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Women in Ministry According to the Pauline’s Literature

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Women are the pillars of various organizations, especially spiritual organizations. Without women, spiritual organization like the church cannot function effectively. When it comes to women in ministry, especially in the Pauline Literature, there are many issues to discuss like head covering, dressing, roles to take in church and marriage for the married ones. These issues present us with a puzzle. Some Christians believe that all women should cover their head with a veil, dress to cover most part of their body, take lower roles in the church and have submit to their husband even if he is wrong while some believe that women should not be restricted to covering their head with veils, to dressing in a certain way since God looks at the heart and not the outward appearance, to some roles in the church, to submission in their homes when their husbands are wrong. Regardless of different beliefs, this paper will give more details about women in ministry according to the Pauline Literature.

Head Covering

No early Christian seems to have caused Paul a lot of trouble than the uncontrollable Corinthians. Their disobedience stimulated Paul to compose a very powerful epistle which we presently know as 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians. In the mid-section of this letter, Paul switched to specific challenges that related to their church services. His general interest was that ‘everything must be done appropriately and in an efficient way as confirmed in 1 Corinthians so that the church could be developed in the faith, and the good news of Jesus would not become an offence among unbelievers.

He dedicated two Bible passages to the misconduct that encompassed the actions of women in public meetings. In 1 Corinthians, Paul took up the issue of the covering of the head. What was in the mind of Paul when he instructed women to cover their heads? In verses 4 and 5, Paul recorded that it is despicable for a man to call on God or give prophecies with something on his head while a woman dishonors her head if she does so with her head revealed.

Researchers are divided between two interpretations when it comes to head covering. Some believe that Paul was talking about covering the head with a scarf or a veil while some believe that the covering is the hair. Paul did not refer to a material covering but long hair (1 Corinthians 11:14-15). He clarified that it is a disrespect for a man to have long hair, but it is a glory to the woman, and that her long hair is a covering for her.

Paul explained the uncovering that brings shame to a woman. Culturally, absence of material covering on the head would not dishonor a woman. If it would have brought shame to a woman, Paul would not have said that a lady’s long hair is her covering. Also, it is one of the traditions of the Jews for a man to cover his head while praying. It would be conflicting for Paul to expect women to pursue a Jewish head-covering tradition, yet, restrict men from pursuing that same tradition. Nevertheless, in whatever thing we do, we should do all to the glory of God.



Paul said in 1 Corinthians that women should be silent in the churches and not speak. He went further to say in verse 35 that if they want to understand anything, they should ask their husbands at home. To my own understanding, silence in this passage in not about the possession of gifts or roles in church. If it were so, Paul would not have earlier admonished women who pray and prophecy in the church.

Silence in this passage might be about not asking questions during church service to avoid interrupting it. It is possible the women in the Corinth church were disrupting the church service with their questions. This might be the reason Paul admonished the women not to ask questions in church but to ask their husbands questions at home to create orderliness in the house of God as confirmed in verse 40.

Before he admonished women to be silent, he had earlier exhorted the church on the time to be silent when speaking in tongues and prophesying. In verses, Paul injuncted whoever wants to speak in tongue to be silent and rather speak to himself and God if there is no interpreter. In verses, he admonished a prophet to be silent if revelation is given to another prophet, and that “the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets for God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.” It is clear from these Bible verses that the reason Paul instructed all these forms of silence is to inculcate peace and orderliness in the church, and not to stop women from taking leadership roles in ministry.


Apostle Paul would have been contradicting himself if his words in this passage means that women should not speak at all in churches. What is this passage really saying when it said, “A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submission? But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.?”

• Can this passage be used to stop women from taking leadership roles in church or from establishing a ministry to avoid leading members astray?

• Can we conclude from this passage that women teachers of the Word who have men under their teachings are sinning against God?

These were questions I asked myself while reading these passages repeatedly. I do not have direct answers to these questions, but I can give my comments to them based on occurrences of today and my personal experiences. I think Apostle Paul’s reference to Adam and Eve shows the generality of his statement. That is, his statement holds for all ages.

