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Women In The Church

1 Corinthians 14:34
34 Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law.

See I Corinthians and other Pastoral Epistles. Paul states that a woman is to keep silent in the Church (I Corinthians 14:34). In 1 Corinthians 11:5, a woman is praying in the assembly. Examine closely the context of 1 Corinthians 14 and determine if Paul meant for the woman to keep silent only in regard to the tongue issue. Did he apply this only to the Corinthian Church or the culture of the Middle East? Scripturally, can a woman pray, sing, or give a testimony in a church service? Can she teach men? Research, discuss, and come to a conclusion.

It is clear that women were being disorderly and the church service itself was disorderly. Indeed, some commentators view the 1 Corinthians 11 passages as addressing disruptive dress while the passages from chapter 14 address disruptive speech. Neither is God’s way. Paul has clearly stated two specific prohibitions about the women. They are not to teach nor exercise control over men (1 Tim 2:12). Rather, as indicated in 1 Corinthians 14:34 and 1 Tim 2:11-12, women were to be silent. But, note two specific conditions. 

In 1 Corinthians 14, the clear problem is disorderliness in the exercise of spiritual gifts, especially speaking in tongues and the interpreting of tongues. Both, but the later in particular, could easily be viewed as a teaching ministry. In the 1 Timothy passage, the clear context of silence is in “learning.” This, too, implies teaching. 

We now must face one minor cultural/historical difference in the churches. We are inclined to think of worship services in today’s terms. In slightly varying forms, today’s services include singing, prayer, Scripture readings, and a sermon. While the sermon may be designed to “teach,” our modern methods may also view the sermon as purely “evangelical,” designed for the sole purpose of drawing in the lost. Teaching or edification for the church may be left to the Sunday School. But, and a very important “but,” Sunday School is a very late addition to the church structure.

In Paul’s day, the sermon – the edification and evangelism – as well as the teaching, singing, and prayer all took place at the same time. This was the public worship service. It is only in very recent times in the context of church history that the teaching and edification arms of the church have been moved out of the public service and Sunday School. This knowledge may help to clarify Paul’s apparently otherwise contradictory teachings.

Women are to be silent during the edification and teaching periods of the service. They are to be “silent” when they should be learning. To ask questions is to disrupt the service. To exercise gifts of tongues or otherwise is to disrupt the service. To question their husbands during the service is to distract their husbands from these important teachings. Such a view has the benefit of removing all of the non-feminist questions. Women, wives or single, are to be silent during those periods of the church service when teaching or edification is occurring. They are allowed to sing at the appropriate times. They may participate in public readings or prayer. If invited by the pastor, at the designated time, they may provide testimonies. This view allows for women to pray, or if invited, even “prophesies” with proper decorum as outlined in 1 Corinthians 11.

An interesting example of a woman exercising her gift and right of prophecy would be the “testimony” of a visiting missionary as part of the worship service.

What the women are forbidden from doing is taking control of the service or from interrupting the designed flow of the service. On this point, Paul is absolutely clear.


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October 2, 2023

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