Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Prophecy and Teaching

To handle the issue of men and women in the church, I'd like to start with the issue of prophecy (this being a known gift to both men and women). The Old Testament gives examples of prophetesses, female prophets such as Miriam (Exodus), Deborah (Judges 4), and Huldah.
And the common argument has been from those who accept women into ministry that if women served as prophetesses in the Old Testament (and Philip's daughters, for example, prophesied in the New), then women can exercise any gift and hold any position in the church.

Renown complementarian author Wayne Grudem, writes in his book, "Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth" in response 7.3D (prophecy is not the same as teaching):
"Linda Belleville argues that the word "instruct" in 1 Corinthians 14:19 shows that prophets carried out a teaching function in the church...Belleville fails to tell her readers that this verse does not mention prophecy!...Paul says nothing about prophecy in this verse. He is contrasting intelligible speech in the church with speaking in tongues. 'Teaching' has already been mentioned in the context (v.6), and that is most likely what Paul has in mind when he talks about speaking to "instruct others" (pp. 230-231).

First, for those who don't own a copy, you can go to the following website in order to access Wayne Grudem's book:

There is a problem, however, with Grudem's response. If we look at 1 Corinthians 14:19, it doesn't explicitly mention "prophesying." However, we have to look at the verse within its context-- which means we must examine the verses before it and after it to determine what this verse means. Grudem is right in that Paul is talking about intelligible speech; but he is wrong in saying that it applies to teaching only. Look back to verse 8 to determine what the "intelligible speech" of verse 19 consists of: "Now, brothers, if I come to you speaking in tongues, how will I benefit you unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching?" Paul includes prophecy in this same discussion, as he does teaching. Grudem, however, fails to tell his readers of prophecy in the same way Belleville fails to tell her readers of teaching in verse 6.
Four more verses, placed after verse 19, also gives us insight into the gifts. These verses are 1 Corinthians 14:22-25:
"Thus tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophecy is a sign not for unbelievers but for believers. If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds? But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you."

Notice that in these verses, Paul does not mention teaching; instead, he focuses on prophecy as the gift that will bring sinners into worship of the true and living God (in addition to encouraging believers). Next, notice that the context of prophesying (v.24) is when "the whole church comes together" (v.23).
Prophecy and teaching, while different, are connected, and Grudem fails to take this into account. In 1 Peter 4, Peter discusses those who "speak" in the church (Peter doesn't distinguish between preaching, teaching, and prophesying): "whoever speaks, as one who speaks the oracles of God" (1 Pet. 4:11). Moses received "oracles" while in the wilderness with the Israelites (Acts 7:38). What did these oracles consist of? Messages from God, announcements from God, that which God wanted to relay to His people. So when a person speaks in the church, according to 1 Peter 4, that person should speak as though he were speaking words he received from God Himself. Peter doesn't say that when you speak, you should speak as though you've done your teaching outline, or prepared for a Sunday School lesson. And I believe that Peter makes speaking the oracles of God the goal because this is the more important gift.

Lest someone should think I'm besides myself, I suggest that we look at Ephesians 4 regarding the gifts for the church: "And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers" (Eph. 4:7). Complementarians always seem to make the argument that since Adam was created first in the created order, that women should not have a teaching or preaching role in the church (1 Tim. 2:8-15). But, if first is best, if order is important, then what about Ephesians 4? Notice that the apostles and prophets are placed before the pastors and teachers, not after them. In terms of ministry, then, those who are so gifted to be apostles and prophets are of greater importance in ministry than pastors and teachers. If complementarians want to establish that the earliest mentioned is the most important, then they have to take everything to that conclusion-- in this case, they will be forced to admit that apostles and prophets are more important than pastors and teachers.

Scripture testifies of women who served as prophetesses in the Old Testament as well as the New (Philip's daughters in Acts). As for me, however, I'd like to think of all the gifts as being equally important in the body of Christ. However, teaching and prophesying are connected. Even as far back as Isaiah in the Old Testament, prophets taught. When God chastises the prophets he talks to Isaiah about "the prophet who teaches lies" (Isaiah 9:15).
The Old Testament gift of prophesying is the same as that of the New Testament-- people received words from God to give His people. And women are included in the gift of prophecy in the New Testament.

But where does that leave women in teaching? Can women teach, just like they can prophesy? You bet. Grudem argues against women teaching publicly, but women are allowed to prophesy in public; what then, could hold them back from teaching? If prophesy is such a great gift in terms of rank (as Paul says), then what would keep women from teaching, which, according to Ephesians 4, is a lesser office?
Look back at Leviticus 10:11-- "and you are to teach the people of Israel all the statutes that the Lord has spoken to them by Moses." Remember my earlier quote from Acts 7:38? Well, this is what Leviticus 10 is talking about. The priest had one job-- to teach what they received from Moses. And who was Moses? A prophet. And Moses was greater than his brother Aaron in his task, for God made sure Aaron (the priest) and Miriam knew who the greater was (Numbers 12:6-7).
The prophetic office is more mentioned, even in the Old Testament; and women surely stood in the prophetic office. What then, would stop them from teaching Scripture? In the 1 Corinthians 14 passage above, notice that Paul mentions "prophecy" before "teaching" and so forth. Prophecy and teaching are both important to the body of Christ. But the only thing that Grudem uses to keep women out of the office is his personal interpretation of 1 Timothy 2. And since that's such a good discussion, I'll save it for a future time.

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