What Does the Bible Say About Women as Worship Leaders?

What Does the Bible Say About Women as Worship Leaders?

What Does the Bible Say About Women as Worship Leaders?

Here is a question from JLT:

What is your view on women being assistant worship leaders under the main Male worship leader? 1 Chronicles 25:5 seem to indicate there is precedent in the Old Testament and 1 Timothy 2:12 seems very specific about teaching and authority.

JLT is really asking about women assisting when it comes to congregational worship. Maybe this could be a woman keyboard player, or vocalist, or whatever. But this also is relevant to a women leading worship in the sense of leading a team, or simply being the only person before the congregation. I think my answer to the bigger question – does the Bible permit a woman to be a worship leader – also answers the specific question – does the Bible permit a woman to assist a worship leader.

Quick answer: I don’t think that the Bible says anything against a woman leading worship for a congregation. Because the Bible doesn’t forbid it, the leaders of a congregation are free to welcome qualified, gifted women to serve in this way if they choose to.

Disclaimer: When I was a pastor over a congregation, I was happy to welcome and work with women worship leaders, and I believe it was both Scriptural and blessed by God.

Here are the passages referred to:

1 Chronicles 25:5

All these were the sons of Heman the king’s seer in the words of God, to exalt his horn. For God gave Heman fourteen sons and three daughters.

Exodus 15:20-21

Then Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took the timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances. And Miriam answered them:

“Sing to the LORD,

For He has triumphed gloriously!

The horse and its rider

He has thrown into the sea!”

The songs of Hannah (1 Samuel 2) and Mary (the Magnficat) in Luke 1:46-55 are other examples.

So there are definite Biblical examples of women leading in song, and ministering in song. Is this enough to say that women can lead or assist in leading worship in Christian congregations today?

The issue really hinges on this question: Is worship leading a position of authority in the congregation?

I do believe that the Bible directs that the leadership of a congregation – pastors or elders – should be of qualified men. You can check out the in-depth examinations of that in these videos on this channel:

I don’t believe that the role of worship leading is necessarily a position of authority. It certainly could be, if that is what the congregation desired, or if the worship leader sort of “seized” leadership (something that either a man or woman worship leader could do).

But really, a worship leader should simply be the “first worshipper” – someone to simply model worship and direct the singing and manage whatever music is played.

1 Chronicles 25:6 gives some guidance. Here, the worship leaders served under the authority of someone else. In 1 Chronicles 25 it was King David; in a congregation it should be the pastor (or elders, depending on how church government is organized).

1 Chronicles 25:5

All these were the sons of Heman the king’s seer in the words of God, to exalt his horn. For God gave Heman fourteen sons and three daughters.

1 Chronicles 25:6

All these were under the direction of their father for the music in the house of the LORD, with cymbals, stringed instruments, and harps, for the service of the house of God. Asaph, Jeduthun, and Heman were under the authority of the king.

Jesus warned about transgressing – that is, going beyond – the commandment of God because of tradition (Matthew 15:3). Jesus warned about those who lay aside the commandment of God to hold the tradition of men (Mark 7:8).

For Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, and in the case of Mary, God helped them to miraculously conceive a child. Are there other examples of this in the Bible?

God promised Abraham, and Isaac was born (Genesis 21). Isaac prayed for his wife who was barren, and God answered (Genesis 25). God found favor with the Virgin Mary, and thus she conceived through the Holy Spirit and Jesus was born. Are these the only accounts in the Bible where God intervened by the power of the Holy Spirit to allow for pregnancy? Also, of these three, how significant was it that God answered Isaac’s prayer?

You’re listing a few instances, such as the birth of Abraham’s son Isaac, and the birth of Isaac’s sons, Jacob and Esau. You also mention the birth of Jesus, which was a separate case, because that was done completely outside the normal means of conception; it was a miracle wrought in the womb of the Virgin Mary. But I can think of at least a few other instances of what we might call miraculous conceptions in the Bible, where people were barren, they cried out to the Lord, and God gave them children.