If the interpretation of Paul’s statement is that women should not teach men at all, then a lot of men and women are sinning against God without even knowing it because a lot of women are teaching men in churches today, and the men allowing women to teach are also sinning against God. In these modern days, we see women who are senior pastors of churches. Some are even given leadership positions like Sunday school Superintendent, international choir director of a ministry, lead usher, reverends, prayer group leader and many more positions without leading the church members astray. I think what Paul was trying to say is that when women are teaching, they should do so alongside men or in private like Priscilla did alongside her husband.

There are many ministries today founded by women. I as a man have sat under the ministration of a woman of God before, and I was extremely blessed by her words. This great woman taught us the Word of God as a mother would teach her children. This is one of the reasons I will not judge women who are preachers and teachers based on this scripture. I would rather leave God to judge the matter. However, it will be my greatest joy to see the women in my life preach the gospel of Christ to as many people as possible, both male and female. I believe this is the time for Christians to start hearing specifically from God to know what He wants for them in ministry.

Probably in Paul’s days, women were not required to preach or teach. It may be because Paul did not want them to lead the church astray or exhibit domineering attitude towards men. In these last days, women are making impact in Christianity in fulfillment of Acts 2:17, “And it shall be in the last days,’ God says, ‘That I will pour forth of My Spirit on all mankind; And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, And your young men shall see visions, And your old men shall dream dreams.” Below is the list of some great women of our times who have impacted lives and are still impacting lives today:

• Joyce Meyer, a woman who was abused as a child by her father, but today she is preaching the good news of how Christ set her free and how people can be free from the bondage of abuse.

• Joni Lamb, a woman who partners with her husband to oversee the Daystar TV station. She is humble and has a vast knowledge of the scripture. She presents a table talk show which both men and women are benefitting from.

• Folu Adeboye, a woman who partners with her husband to oversee the Redeemed Christian Church of God worldwide. She preaches and teaches the Word of God. She has impacted the lives of both young and old, male and female.

The list is endless but these few ones I have mentioned reveals that God is using the weaker vessels to liberate lost souls. Instead of judge them, we should correct them with love when they are wrong, support them and pray for them. From the stories of these great women, I can conclusively say that women can take up a lot of roles in ministry like rendering help to the church of God, being intercessors, teachers of God’s word to other women and children, prophetesses, choristers, deaconesses, and many more.

Roles in Church

If we read through the Bible in search of the appropriate roles for men and women, we will see that God designates men to most authority positions. Ministers and rulers in the Bible were men. Jesus’ twelve apostles were all men. Paul recorded that all elders were men. Paul’s travelling partners were men like Silas, Luke, Barnabas, Timothy and John Mark. Israel had only one female ruler, Queen Athaliah who forcefully took the throne, killed her opponents, and committed her rule to idolatry.

Even though most of the time, men were given top leadership roles in the Bible, some people still believe that women can take any role in the church, including the pastoral role while some believe that women can take only certain roles which excludes pastoral roles. They will even go the extra mile to support their beliefs with the scripture. I respect other Christians’ beliefs, but I was brought up to believe that women can take up any position in the church as the Spirit of God leads.

If we carefully carry out another review, we will discover that the picture is not so rigid. Most prophets and judges were men, yet some were women like Miriam the prophetess, Deborah the judge and prophetess, Huldah the prophetess and Anna the prophetess. Looking further, we see a variety of women’s active services. Women issued prophecies in the open and taught authority figures like Apollos in private. Paul commended women for their significant help as he established churches. Euodia and Syntyche faced challenges with him as he shared the gospel. He commended Mary, Junias, Tryphena, Tryphosa and Persis for their remarkable help. He praised women for teaching youngsters and encouraged molder women to teach younger women.

In fact, my wife grew up attending a church founded by a woman, The Apostolic Faith church founded by Florence L. Crawford in 1906. She was dancing in the club when she heard a voice which said, “Daughter, give your heart to me.” She obeyed and that was it. If she had disobeyed, many lives would have been lost. Her obedience has liberated many from the shackles of darkness and death into the light and life of God.

Below is a list of roles women took during Paul’s days:

• Women served as apostles: Paul mentioned Junias, a woman as one of the outstanding apostles. She was not a senior apostle, but she was an apostle. She was an apostle with a difference for Paul to have recognized her. This is to tell us that we should not go after titles but good works in Christ.

• Women served as prophets: The four virgin daughters of Philip the evangelist were prophets. They sacrificed their virginity for God’s work.

