A friend asks about women pastors

An online friend asked me two questions recently. Here’s the first: do you believe that the baptisms, weddings, and communions performed by woman Pastors are null and void in the eyes of God?

To answer this properly, we first have to examine the nature of denominationalism and the clergy system. In the New Testament, there were no denominations, nor clergy. Those who seek to be Christians in the sense of the New Testament do not participate in, nor support, denominations. Neither do they have a clergy class, so the question dies to an extent. (This position differs substantially from denominationalists such as conservative evangelicals, including Baptists and their ilk.)

So who can perform a baptism? Anyone who is a Christian may, under circumstances, baptize a person who desires to convert to Christ.

There is clear instruction about women not teaching men, not exercising authority over them, 1 Timothy 2.12. Since baptism often involves some teaching and prayers, it would be appropriate therefore that, in the presence of a mixed group, a man — any man in Christ, not a clergyman — perform the baptism.

If men are not present, any woman in Christ is free to perform a baptism, and women baptizing women has many advantages. Again, this outside the unbiblical distinction of clergy/laity.

Much of what is said here would apply to weddings and leading in worship as well. There is nothing said about weddings in the New Testament, but the text above could apply were the ceremony attended by prayers and teaching, that is, not a mere civil ceremony (as is done in some countries, like Brazil).

There is specific teaching about women not leading in worship, as above. (See also 1 Timothy 2.8 and the entire chapter.) The phrase “null and void” might communicate the idea of efficacy of a sacrament, the latter being another unbiblical teaching in Scripture. Suffice it to say that worship that does not follow the biblical instruction is not acceptable to God.

Such is our desire: “let us offer worship pleasing to God in devotion and awe” Hebrews 12.28.

I appreciate the friend’s question and desire to understand. I hope to answer his second question, about slavery, before long.

UPDATE: Another friend, Tim Hall, added this perspective which goes even further to demonstrate the point above of the non-necessity of clergy, in a situation where there is no Christian present but someone comes to a knowledge of the truth:

I believe a Christian should perform the baptism, if possible. But what about when no Christian is present? Must the believer who is seeking God’s forgiveness wait until a Christian can be found?

I would say “No”. It is more urgent that the penitent believer be buried with Christ in baptism than to wait until a Christian arrives. The pertinent question is the faith of the one being baptized, not the one doing the baptism. As long as the one being buried understands New Testament teachings concerning the act, the question of who baptizes is irrelevant.

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J. Randal Matheny

Be pithy.

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