We think of Rachel, one of the wives of Jacob, his beloved wife. She was barren, she cried out to the Lord, and she conceived. We think of Hannah in 1 Samuel 1-2; she was barren, and she cried out to the Lord, and she conceived. We think of Elizabeth, the wife of Zacharias and the mother of John the Baptist. She was barren, and the angel Gabriel appeared to her and said, “God has answered your prayers,” and she conceived.

These stories show us that God is sovereign over the womb. We should consider that in two different ways. First, I think of a woman who has an unplanned pregnancy. Maybe she’s not married. Maybe the pregnancy has some connection to a sin or immorality. But let me tell you, God is sovereign over the womb, dear sister, and God wants life for that child of yours. I know you may regard it as an accident. You might even at this moment regard it as an unfortunate accident, but it’s no accident in God’s plan. God is sovereign over the womb. Even if you’re not excited, or maybe not proud about the circumstances concerning the conception of the child, that child itself is ordained by God and in God’s plan. You need to desire the best in life and flourishing for that child, either raising it in your own home, or maybe God would ordain you to be a blessing for someone else through adoption. That’s number one. But there’s another aspect to this as well.

There are more than a few couples in this world who desperately wish to bear children, and they can’t. My heart goes out to you. This is a great burden to bear in life, to have a longing to bear children but be unable to do so. Yes, seek whatever medical advice you can. Yes, do whatever you can to have children. Do everything that’s wise and good. But at the end of it all, God is sovereign over the womb. I know some people who have had glorious answers to prayer after crying out to God for years that they would be able to conceive a child. And I know other people who are dear, dear saints of God, for whom those prayers were not answered. Both of them are loved by God. Both of them have some purpose in God’s plan.

Is it possible to believe in amillennialism and also believe that the tribulation of Matthew 24:20 is in our future?

I suppose it’s possible. Whether it’s entirely consistent with what the Bible tells us is another thing. But I learned long ago that a lot of us have our inconsistencies. Some of them are somewhat harmless, and some of them are much more serious. But it’s not unusual for people to hold on to some kind of inconsistencies in their belief. To the amillennial brother or sister who would say that there is no literal reign of Jesus upon this earth, then I would be curious to ask, what does the tribulation lead unto in their understanding? They would probably say that it leads to the glorious return of Jesus Christ, and I understand that, but it’s hard to spiritualize so many of the passages that talk about the reign of Jesus, without also spiritualizing what the Bible says about the Great Tribulation and making it something that’s really just symbolic in its nature. So, I think that there’s no doubt some people that do that, but maybe it’s not a testimony to their consistency in biblical interpretation.

Regarding the law of the Persians in the book of Esther – where did it come from? Was it from the law of Moses?

No, not directly. It was in some sense from God, in that God has written His law upon the conscience of humanity. Now, our conscience is not a reliable holder of God’s law. Our conscience can be seared, damaged, dead, or twisted. We can’t say that if a person acts according to conscience, they’re always going to do what’s right. But nevertheless, there is a truth that God has put a conscience within humanity. And to whatever extent the law of the Persians, as referred to in the book of Esther, reflects the law of God, it’s from that common ground of conscience which God has given to humanity.

Again, we don’t want to act as if it’s a perfect revelation. It’s not, but it is some sort of revelation from God. It’s not that God’s revelation is imperfect, no. But the way that we hold it and the way that we understand it is what’s imperfect.

So no, to my knowledge regarding the customs of the ancient Near East, there is no direct line between the law of Moses and that of the Persians later on in the book of Esther. If somebody knows more about it than I, and you’d like to leave a comment to help better instruct us, you’re welcome to do so.

Is it true that God used Peter to open the door of the gospel to the Jews, the Samaritans, and the Gentiles?

I’ve heard a lot of talk that Peter helped open the doors to the Jews, the Samaritans, and the Gentiles to a relationship with Christ. How true is this biblically? I don’t see many references to this being actually the case.

