"No. Women May NOT Be Pastors." But Can They Be Deacons?

If I had to do a year-end review of my most controversial piece of 2018, No. Women may NOT be Pastors.” Where’s the Lie? would easily make the list. To be clear, I don’t set out to be controversial. Trust me, I get beat up so much by detractors I certainly have days when I’m tempted to never say or write another word (not out of fear, but out of frustration). But then there’s this whole “fire-shut-up-in-my bones” thing happening that won’t let me stay quiet long, and I’ve come to accept that repeating God’s Word is by virtue a controversial feat. As such, during Women’s History Month this year, “No. Women may NOT be Pastors” went live, and even after all of the backlash I’ve received for it since, I still stand by it. I know that most with a solid handling of Scripture do as well.

Yet, while there are those who would agree that Scripture prohibits female pastors, I recently learned that some of these same individuals would argue that women can be deacons, per the qualifications for the role outlined in 1 Timothy 3. Of course, I’m no authority on the topic. All I can do is repeat what Scripture says, and when I read Scripture, the answer is also, “No. Women may NOT be Deacons”. Yet, a reader recently e-mailed me to respectfully express his/her disagreement with my understanding of Scripture on this topic and kindly challenged me to reconsider my stance. Rather than draft up a formal post on the matter, I figured I’d simply share our e-mail exchange below. May the Holy Spirit edify us all that God’s will on this matter is rightly understood and promptly obeyed in the Body of Christ.


Hi! I had a question. I’ve been following your blog for a few months now and recently followed you on Twitter. Without a doubt I have almost *always* agreed with your posts regarding Biblical doctrine, the need for discernment, and identifying (& calling out) false preachers. Earlier I saw your post on John Gray and proceeded to read the article and the profiles you listed on other false teachers. I agreed with everything hands down. This led me to another article on female pastors. Once again, we were in agreement; but then I noticed your statement that women cannot be “pastors, elders, or deacons.”

I go to a Baptist Church and we believe that women cannot be Pastors or elders; however, women can become deacons. I was confused about your statement but decided to go check the Bible for myself before disagreeing with you publicly or otherwise. 1 Tim. 3:11 (the chapter which lists qualifications for deacons) says, “Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things.” I didn’t want to make assumptions about what that statement meant/was referring to so I checked John MacArthur’s commentary for clarification. He wrote the following: {The Greek word gynē can mean either “wife” or “woman.” Paul likely here refers not to deacons’ wives but to the women who serve as deacons.}

Is it possible that you’ve brushed with too broad a stroke on this issue? I am a PK so I have never had a problem questioning my church’s doctrinal stances or even outright disagreeing with them when I believed I had a Biblical basis for that. But in this case, I’m not convinced that they are wrong. I’d love to hear your perspective and didn’t want to bog down your comment section with a back and forth. Please feel free to get back to me at your earliest convenience. Looking forward to hearing from you :) ~ “DA”

Hi DA,

Thank you for your question. Just a heads up, once I give you my answer this will be all I am able to offer up on this topic as I don’t like to go back and forth with anyone over secondary matters (especially via email).  Once I write a piece on a particular topic, I try to give all of the Biblical support within it so that readers can go back and look into the matter for themselves. After all, it’s not ME with whom you need to agree or align your views, but with God’s Word. If your understanding of Scripture is different than mine and you’re convinced mine is in error, there’s really no need for us to discuss it beyond the first request for or offer of clarification, namely if it isn’t essential to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. :)

Now, with that said, let’s look at the Word of God to answer your question:

8 Likewise deacons must be reverent, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy for money, 9 holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience. 10 But let these also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons, being found blameless. Likewise, their wives must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things. 12 Let deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. 13 For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a good standing and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.” ~ 1 Timothy 3:8-13 NKJV

In 1 Timothy 3:11, the statement to which you are referring, is in context to the wives of deacons. Not only must deacons be honorable but so must THEIR wives. As we know from 1 Corinthians 11:7, the woman is the glory of man. The woman was created to be the helpmeet (Genesis 2:18). He can’t be out here representing the Lord and she’s sowing seeds of discord and confusion. That automatically disqualifies him from that office. Notice verse 10 speaks of the candidate first being tested. One of the tests for his worthiness for the office is if his wife is also faithful and of noble character.

Just as the qualifications for Pastors reference his need to be able to lead his own family well (1 Tim 3:4), 1 Timothy 3:11 is referencing the same requirement...it’s stating that deacons’ wives must also be reflective of order, respect, dignity, etc. If you read on to verse 12, notice that the admonition continues to speak MEN. It reads as follows:

12 Let deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.”

Per your understanding of this Scripture, Paul does much to admonish men, but only drops a single line for “female deacons”...and then skips back to the men. So deacons are to be the husband of one wife, yet no mention of the “female deacon” needing to be the wife of one husband?

