By Elizabeth Prata
I was asked this question by a reader and it’s a good question! Thank you, sister for the query. We have several verses in scripture that speak to ecclesiastical roles/duties with regard to men and women. The one most spoken of is Paul’s verse in 1 Timothy 2:12,
“But I do not allow a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.”
There is also the verse in 1 Corinthians 14:34,
“the women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says.”
Which is re-emphasized in the next verse, 1 Corinthians 14:35,
“If they wish to inquire about something, they are to ask their own husbands at home; for it is dishonorable for a woman to speak in the church.”
Headship is the issue, which as part of her submission to the Head of the Church, mentions the woman’s silence. Thus, part of woman’s role is to remain silent in the church. It’s actually dishonorable to speak! The Greek word for dishonorable or disgraceful, is actually “sordid“. THAT’S how gross the Lord deems it for a woman to speak in the church service.
A woman reading scripture is not technically teaching or preaching it, (or IS it?) but the optics of a woman on the dais, with open Bible, reading and speaking, visually contradicts the verses that say women should remain quiet. It *looks* like she is taking authority, an authority she doesn’t have. That is not a good visual. She is also not being quiet as the verse says she must be.
If a woman was truly submissive to the headship of elders and to husband, there really should be no reason why she would want to perform in front of the church during service in that role.
Some people say ‘But, but, it’s JUST reading!’ No it’s not just innocent reading. Public reading of scripture during worship service is actually part of preaching.
1 Timothy 4:13 says, “Until I come, give your attention to the public reading, to exhortation, and teaching.”
“Those three elements form the essence of preaching: reading Scripture, declaring it, and explaining it” said MacArthur. So it’s not ‘just’ reading, it actually is a function of the pastor as part of the sermon.
To conclude, the issue of women reading the Bible to the congregation during services is:
1. Headship/Creation order issue;
2. Women remaining silent;
3. Understanding via proper interpretation that reading scripture is part of the pastor’s duties in preaching; and
4. A bad look, with a nuance in interpretation that treads close to a line many churches decide not to cross.
I rejoice when women ask me these kinds of questions. The glory of the Lord should be utmost in people’s mind and heart, with an earnest desire to obey His word in all things. Even though many visible churches seem to be falling into reproach these days, there are many more where obedient and diligent elders and pastors strive toward holiness and urge their people to do so as well. They gather, serve, sing, rejoice, obey; and persist in all these things. Even though we can’t see them, these churches are there. Some have 20 people in them and some have 200 and some have more. The Lord is not slack concerning His promises. He will build His church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
In Acts 18:10, the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision. He told Paul to keep persevering in Corinth, ‘for I have many people in that city’. We never know where the Lord has His elect, nor who will be regenerated by the preaching of His leaders. We don’t know where people will grow and flourish despite our view of circumstances on the ground. He keeps His church thriving and will do so until the end.