Four Examples of Women Preaching in the New Testament
Now that we’ve discussed a few challenging passages that are used to prohibit women from functioning as preachers and teachers in church, let’s take a look at four clear examples of women in the bible functioning in these roles.
1) Women were Commissioned by Jesus at His Resurrection
Matthew 28:1-10 Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. 2 And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. 3 His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. 4 And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men. 5 But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. 7 And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.” 8 So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word. 9 And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, “Rejoice!” So they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me.”
2) Women Preached on Pentecost
Matthew 28:1-10 gives us clear details of Jesus resurrection as well as His immediate instructions to Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary”. These two women not only received an angelic visitation and had a face to face encounter with the resurrected Christ, they were specifically commissioned by Jesus himself to go and preach to the men the good news of the resurrection and instruct them to go to Galilee to see Jesus (Mat 28:10). It would be incredibly odd if these women who were the first human witnesses of the resurrection were subsequently muzzled from ever speaking or preaching again within the gathering of the saints.
There are different religious governing bodies that “ordain” ministers within the church. Whatever these bodies do, I suggest that they follow Jesus’ example. There are other points to discuss at another time regarding the commissioning or ordination of women as ministers of the Gospel. However I will rest with this: since Jesus commissioned these women to preach I agree with His example and believe that women can and should be commissioned or ordained to preach the gospel.
Acts 2:17-18 ‘and it shall come to pass in the last days, says god, that i will pour out of my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams. 18 and on my menservants and on my maidservants i will pour out my spirit in those days; and they shall prophesy.
Acts 2 is one of the most straightforward passages that demonstrates women operating as preachers and teachers, speaking the word of God with inspiration. At the outpouring of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, Peter quoted the prophet Joel to explain the phenomena that was taking place. People from all over the region heard both men and women(Acts 1:14) speaking in tongues, “declaring the wonderful works of God.”
3) Priscilla instructed Apollos
At the very advent of the church the precedent was set that the Holy Spirit could and would anoint both men and women in order to declare the glory of God to unbelievers. We further understand that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit was for believers to receive power to be witnesses throughout Jerusalem, all Judea and to the ends of the earth. The men and women not only received this outpouring, it empowered them to fulfill Jesus’ commission to preach the word of God to the uttermost parts. This would include preaching to the lost, establishing churches, and teaching them the words of Jesus(Mat 28:19-20) Logically speaking, one has to wonder why women would be filled with the Spirit and anointed to preach the gospel at the onset of the church only to later be prohibited from doing the very thing they had been anointed to do.
Acts 18:24-26 Now a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus. 25 This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 So he began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.
Apollos,a learned Jew of Alexandrian decent, had been teaching people in Ephesus that they were to believe in the Messiah who was to come after John’s baptism. He himself was unaware of Jesus and thus only taught the gospel up to the baptism of John. Priscilla, alongside her husband Aquila, instructed the great Apollos, teaching him the way of God more adequately than he had previously understood (Act 18:27). The Scripture is clear that they, together, explained the truth about Jesus to him.
It is noteworthy that Priscilla’s name is mentioned before her husband’s four times in the Scriptures (Acts 18:18, 26, Romans 16:13, 2Tim 4:19). Some scholars see this as a reference to her being the senior spiritual teacher of the two. Otherwise she may not be mentioned at all. Furthermore, the church in “their house”(1 Cor 16:19) is mentioned identifying them both as Paul’s “fellow workers” (Rom 16:3). Whatever the case, Priscilla was clearly regarded along with her husband as a church leader and one who instructed Apollos more accurately in the word of God!
4) Philip had Four Daughters who Prophesied
Acts 21:8-9 On the next day we who were Paul’s companions departed and came to Caesarea, and entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him. 9 Now this man had four virgin daughters who prophesied.
Philip the evangelist was one of the original seven who was chosen to serve so that the disciples could devote themselves to prayer, study, and the preaching of the Word (Acts 6:1-4). Philip’s daughters were noted for their prophetic gift. In fact, The New American Standard Bible calls them prophetesses. If they held the office of New Testament prophets as described in Ephesians 4:11 then all arguments are settled as to whether women can minister and lead in the church. On the other hand, if identifying them as prophetesses is an overstatement on the part of the NASB translators we are still left with these questions: In what context did they prophesy? Were their prophecies only outside of the church? Was their prophesying only inspired revelation or did it also include teaching? Does it matter if it was only inspired revelation since they were obviously speaking God inspired words? Isn’t prophecy teaching at some level?
It’s evident that Luke, the writer of the book of Acts, thought their ministry was notable enough to include this detail about them. It stands to reason that since Luke knew of their prophetic gift and since he felt he should include this detail of their ministry in this account that they were ministering among the saints in the church. I would also propose that Luke’s inclusion here helps us to form a picture of practice regarding women that is to serve as a pattern for the way women are to minister in the church.
From the biblical record we see that women have been encountered by angels, seen the risen Christ, been commissioned directly by Jesus, and were filled with the Holy Spirit in order to preach the gospel. Women were the first witnesses to the resurrection as well as the first preachers of the gospel. Women instructed the disciples and a woman instructed Apollos, an apostle, in the word of God. Women prophesied on Pentecost as well as in the New Testament Church. Women gave leadership within the church as noted in the ministry of Priscilla.
Because of space limitations I have not included details on Junia who was likely an apostle(Romans 16:7) or Phoebe who was clearly a deacon(Romans 16:1). Nor have I used the Old Testament examples in order to keep the conversation squarely focused on the New Testament church. (For fun check out: Huldah who gave instructions about the Book of the Law, Deborah who led the nation of Israel into battle, or Abigail who instructed David, keeping him from bloodshed and avenging himself on Nabal. These women all had amazing gifts and leadership callings.)
When taken altogether the biblical account clearly supports women operating in the gifts of the spirit, preaching and teaching the word, as well as functioning in church leadership. I believe women can operate in all of the gift ministries mentioned in Ephesians 4:11; Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers.
We have to realize that the church is radically handicapped without women in their appropriate roles. I believe that we are about to see a great reformation in the church where women are finally going to step into their gifts and callings without a glass ceiling over their heads. I also firmly believe that those sectors of the church that continue to disallow God to move through women will suffer for it, not experiencing all that God has for His church in the days ahead.
I’m believing for a new women’s movement: Women filled with the Spirit of God, rightly submitted to authority, operating in the manifold grace of God, exhibiting the nature of God, in preaching, teaching and leadership within the church. The world has yet to see a church rightly aligned, fully empowered, operating male and female together for the glory of Jesus. Oh but the day is just ahead! It is a day of promise and a day of awakening. I believe as women are properly honored and take their appropriate place in the church we will see an amplification of the glory of God in the earth in a way we’ve never seen before!