This goes to show that “likewise” is not saying, “Also, female deacons...”.  It’s saying, “Just as the deacon is to be of noble character, so too his wife...” as that is part of the test that he’s qualified to lead God’s people.

Thank you for taking the time to look into this for yourself before sending your email. I truly appreciate that.  And I do happen to highly respect and revere John MacArthur, so I can also appreciate your reading his commentary during your search for clarification. Yet, just as I highly regard his ministry, I don’t necessarily agree with everything he teaches on secondary (non-salvific) matters. John MacArthur is not Jesus and his commentary isn’t Scripture. Doesn’t make him less saved, less filled with the Holy Spirit, less astute in Biblical knowledge or less worthy of respect. It just makes him human. Commentaries are helpful resources. But at the end of the day, it is Scripture which interprets Scripture and the Holy Spirit, not man, who teaches us (1 John 2:27).

With all due respect to his ministry, John MacArthur can be wrong as much as you believe I can be wrong. Ultimately, it’s between you and the Holy Spirit on how you are to reach a conclusion on this question. I stand by my understanding of it because it is consistent with other Scriptures and, as far as I’m concerned, is pretty plainly spelled out in 1 Tim 3:8-13. Whenever I need to interpret what Scripture is saying I ask myself  what I would do if I didn’t know what the “Greek” term actually meant and just had to go with what is plainly stated (in light of the whole of Scripture). The usage of the term “wives” was there for a reason in the KJV (which is the version for which the Strong’s concordance provides such translations). Even if the Greek word can be translated “wives” or “women”, there’s a thing called “context”. A lot of words have different meanings, but are defined by the context in which they’re used. For example, Scripture says “For God so loved the world” in John 3:16 but condemns our love of the “world” in James 4:4 and 1 John 2:15.  Context is key.

As I mentioned in the piece on female pastors - no, women can’t be pastors. But yes, a woman can serve her/the church. I serve mine in a variety of ways. Nevertheless, the execution of the role “deacon” isn’t simply serving as a lay member does. Otherwise, we’d all be deacons and the explicit, outlined qualifications for the office wouldn’t be necessary. But it is clear from 1 Timothy 3 that a deacon is a supporting office for overseeing the body. When I think of deacon in the context of church order/structure, I think of Jethro’s advice to Moses in Exodus 18.

If the women at your church are simply helping with administrative matters, teaching children Sunday school and /or women’s Bible studies, cool...no matter their title as “deacon”, if that’s all they’re doing, fine. But if they’re preaching and teaching and counted among church leadership in overseeing the body, they and your church are out of order, no matter what title they bear. Doesn’t mean your church is a horrible place. It just means it has an area requiring attention, as is the case for most churches (Jesus both encourages and corrects the 7 churches in Revelation 2-3).

I hope this helps clear up where I stand on the matter for you. Again, I don’t believe this is a matter requiring further debate/discussion between us but to be worked out between ourselves and the Holy Spirit. But thank you again for your question and for your readership. Be blessed. :)

~ Veritéetfeu

Jethro’s Advice to Moses

13 And so it was, on the next day, that Moses sat to judge the people; and the people stood before Moses from morning until evening. 14 So when Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he did for the people, he said, “What is this thing that you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit, and all the people stand before you from morning until evening?”

15 And Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God. 16 When they have a difficulty, they come to me, and I judge between one and another; and I make known the statutes of God and His laws.”

17 So Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “The thing that you do is not good. 18 Both you and these people who are with you will surely wear yourselves out. For this thing is too much for you; you are not able to perform it by yourself. 19 Listen now to my voice; I will give you counsel, and God will be with you: Stand before God for the people, so that you may bring the difficulties to God. 20 And you shall teach them the statutes and the laws, and show them the way in which they must walk and the work they must do. 21 Moreover you shall select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. 22 And let them judge the people at all times. Then it will be that every great matter they shall bring to you, but every small matter they themselves shall judge. So it will be easier for you, for they will bear the burden with you. 23 If you do this thing, and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all this people will also go to their place in peace.”

24 So Moses heeded the voice of his father-in-law and did all that he had said. 25 And Moses chose able men out of all Israel, and made them heads over the people: rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. 26 So they judged the people at all times; the hard cases they brought to Moses, but they judged every small case themselves. ~ Exodus 18:13-26