Let me explain this idea which comes to us from the book of Acts. First of all, Peter opened the door of the New Covenant and salvation in Jesus Christ, God’s Messiah, to the Jewish people in Acts 2 on the Day of Pentecost. In Acts 8, Philip preached the gospel specifically to the Samaritans, and Peter and John joined him in preaching there. Peter welcomed them into the kingdom and offered the New Covenant to the Samaritans. Then in Acts 10, Peter brought the gospel to the Gentiles. God prompted a Roman centurion named Cornelius to visit Peter in Joppa. Cornelius was known to be a God-fearing man who respected the God of Israel without surrendering to every aspect of the Mosaic Law. Peter preached the gospel to Cornelius and his household, and the Holy Spirit fell upon them. That was a way of receiving the Gentiles sort of formally into the kingdom.

I think this was one outworking the keys of the kingdom being given to Peter. You could say that Peter unlocked the door for the Jews to come into the church in Acts 2; he unlocked the door for the Samaritans to come into the church under the New Covenant; and he unlocked the door for the Gentiles as well.

Now, my dispute with those from other Christian traditions, such as the Roman Catholic tradition, is not that Peter held the keys. My dispute is that he handed them on to anybody after him; I don’t see any biblical evidence for that. But I think it’s pretty clear that God used Peter in a unique way to welcome Jews, Samaritans, and Gentiles all into the church. Each case was signified by a unique outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

What does the Bible say about interracial marriage between believers?

Absolutely nothing. It doesn’t specifically command it. But it certainly does not prohibit it. The spirit of the New Testament is the idea of breaking down the walls that stood between Greek and barbarian, slave and free, Jew and Gentile. The breaking down of those walls certainly points towards implies that God sees absolutely nothing wrong with interracial marriage.

We aren’t given many specific examples of interracial marriage in the Scriptures. One of them that seems very interesting is Moses’ marriage to his wife, Zipporah. There are indications that she was different racially, or at least in her complexion was much darker than the average Israelite at that time.

Again, there’s a lot we don’t know. We want to be careful about being confident about things that we don’t know. But we operate on a very definite principle, that when the Bible does not forbid something specifically or in principle, then believers in Christ have freedom, according to the leading of the Holy Spirit in each individual heart and life.

For Christians, interracial marriage shouldn’t be an issue for them at all. Who cares? What matters when two believers come together is: Do they love one another? Are they both wonderfully committed to Jesus Christ? Are they interested in the advancement of His kingdom? If so, then they can go forward. There’s oftentimes something wonderful and glorious in bringing people together from different backgrounds. I’ve seen God do a lot of good with that.

Why don’t Christian women wear head coverings when 1 Corinthians 11:4-7 explicitly commands so?

Thank you for the question. I’m very happy to deal with this question. I don’t know if this answer is going to be to your liking, but it’s something that I believe very strongly about.

A friend of mine, Mike Winger, has a huge YouTube presence. Good heavens, we have a fraction of Mike Winger’s subscribers and audience. But I’m very blessed that such a good man and such a faithful teacher and student of God’s Word has such an influential audience; that’s a wonderful thing. Mike Winger just released a new video, in his series on women in ministry, about head coverings and the whole issue from 1 Corinthians 11. That video is almost seven hours long; I listened to the whole thing. I agree with Mike Winger in his process and his conclusions on this topic.

Let me explain it to you the best that I can. 1 Corinthians 11 commands an order or a respect of authority in God’s church. I definitely believe that God has ordained and instructed that in two institutions (in the home and in the church) there should be some form of male leadership. The husband should lead in the home. Now, I know we can give all sorts of caveats. What if the husband’s away? What if he’s incapacitated? What if it’s a single mom? We’re just talking in general about what might be considered a normative home, a home with a husband, with a wife, and with children. It’s not that the wife has no authority. No, God forbid. But the Bible clearly says that the husband is her head, and certainly that includes a sense of leadership and authority, among other things.

