God almighty is never put in a bind. He is never compelled by circumstances to change his mind, or alter his purpose. With regard to the salvation of his elect, God’s purpose is crystal clear. There is a multitude of sinners in this world, scattered through all the nations of the world, whom God has chosen to save from eternity (Eph. 1:3-6). The Lord Jesus Christ has redeemed that chosen multitude by the shedding of his blood and obtained eternal redemption for them (Gal. 3:13; Heb. 9:12). At the appointed time of love, God the Holy Spirit will regenerate and call each of those chosen, redeemed sinners, by effectual, irresistible grace, creating life and faith in them (Psa. 65:4). The means by which he will do this is the preaching of the gospel (1 Pet. 1:23-25). And those by whom God is pleased to send the gospel, through the world, are men, chosen, gifted, and called of God himself to the glorious work of the gospel ministry (1 Tim. 3:1-7). None but men are called of God to this work. No woman has ever been called of God to that work.
Yet, we read in Luke 2:36 of a godly old woman by the name of Anna who was a prophetess. In this day of utter disregard for God’s Word, in which women are being ordained and sent out by almost all religious denominations, as deacons, preachers, missionaries, evangelists, pastors, and theologians, I must say something about the fact that Anna is here called a prophetess. Were it not for the universal confusion in the religious world about female preachers, I would pass over these words with little comment; but the fact that such confusion prevails compels me to speak.
There are a few instances of female prophets, prophetesses, in the Scriptures, both before and after the coming of Christ: — Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron, — Deborah, the wife of Lapidoth, — Huldah, the wife of Shallum; — and this woman, Anna, at the time of Christ’s birth. Later, in the Book of Acts, we read about four daughters of Philip the Evangelist, who were prophetesses.
Does this mean that it is proper for God’s church to ordain women as deacons, missionaries, preachers, evangelists, and pastors today. No! The Word of God absolutely and clearly forbids such nonsense. The teachings of Holy Scripture in this regard are so plain that error here is without excuse. These are offices which, by God’s order, are for men only. This is not a matter of sexism, male chauvinism, or anything of the kind. It is a matter of reverence for God and obedience to his Word (1 Cor. 14:34-35; 1 Tim. 2:11-12).
In all things godly women are modest, gladly living in subjection to their husbands. Believing women are not rebels to God, his order, or his Word. Just as men are to be in subjection to Christ and to all who are put in authority over them, just as deacons, elders, and churches are to be in subjection to their pastors, just as children are to be in subjection to their parents, women are to be in subjection to their husbands. In the house of God women serve in subjection to men. They are never to be placed in a position of dominance over men.
What about these who are called “prophetesses” in the Scriptures? Do we just ignore them? No. But we do not build our doctrine on obscure statements. We build our doctrine on the plain instructions of Holy Scripture, given in the place or places where the subject under consideration is taught. The fact that there were prophetesses in the Old Testament and through the Acts of the Apostles does not nullify the prohibitions given in the Epistles to female preachers. However, when the Word of God speaks of female prophets, and of women prophesying, that does not imply that they were preachers.
The word “prophetess” was used in ancient times much like we use the word “worshipper” today. We might say of such and such women, “they worship God.” That would be the same thing as saying “they prophesy.” The word “prophesy” does not necessarily mean “instruct,” “foretell,” or “preach” in any public way. The word is used commonly to speak simply of worship, praise, and witness (1 Sam.10:10-11; 18:10; 1 Kings 22:10-12; 1 Cor. 11:5; 1 Cor. 14 and 15). A prophetess was a woman who worshipped God, praised him, and bore witness to him. The only female preacher ever spoken of in a church in the New Testament was that wicked woman at Thyatira, who called herself a prophetess, but whom our Lord calls “Jezebel” (Rev. 2:20). That is exactly what all self-appointed female preachers are properly called, because they are seducers and deceivers of men’s souls. When God sets women up as rulers over men, in any capacity, it is an act of judgment, not an act of grace (Isa. 3:12). In the church and kingdom of God there are no female preachers.