Body Parts or God’s Word? On Authority in the Church

Phyllis Nissila


I recently listened to a teaching about women’s restricted authority in a particular patriarchal Church. The preacher stated that a woman has no right to preach to or teach men (thus “usurping” men’s authority). She may only teach/have authority over boys and girls and other women. (Aside: the preacher neglected to address when boys become men, however. Put another way, he neglected to address when a woman suddenly becomes guilty of usurping authority. Is it the day or is it the actual minute a male child in her home or Sunday School class turns thirteen? Eighteen? Or is there some other criterion?)

But to the customary commentary on this teaching, drawn from Genesis 3:16 and 1 Timothy 2:12-15, the preacher added this notion: women want to preach to and teach men “so that they can climb on top of men and control them.”


In all the years I’ve been teaching in the Christian arena in print and now in this blog, doing so to control men has never once entered my thinking. Nor have I heard this motivation expressed by other women, gifted teachers, preachers, and evangelists with whom I have fellowshipped through the years. In fact, our motivation to operate in the ministries to which the Lord has called us has nothing to do with men at all.

(But perhaps the minister references a personal fear?)


Even as Jesus yielded to a woman, his mother, as the person the Holy Spirit used to prompt the start of His public ministry, and even as many women in both the Old and the New Testaments ministered in positions of authority and leadership [1], the gender of the person God uses to preach, teach, evangelize, encourage, or prompt ministry in the Body of Christ seems of little import. What does matter is Truth.

In short, male and female body parts, a.k.a. “the flesh,” profit nothing (John 6:63). The Holy Spirit, alive in the members of the Body of Christ whether male or female (Galatians 3:28) assigns ministry (1 Corinthians 12:28) and leads and guides us (John 16:13).

In short, the authority of the Body of Christ is the authority of the Word of God, regardless of the presenter.


To the preacher referenced at the outset: do you really believe that women called to preach and teach are prompted by such a crass desire? Or was that just your attempt at a little humor?

If you are genuinely interested in a woman’s true motivation to minister in such ways, ask her.

But if you do believe what you said, your flippant analysis of what in your mind motivates women preachers and teachers is a gross insult, and you owe an apology to women, especially to the women in your church.


[1] For examples of women operating in leadership/authoritative roles, see: Bible, Old Testament and Bible, New Testament.

This entry was posted in Christian Women Topics, Commentaries, most recent posts, Patriarchy/Complementarianism and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Body Parts or God’s Word? On Authority in the Church

  1. Cathy says:

    Can you imagine what the RCC would say?


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