In the church, God has instructed and commanded the leadership of qualified men, and not just any man. It’s nonsense to think that an individual is qualified for leadership just because of their gender. Most men in the church are not qualified for leadership. But God has ordained that the church be led by qualified men.

Again, I’d refer people to these videos mentioned earlier in today’s Q&A:

Now I’ll answer your question specifically. God has commanded this respect of His order of authority in the church. In the Corinthian culture and many cultures at that time, the means by which respect for authority was shown was by the wearing of a head covering. It wasn’t something restricted to the church. A head covering illustrated and proclaimed a respect of authority in all kinds of religious and civic institutions of that time.

But here’s the thing, it doesn’t mean any of that in our western culture today. To be clear, that head covering wasn’t like a hijab. It wasn’t something that covered her face. It was something that would just sort of ceremonially cover the back of her head. When somebody sees that in today’s culture, nobody thinks, “That’s a woman under authority.” In Corinth in the first century, that’s exactly what they thought. In first-century Corinth, if you saw somebody who deliberately did not wear that covering, you’d say, “Oh, that’s somebody who’s not under authority.” It doesn’t mean that in today’s culture.

I would simply say that the principle abides. The principle is not restricted to any culture or any generation. It’s for God’s church throughout all ages, at least until the glorious return of Jesus Christ. That’s the principle. The way the principle is expressed may be different from culture to culture and from place to place. The important thing is the principle.

Suppose there was a woman who was wearing some kind of head covering, as according to 1 Corinthians 11, and she was in the church, fighting against the authority in the church, challenging the pastor and the elders on the doctrine, and being a big troublemaker in the church. If you had such a woman, nobody could say, “Well, that’s cool, because she’s wearing a head covering.” No, she’s violating the principle of 1 Corinthians 11. What she puts on her head is sort of irrelevant at that point.

Now, let me say this as well. I’ll give you an illustration of this. The instructions for head coverings are clear in 1 Corinthians 11, based on the principle that I spoke to you about, but really, it’s only spoken about there in that one passage. I don’t say that to discount it. I think it’s very clear there in 1 Corinthians 11. But I’m just trying to emphasize, it’s only spoken about one place in the New Testament.

On the other hand, we are told in at least four places in the New Testament to greet one another with a holy kiss. Now, I don’t know what the practice is in your congregation, in the church you attend or the church you lead. But I’m going to suspect that it’s not a command for the people in your congregation command that they must greet one another with a kiss. Why? Well, because you understand the principle behind, “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” You understand that it’s not the kiss that’s the issue. The issue is to greet one another warmly in the name of Jesus. Well, that’s what we’re supposed to do, but not all cultures expressed that through a kiss. Sometimes they do it through a warm handshake.

That’s a parallel lesson to the issue of head coverings. The principle remains the same. We don’t abandon the principle. No, God makes it very clear. But the way in which the principle is expressed may differ from culture to culture.

Have spiritual gifts (tongues, prophecy, etc.) been historically active in the church?

Have spiritual gifts, tongues, prophecy, etc., been historically active in the church? It seems as if gifts have been a fairly new or renewed focus of the church.

This is a great question, and something that I have some interest in, and something I would really like to do a video about. When you read the writings of Christians in the second and third centuries, they did not say miracles have ceased. They did not say miracles died with the Apostles. They did not say the gifts of the Spirit passed away when the Apostles passed away. They didn’t say that. They said that the gifts of the Spirit are still resident within the Church.

It was only until about the fourth century, in response to some heretical groups who promoted the gifts of the Spirit, that the Church began to distance themselves from the gifts of the Spirit, to say that the gifts were not for today, but that they died out with the Apostles. You just don’t find that argument.

The active gifts of the Spirit are clearly mentioned by Christian writers in the first century obviously, because that’s the biblical times, and also in the second century and the third century. It was not until the fourth century that you start getting this line, because the gifts of the Spirit began to be associated with crazy people. Everybody wants to distance themselves from the crazy people.

