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God’s Word for You

1 Corinthians 14:33b-34 A woman cannot be a pastor

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, June 29, 2023

As in all the churches of the saints, 34 the women should be silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak. They are to be subordinate, as the law also says.

The fourth group of Christians that Paul says should be silent are the women of the congregation. Just as with the earlier three groups of men, this doesn’t mean utter silence, as if it is a sin to cough, to sneeze, or to participate in the singing of the hymns and the other responses, or to say “Amen” to the prayers. This means with regard to the preaching and the authority over the men, as Paul also describes in 1 Timothy 2:12: “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man. Instead, she is to continue in a quiet manner.” Paul is not saying anything that would have surprised churches outside of Greece or the Hellenistic world. The matter is derived from the law of Moses, both in the order of creation (Genesis 1:27, 2:21-22) and, according to 1 Timothy 2:13-14, on account of the fall when the woman was deceived (Genesis 3:16).

Paul explains this more fully in 1 Timothy 2:11-15, especially verse 12, where a woman is not to teach or to have authority over a man. So while there is no verse that specifically says that a woman cannot be a pastor, that does not settle the question as to whether a woman should be a pastor. Scripture directly says that a woman “should learn in a submissive way and that she should be silent in the church. It also says she should not teach or have authority over a man. It would not matter whether she did these things in the office of pastor or elder or whether she did these things without holding any specific office. It would be equally wrong in either case” (Dr. John F. Brug, The Ministry of the Word, NPH p. 209).

Therefore, before jumping on the trivial matter of there being no single passage that says “Women cannot be pastors,” we must ask: Could a woman serve the whole congregation in the position of a pastor or elder without acting in a way that would cause her to violate the Scriptural commands of 1 Corinthians 14 and 1 Timothy 2? No, she could not. The Holy Spirit cites the law of Moses and the fall of Eve in 1 Timothy 2:14 in particular. Our position, therefore, is not one of chauvinism or any feeling of male superiority, but of submission to the word of God.

In an emergency, a woman may of course perform certain functions normally done by a pastor, such as Baptism. But this is to be done by any Christian in an emergency (the act of childbirth itself does not constitute an emergency). In a surprising Old Testament example, when Moses himself hesitated to circumcise his son, his wife had to perform the act, but she was not happy about taking on the role and she rebuked her husband, Israel’s great prophet, for the incident (Exodus 4:25). In a similar way, Deborah rebuked Barak when he refused to go into battle without her. “The honor will not be yours,” she said (Judges 4:9).

The fad of modern churches (the Quakers, Pentecostals, and an increasing number of Evangelical churches) to ordain women is justified by their rejecting the Scriptures as the word of God. This is what one pastor called “Evangelical theology’s burning wound.” They no longer believe that the Scriptures are the Word of God, and therefore they feel free to say what is and is not the Word of God; whatever their itching ears want to hear (2 Timothy 4:3). It acknowledges any and every authority except the authority of God’s Word. They are carrying modern Protestantism forward in perpetual uncertainty, doubt, and secret unbelief. Luther railed against them in his own time: “What is more wretched than uncertainty?” (The Bondage of the Will, LW 33:22).

Our people must not apologize for this doctrine any more than they would apologize for the baptism of their children or for the wedding vows that they have taken. Or most especially of all, that they would ever apologize for the gospel of the forgiveness of sins. “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).

Soon, perhaps there will be another application here or in some other appropriate place that a minister of the gospel must likewise not be a soulless machine of so-called artificial intelligence. The products of such a device will always be tainted with false doctrine, a complete misunderstanding of the word of God, the sacraments, and the gospel, the inability to correctly divide law from gospel, and the complete inability to be compassionate for the people of God. Therefore, such a creation must never be given a divine call or any authority in the church. If it ever has a place in the church as a tool, we will need to be every bit as careful as we would be as if some soul-killing heretic had been permitted into our church or school as a servant. A tool is a thing to be used, but not trusted. Not with our children’s souls.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith
About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.


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