a sermon.
There is no sermon recorded from Mary, and she was not told to preach one. She was simply told to relay a simple message, not exposit Scripture.
ARGUMENT 2: THERE’S NO MALE AND FEMALE ACCORDING TO THE BIBLE
This is a bad interpretation of Galatians 3:28 if applied to gender roles.
28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
Paul’s purpose in Galatians 3:28 is to relay that God is not a respecter of identity distinctions. When it comes to our innate value and worth before God, he does not care what we are (ethnicity, gender, citizenship status, etc). This is true, and God views men and women to be of equal value.
However, the same author who wrote Galatians 3:28 under divine inspiration (the Apostle Paul) also wrote Ephesians 5, which gives different commands to the two different genders. He also wrote both Timothy and Titus, which forbid females from teaching.
In fact, Galatians was Paul’s earliest or second-earliest epistle (behind 1 Thessalonians), and so his direction to both men and women as distinct came after this epistle.
In connection, this passage must not be teaching that gender does not exist or are not distinct because the Bible goes on to write distinctly to masters from slaves (Paul does so in Ephesians 6 and writes Philemon, regarding the slave, Onesimus). Likewise, we have books of the Bible named after both Jews and Greeks, chiefly Hebrews and Romans.
Therefore, this passage from Galatians deals solely with our value before God and not our unique roles.
ARGUMENT 1: THE BIBLE’S ASSIGNED GENDER ROLES WERE DUE TO ANCIENT CULTURAL DEMANDS
Oddly enough, those who argue that Jesus was “counter-cultural” in his excellent treatment of women are usually the same ones arguing that the Biblical texts about gender roles are only there because of first-century Palestinian gender norms.
This is actually not true.
When Paul said that women have a submissive role in Ephesians 5, Paul drew upon the subordination present within the Godhead (Ephesians 5:22-33). He did not draw from the culture around him.
When Paul forbade women from teaching in 1 Timothy 2:12-15, he drew not from the culture around him, but from the creation account.
Both the creation account (what has happened in the past) and the eternal relationship between the Persons of the Trinity are immutable and unchanging.
So then, the next time you encounter someone trying to promote female preachers, hopefully, this little refutation guide will come in handy.