Now, from the fourth century to maybe the 17th or 18th century, there’s not much there’s evidence about the gifts of the Spirit, though there is talk about miracles and such. But it wasn’t recognized that way in the first few centuries of the church. So ultimately, the historical evidence is interesting, and it has a role to play, but for us, the really compelling evidence has to be biblical. Does the Bible say that the gifts of the Spirit are for today? I think this is important to think about.

How do I organize a family Bible Study?

How do I organize a family Bible study? Any Bible study material and sources recommended apart from Enduring Word?

It’s a little hard to answer your question because I don’t know the ages of your children. If you have younger children, there are some great Bible story books out there. There’s a book that my wife had read to her when she was a child, and we used with our own children, called “Little Visits with God.” It would just tell a story and give a biblical principle and application of it. There are a lot of resources out there like that. I think it’s dependent upon the ages of your children. As your children get older, I think you could just do straight Bible readings, especially if you’re using a simpler translation of the Bible to understand. In English, the New Living Translation in English is a great simplified translation, and there are equivalents to that in other languages as well.

I do believe that it’s important to get into a routine, to get your family thinking about and talking about the Scriptures. How it’s done and what specific resources you do use really will be dependent upon the ages of the children. With younger children, it’s fine to use some kind of story book or something like that. As the children get older, it comes to place where you can just read straight from the Bible and say, “Hey, let me just read you a couple paragraphs, and you can tell me what you think. And we can talk about it here together.” God bless you for wanting to bless your family in that way.

What was Paul trying to communicate in Romans 2:25 to Romans 3:1-9?

In the first three chapters of Romans, Paul is basically addressing three groups of people. He wants these three groups of people to know that they need Jesus. They can’t save themselves. They need to look outside of themselves and unto Jesus for their salvation. When I say salvation, I mean being brought into a right standing with God. Okay, so who are those three groups of people?

First, Paul addresses the immoral pagan.

Secondly, he addresses what we would call the moralist. This is the person who says, “I’m not a pagan, I have some high moral standards.” To them Paul points out, “Even you need Jesus, because you don’t live up to your own morality.”

Thirdly, he deals with the religious person, specifically the Jewish person, because Paul would be dealing with people from that particular background. So, in dealing with the pagan, the moralist, and the religious person or the Jew, Paul is dealing with humanity in its entirety.

In Romans 2:25, Paul is addressing his comments to the religious person, to the Jewish person.

Romans 2:25 – For circumcision is indeed profitable if you keep the law; but if you are a breaker of the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision.

Again, he’s just continuing the argument to tell everybody they need Jesus: the pagan, the moralist, and the religious person. In Romans 3:20, Paul gives the conclusion saying, everybody needs Jesus. We’re all fallen, we’re all broken. We all need Jesus.

Romans 3:20 – Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

Do you think the Rapture is mentioned at all in the Old Testament or was it a mystery revealed only in Paul’s letters?

I think that there is a reference to the Rapture in Isaiah. There is a passage where God says prophetically to His people that come away while I hide you; be secure in My place until I pour out judgment upon the earth. (Isaiah 26:20 – Come, my people, enter your chambers, and shut your doors behind you; hide yourself, as it were, for a little moment, until the indignation is past.)

I think that is a prophetic reference to what we call the catching away of the church. I don’t know if “rapture” is the best term. But clearly 1 Thessalonians 4:17 describes this catching away of the church. Some people call it from based on the Greek word harpazo, meaning “catching away.”

I do find some reference to it in Isaiah, where it talks about being a taken away and hidden in God’s pavilion, until judgment would pass. For the most part, this was a detail about an aspect of Jesus’ Second Coming that was not described in the Old Testament.

Remember that in the Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah, there is oftentimes not a clear distinction between that which He would do it His first coming, and that which He would do at His second coming. This was sometimes a source of confusion to certain Jewish teachers or rabbis. Sometimes, at least on some occasions, they would even speak about sort of two Messiahs: the Messiah who was a son of Joseph, that was a suffering Messiah, because of how much Joseph suffered; and then a Messiah who was the son of David, David being this great triumphant King.