• Women served as helpers: Phoebe was an early Christian woman who was a member of the church at Cenchrea. Paul’s referred to Phoebe as ‘our sister’, and this demonstrates that she was an attendee of the church and his sister in Christ. She was an individual from a godly family whose relationship depends on the salvation of Christ and the recreating work of the Holy Spirit. She showed Christian love and toiled among her brethren in Christ.

Phoebe was not just a dynamic and diligent sister, she probably was a minister of the Church.’ The word “servant” is diakonos, from which we have “deacon” or “deaconess.” The female role ‘deaconness’ might not have been used in churches in those days. However, Phoebe involved herself with serving others in the church in such a way that suits the role of a deaconess. We can assume that Phoebe was one of the first, if not the first, of the respectable band of deaconesses in the Christian Church. If her service was not an official service, it was surely a most generous and successful one, and she was without a doubt one of the predecessors of the tremendous multitude of women who have rendered such steadfast administration to Christ and His Church. It is obvious she was a devoted member of the body of Christ in Cenchrea.

Paul included in his letter that Phoebe assisted many people. Phoebe may have exhibited awesome generosity in different approaches to different Christians, maybe accepting them into her home as Lydia, Martha and Mary did. Maybe she took care of the sick, provided for the poor, widows and orphans as Tabitha did. Whichever way she helped, she was surely the selfless, liberal assistant or patroness of God’s people. Paul himself was a recipient of Phoebe’s kind heart. Whatever Phoebe’s exact position in the church, the presence of her name in Romans is a testimony to her personality and guarantees that she will continue to be remembered.

• Women declared the truth of the scripture: Priscilla was a Christian woman who was in unity with her husband, Aquila in everything. They did a lot of things together: took the same profession, served God together, taught and studied the Word of God together and had the same friends. There is no way you will mention Aquila and not mention Priscilla. They were a perfect example of how Christian couples should live their lives. Their marriage was a godly one and full of bliss. We can say of Priscilla that she stood by her husband all the way.

Also, Priscilla was an epitome of godliness and was vast in the knowledge of the scripture. Paul served broadly with Priscilla and her husband, Aquila and worked with them for at least 18 months in Corinth before going with them to Ephesus where the saints met at their home. Paul left them in Ephesus for them to continue the work of God there.

As they proceeded in God’s work, a man named Apollos, “an Alexandrian by birth, an eloquent man, came to Ephesus; and he was mighty in the Scriptures. This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he was speaking and teaching accurately the things concerning Jesus, being acquainted only with the baptism of John; and he began to speak out boldly in the synagogue.”

Priscilla and Aquila “took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.” After this great experience with Priscilla and Aquila, he became an ambassador of Jesus. From this example, it is obvious that Priscilla was a teacher of the Word of God. In fact, both were partners in ministry.

• Other roles women can take Corinthians confirms that women can prophecy and pray in church. The gift of prophecy is the second gift apostle Paul mentioned in Corinthians. This is to tell us that even if some Christians believe that God does not appoint women to be monarchs, they should believe that God who appointed women like Miriam, Deborah, Huldah and Anna to be prophets, can also appoint women to teach the Word, perform miracles, heal the sick, help in the church, be administrators, speak various kinds of tongues because these gifts are listed after the prophetic gifts, even though they all achieve one aim: the edification of the saints. Women can take all these roles without exercising authority over men. In my own opinion, God can appoint whoever he wants to appoint for any role in ministry regardless of one’s gender. He is God, and He knows best.


We are all created in God’s image, and God brought us into the world for a purpose. It is very important to know what God wants us to do irrespective of our gender. As members of the body of Christ, we are called to serve and be ambassadors for Christ, and not to judge those God is using to win souls for His kingdom. Many are called but few are chosen. God has called both male and female. He can decide to use anyone who is available for His work.


  1. Behr-Sigel, Elisabeth. The Ministry of Women in the Church. Yonkers, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1991.
  2. France, R. T. Women in the Church’s Ministry: A Test-Case for Biblical Hermeneutics. Eugene,OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2004.
  3. Payne, Philip B. Man and Woman, One in Christ: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Paul’sLetters. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015.
  4. Doriani, Dan. Women and Ministry: What the Bible Teaches. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2003.
  5. Grenz, Stanley, J. and Kjesbo Denise M. Women in the Church: A Biblical Theology of Women in Ministry. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2010.
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