The two most common questions I have receive are, “Can a woman talk to her friend about the Bible at McDonalds?” and “Can a woman tell the preacher he did a good job preaching after services are over?” Both questions are good questions posed by honest and sincere minds. The questions indicate a need to clarify the terms “public” and “private” and discuss their biblical meaning. Consider the following:
Through the apostle Paul’s teaching and example we learn that he taught “publicly and from house to house”, or as the Twentieth Century New Testament translates it, “publicly and privately.” (Acts 20:20) “Publicly and privately” form the two overarching categories into which all teaching falls and provides the only options for spreading the Gospel.
Public is defined as follows:
Thayer – “demosios” - publicly; in public places; in view of all.
Arndt and Gingrich - “demosios” - Public; in the open.
Webster - “public” - of or relating to or affecting all the people; accessible to or shared by all members of the community.
“House to house” is defined as:
Thayer – “kat’ oikous” - opposite of “publicly”; in private houses.
Arndt and Gingrich – “kat’ oikous” - in private.
Webster – “private” – intended for or affecting a particular person, company, or interest; withdrawn from company or observation.
The difference between public and private is illustrated clearly through the teaching careers of Jesus and the apostles. Jesus spent much of his time teaching in the open where all were invited to hear his teaching [Matthew 5:1-2; Acts 18:4]. In fact, at the end of his life, Jesus was able to declare, ““I spoke openly to the world. I always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where the Jews always meet, and in secret I have said nothing.” [John 18:20] Yet Jesus and the apostles also taught privately [Luke 10:23; Luke 18:31-33; Acts 20:17, 20; Galatians 2:2]. When Jesus and the apostle taught publicly, all the community was invited; when they taught privately, they intentionally limited their audience to a select group.
Location obviously adds some benefit to both public and private teaching, but is not the biblical factor that determines whether teaching is public or private. At times Jesus and his disciples sought a private location such as the wilderness or a private residence for the sake of privacy [Luke 5:15-16; Mark 9:28]. On other occasions, Jesus had private conversations with his disciples in public locations [Luke 10:23; Matthew 24:3]. Sometimes Jesus taught publicly in the synagogue or marketplace [Matthew 23:1; Luke 21:37], while on other occasions he taught publicly in someone’s house [Mark 2:1-4; Matthew 12:46-47]. Whether in a public or a private venue, when Jesus wanted to teach something privately to his disciples, he made sure it was done privately. Jesus established and maintained a distinction between public and private teaching.
There seem to be at least two factors in determining a private setting: 1- Individual initiation, and 2- A limited audience. When a public invitation is issued, the gathering that ensues is public whether a large crowd shows up or not. Limiting an audience to a select few (as Jesus did) is the only way to maintain privacy. Jesus often met privately with his disciples in someone’s house, but as the crowd grew, he recognized the changing nature of the gathering (Mark 1:29-33).
One of the needs of distinguishing between public and private teaching is found in the distinct roles God has given men and women. While men are allowed to teach publicly and privately (Acts 20:20), women must confine their teaching to “private teaching” (1 Corinthians 14:35; Titus 2:3-5; 2 Timothy 1:5; Acts 18:24-28; Acts 20:20; and Acts 21:8-9).
Though many argue women may (even must) fill the role of an evangelist (other than speaking in the assembly), the Bible does not grant women the right to be the public proclaimer of the Gospel or the “face of the church”. Furthermore, Paul’s argumentation in 1 Timothy 2 regarding women’s roles is based on the created order rather than on the order of the assembly.
In conclusion, what about the questions posed in the beginning of this article: “Can a woman talk to her friend about the Bible at McDonalds?” and “Can a woman tell the preacher he did a good job preaching after services are over?” The answer is yes, a woman may talk about the Bible with a friend at McDonalds or tell the preacher he did a good (or bad) job, but she must make sure she is addressing the individual rather than the gathering, and that her conversation remains private and not allow it to become public.
I believe Brother Doug Edwards stated it well when he said,
“The question may be asked, can a woman teach the Word of God? The best answer that I can give is what it depends on where she is at the time. There are places where a woman cannot teach, such as in the public assembly (1 Cor. 14:34-35) and in public (1 Tim. 2:11-12). In these situations a woman cannot teach men, women, or even children. On the other hand, there are times when women can teach. Philip had four virgin daughters who prophesied (Acts 21:9), the older women were to teach the younger women (Tit. 2:2-5), Priscilla helped in teaching Apollos (Acts 18:26), and Timothy was taught by his mother and grandmother (2 Tim. 1:5; 13:15). It should also be pointed out that in some situations a woman can teach a man. 1 Timothy 2:9 does not say that a woman cannot “teach over a man” as so many in the Sunday School system like to point out. It teaches that in certain situations a woman cannot teach. So how do we harmonize these two different concepts of women teaching? Paul mentions in Acts 20:20 that there are two different types of teaching – public and house to house (private). When one harmonizes these different Scriptures he discovers that while women may not teach publicly they can teach privately. The teaching that is prohibited is public and the teaching that is allowed is private. Where a woman can teach, she may teach anyone, including a man, where a woman many not teach, she can teach no one, even a child.”
Years ago, Brother Jerry Cutter correctly stated,
“However, just as clearly, the Christian woman is confined as to where she may teach. She may not teach anyone anywhere. Simply stated, where a woman may teach she may teach anyone, even a man, and where she may not teach, she may teach no one, not even a child… Privately, a woman may teach a man, woman, or child. Publicly, she can teach no one, not even a child.”
Women are authorized to teach men, women, and children privately (Titus 2:3-5; 2 Timothy 1:5; 3:14-15; Acts 18:24-28; 21:8-9). The location is not the only factor in determining both “public” or “private” (Luke 5:15-16; Mark 9:28; Luke 10:23; Matthew 24:3; Matthew 23:1; Luke 21:37; Mark 2:1-4; Matthew 12:46-47;).
Bottom Line: Women are never authorized to teach publicly and thus the silence of Scripture forbids such action (Colossians 3:17).
 Edwards, Doug. Role of Women in the Church. 1992 Preacher’s Study Notes. p. 263-264.
 Cutter, Jerry. The Teaching. Christian Researcher Publications. 2015. p. 4-5, 27.