It was somewhat hard for them to reconcile how some passages of the Old Testament that speak of the Messiah’s suffering, and other passages that speak of His glory and dominion. Well, we understand now on this side of the cross, the prophecies of suffering were fulfilled in His first coming, and the prophecies of glory will be fulfilled in His second coming. Meanwhile, we’re in that in-between age right now, where we would hope that the glory is increasing as God’s work continues on in this world. But that specific detail about the catching away of the church as an aspect of His second coming, I don’t find it detailed much, except for that one passage in Isaiah.

Do you believe in dispensationalism or covenant theology?

Do you believe in Dispensationalism or Covenant Theology? I’m very confused about these doctrines.

Maybe you’ve heard me talk on today’s broadcast about videos that I want to make. Yes, I really want to make one on the gifts of the Spirit in early church history. But I also really want to make a video on Dispensational Theology and Covenant Theology.

Here’s what I understand from doing my reading. Right here on my desk is a book, The Christ of the Covenants by O. Palmer Robinson. Not too long ago, I read another book that was recommended to me as a book on Covenant Theology, God to Us: Covenant Theology and Scripture.

I’m going to do some more reading and do some more research, but from my reading thus far, I think Covenant Theology is a mess. It puts forth the idea that all of God’s work can be understood in terms of a covenant of works and a covenant of grace. But these covenants are nowhere described in the Scriptures with any kind of clarity or specificity. Nowhere. It’s just not in the Bible. Covenant Theology is a creation of overactive systematic theology and neglect of biblical theology. That’s how I see it now at the moment. They’re trying to hang an enormous weight on a very small nail that they pounded into the wall. Think about somebody putting a very thin nail into a wall, and the wall is made of drywall, it’s not even made of stone. They put a very thin nail into wall and then they try to hang a piano from that nail.

We have to understand that the supposed biblical foundation for a formal covenant of works and a formal covenant of grace, that God organizes His entire work upon, is just not there. It’s just not there.

When I read the Bible, I do see a covenant that God made with Abraham. There’s very clearly a covenant that God made with Abraham, very clearly a covenant that God made with Moses and the people of Israel, very clearly a covenant that He made with David, and very clearly a New Covenant. But this overarching covenantal idea of this covenant of works and covenant of grace, upon which they place great weight – so much that in some Christian traditions it is the entire basis on which they baptize babies – there’s just no biblical evidence for it.

Okay, I think you can see I get kind of worked up about this. I would simply say that I’m doing reading, I want to do some more reading, and eventually want to make a video. But up to this point, I am completely unpersuaded about the arguments for Covenant Theology, at least as I’ve been understanding it, as an overarching theology of a covenant of works and a covenant of grace. I just don’t see it in the Scriptures.

Now, as for Dispensationalism, it has definitely had its problems. Not for a moment do I buy into these seven rigid dispensations with the rules of God relating to man being all different between them. No, here’s my dispensationalism: There’s a difference between Israel and the church. That’s what it boils down to. Israel is not the Church, and the Church is not Israel. There’s a difference between the two. Here’s another aspect of my dispensationalism: The New Covenant is really new.

That’s another thing that sort of drives me a little bit crazy about Covenant Theology, at least as I’ve read it so far. They seem to work overtime to try to eliminate anything new about the New Covenant. So that’s my dispensationalism. I believe that there’s a difference between the Church and Israel, and I believe that there’s something genuinely and profoundly new about the New Covenant. I think that the formulations, categories, and fundamental ways of understanding these things as presented by Covenantal Theology, is just not there in the Scriptures.

Is going to church a form of discipleship?

Yes, it is. Going to church is a form of discipleship. It’s not the only form of discipleship, but it is a form of discipleship. And in a healthy church, with the right things in place, it’s a glorious testimony to what God is doing in the world. So, I would just give a very simple and a categorical Yes to your question.