Can A Woman Say Amen?
by Tim Hester
The question has been asked can a woman say amen during a sermon or at the end of a prayer. In order for us to properly answer this question we need to first look at the word amen and then at what the scripture has to say concerning women speaking during a worship service.
Can a woman say “Amen”?
The definition and use of the word amen: The word amen by definition means “verily, of a truth, sure, faithful, firm, truthful”. Most of the time today many within the Lord’s church use the word amen mainly (and with some strictly) to signify the closing of a prayer. This has left many with the mistaken meaning of the word to be “the end” or “it is finished”.
The word amen is used in different ways within the word of God.
It signifies the closing of a prayer. (Ps. 41:13; Ps. 72:19; Ps. 89:52; I Cor. 14:16)
It is used to describe the promises of God. (II Cor. 1:20)
It is used to confirm the word or an oath. (Num. 5:22; Deu. 27:15-26; Neh. 5:13; Neh. 8:6; I Chron. 16:36)
It is used to describe Christ. (Rev. 3:14)
Nearly twenty-five times in the book of John we find Christ using the phrase “amen, amen” translated as “verily, verily”.
The act of saying amen to confirm the word of God as it is being presented has just about been lost among many within the Lord’s church today. It has not been to many years ago that it was common to hear the word amen to show agreement with the preacher as he was preaching the gospel of truth.
May a woman say amen: When we look at whether a woman can say amen two main passages of scripture is what comes to mind, I Cor. 14:34 and II Tim. 2:11-12. These two passages show unto us the restrictions which God by inspiration has put on women and their speaking in worship.
In I Cor. 14 the apostle Paul is dealing with a problem the church at Corinth had concerning those who had miraculous gifts. Paul by inspiration is giving direction to those of the church at Corinth in how to behave in a service where miracles were being performed. In particular in this chapter he is dealing with the gifts of those who would speak in unknown tongues or would prophesy. Verse 34’s restrictions of women speaking falls into the context of the service involving miracles. Since we do not have miracles today then we are not faced with the same situation as those in this chapter.
We also find that verse 34 states “Let your women keep silence in the churches:”. The word silence which is found in this verse is found also in I Cor. 14:28. The word silence here forbids a woman to “emit a sound, utter a voice, or make herself heard”. . If one teaches this kind of silence for women in the church today then a woman would not be allowed to ask or answer a question in a Bible study, sing a song, nor make a confession of Jesus Christ. (Guy N. Woods, Questions and Answers – Open Forum, pp. 107 – 109)
The indication of the text is that these were the wives of the prophets who were to ask their husbands at home. If we were take this command as being relevant to women today then we would have to take the whole passage which includes asking their husbands at home. How can the following ask their husbands: 1) single girls, 2) widows, 3) women whose husbands are not Christians, 4) women whose husbands are new converts, and 5) women whose have more Bible knowledge then their husbands.
I Timothy 2:11-12 does deal with the worship of the church today and puts the stipulation that a woman is not to usurp the authority of the man. The restriction of usurping the authority of a man means for one to exercise authority or dominion over a man. This in essence forbids a woman from teaching, preaching, leading prayer, leading singing, serve on the Lord’s table, or doing anything else in the service to God which would put the female in a dominate relationship over the male. As already stated this does not fully forbid a woman from speaking in worship since a woman speaks or uses her voice when she sings or makes a confession.
Biblical examples of women saying amen: We find in the Bible some examples of women saying amen.
When a woman was taken in adultery she was to answer the priest amen – Num. 5:22.
When the law was read all the people said amen – Deut. 27:15-26.
When David had the ark of the Lord brought up all the people said amen – I Chron. 16:36.
At the words of Nehemiah all the congregation said amen – Neh. 5:13.
At the words of Ezra all the people answered amen – Neh. 8:6.
As we can see from each of these text it was not just the men who were present who said amen but all those who were present, both male and female, said amen.
Although we do not find a direct example of women saying amen in worship in the New Testament we do find a time when an audience would say amen. In I Cor. 14:16 Paul ask the question how can those who are lead in prayer say amen if they can not understand the prayer.
We have to keep in mind that when one is leading prayer he is not the only one who is praying. All those who are present are taking part in that prayer, both male and female. In like manner when the prayer is finished all who are present should be able to say amen at the close of the prayer. Some may argue that this is a silent or non verbal amen. The scripture here though does not indicate if it is verbal or silent and the example we have in the Old Testament is after the priest gave a blessing all the people said amen. (I Chron. 16:36).
A closing thought: As we see here there is definitely a time and a place for a woman to say amen during the worship service. Yet, there is two more thing that needs to be considered by both males and females who utters the word amen.
First, when we are saying amen, whether it be at the close of a prayer or during a lesson from God’s word, we are giving our consent or endorsement to what has been said (I Cor. 14:16). We need to be sure we know and understand that that which is being said is truth. We should not flippantly use the word amen.
Second, we need to keep in mind that all things are to be done decently and in order (I Cor. 14:40). If one’s use of the word amen is not done in a decent and orderly fashion then he or she is then in violation of God’s word. It would be better for one to refrain from acknowledging the truth of God’s word then to distract those who are trying to worship God in spirit and in truth.