Scriptures

Should Women Be ‘Silent’ In Church?

Introduction

‘Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.’ 1 Corinthians 14:34-35

Evidently some of the women were speaking up in the assembly in the Corinthians churches and this was another source of confusion. We must note that some women were given the gifts of prophecy, 1 Corinthians 11:5 and their only limitations to speaking to this point has been in relationship to the veils of 1 Corinthians 11. The prophetess was permitted to speak words of divine revelation apart from the

‘whole church being assembled together’, 1 Corinthians 14:23

In the Corinthians church we see a picture of people singing solos, speaking tongues, prophesying, and women speaking up and preaching all at the same time, this was an ultra-liberal church, 1 Corinthians 11:21. Paul admonishes the women to ‘keep silent in the churches’ in the same context that he told the tongue speaker, 1 Corinthians 14:28 and prophet, 1 Corinthians 14:30.

Their silence was in relation to teaching out of turn for order’s sake. The women, however, had zero time for preaching, exhorting, consolation, and edification to the assembly of saints and thus Paul commands total silence in this area.

The word ‘silence’ is ‘sigao’ meaning to be silent or still, to keep silence, hush. The woman was therefore forbidden to address the assembly and was to remain

‘in submission, as the law says.’

The word ‘submission’, ‘hupotasso’ is to place or arrange under, to post under, to subject, to be obedient. The law proves this statement,

Genesis 3:16 ‘he (the husband) shall rule over you’.

Paul makes the same argument in 1 Timothy 2:11-14. This isn’t a subjection of wives to husbands, this is a subjection of women to men in general when it comes to the assembly of the whole church.

Some have difficulties harmonising 1 Corinthians 11 and 14. But it seems simple really, the woman of 1 Corinthians 11 was prophesying and praying without a veil in public, not the ‘whole church assembly.’ The woman of 1 Corinthians 14 was prophesying and praying in the assembly with or without the veil and Paul termed it unacceptable.

Some brethren today, believe that some churches are in sin because they allow women to teach a Bible study to children or other women. What these brethren fail to understand is that women who teach a Bible study of unbaptised children or other women are not addressing the assembly of the whole church. No woman may address the whole assembly without violating God’s direct command here.

When the whole church, in any given location, is assembled together, women aren’t to speak out. The woman may not ask a question in the assembly, the woman may not teach a man, the woman isn’t to say anything other than blending her voice with the saints in song to fulfil the command of all to sing, Ephesians 5:19 / Colossians 3:16 and saying the ‘amen.’ 1 Corinthians 14:16 / 2 Corinthians 1:20.

We must remember that Paul has under consideration here, ‘the assembly of the whole church’ or ‘in the church.’ What matters is that the ‘whole church is assembled together,’ under such an assembly the woman isn’t to speak a word.

‘May a woman speak in a Bible study with other men present?’

Often this question comes up, but again, we must remember that the issue of 1 Corinthians is ‘a whole church assembly’. If the whole church assembly is together she may not speak a word. On the other hand, if the whole assembly hasn’t come together she may speak while taking into consideration her divinely appointed position of submission to the man, 1 Corinthians 11 and 1 Timothy 2:11-14. The woman who violates the submission principles of these two mentioned verses by exercising authority over the man has sinned.

The assembly of the whole church has been defined as the place of the first day of the week worship that includes the five acts of worship. Whenever the whole assembly is together the woman may not speak. A Bible study time isn’t such an assembly because the whole church isn’t assembled.

The church today divides itself into Bible classes of all ages and sometimes genders, to have private studies appropriate to age and gender so that the church is edified. Some brethren believe that some churches are in sin because they divide the church into classes on Sunday and Wednesday. Note, however, that part of the work of the church is to edify the saints, Ephesians 4:11ff.

If the whole church comes together on the first day of the week to participate in the five acts of worship and no woman participates in a speaking role, then we have satisfied God’s will. If the church, for the sake of edification of its members, divides into classes before the whole assembly comes together on Sunday, where is the condemnation?

Some brethren claim that there is no authority for a divided class situation and thereby any assembly of the saints would be the ‘whole assembly.’ There were times when the New Testament Christians assembled apart from the ‘whole assembly’, we call these assemblies ‘classes’ so that brethren could be edified, Acts 19:9.

It may be objected that the Acts 19:9 assembly was a ‘divided assembly’ but what really does that prove? Shall we condemn matters of expediency, practicality, and appropriateness on the bases of not finding one example, inference, or command to have a divided Bible class? If so, then it would be sinful to use a pitch pipe, song book, trays in the Lord’s Supper, and have a church building.

Matters that are expedient are matters that lawfully aid in one accomplishing the commandment of God. The commandment of God is that the church would be edified and the expedient is a Bible class for all ages, there is no sin here. Actually, the Bible doesn’t address the expedient matters such as taking a car to preach the Gospel and thereby accomplishing the great commission, Matthew 28:18-20.

The Bible says absolutely nothing of Bible classes, song books, pitch pipes, trays on the Lord’s Supper and so forth. The Bible simply gives the command and we’re charged with keeping the command and accomplishing it in a lawful manner. It’s unfortunate that there are over zealous brothers and sisters today who attempt to bully other churches with their personal convictions.

When these brethren begin to bind where God has not bound and loose where God has not loosed they bring reproach to the name of God and cause some to stumble in sin, Galatians 2:3ff.

One may say that since a Bible study isn’t the ‘whole church being assembled,’

why can’t a woman lead the study?

The answer is found in the general subjection of women to men and is therefore not authorised by God. While the Bible forbids women to preach to men, it does encourage them to teach children, other women, and even men in the appropriate context, Titus 2:3-4 / Ephesians 6:4 / 1 Timothy 5:14 / Colossians 3:16 / Acts 18:26.

A few weeks ago, a dear sister from another congregation, asked if it was permissible for her to ask a Bible question in a Bible study because she was told it was ‘unscriptural’. I could hardly believe the reasoning she was given by the teacher as he took this Corinthian passage to the extreme.

The Bible doesn’t put any restrictions on women asking questions in Bible class, a woman may ask a Bible question in a Bible study as long as he does so with respect towards the teacher.

Do these people really believe when they were younger and went to school, and asked the teacher a question, they were somehow showing disrespect towards the teacher or taking on the role of the teacher!

‘Women should ask their husbands’!

This phrase has always intrigued me, not because of what Paul says but because of what some people believe they think Paul says. If Paul is speaking about a Bible study situation as some suggest, what happens if there’s a woman present who isn’t married? How is she supposed to learn anything, if she has no husband to ask? The women commanded to refrain from asking questions were women with husbands capable of answering questions.

Notice also that Paul doesn’t say anything about if the teacher asks a question, even in a worship situation, is a woman allowed to answer a question or does she have to remain silent, is this ‘unscriptural’ too!

Conclusion

Whenever we single out any passage of Scripture, we must always look at the overall context and here in 1 Corinthians 14, one of the main problems the Corinthian congregation was facing, was women speaking out of turn in the public assembly, that is during worship, and they were doing it in such a way they were challenging the role of the men in a leadership capacity, this is what’s implied.

The command to ‘remain silent’ here in 1 Corinthians 14:34, doesn’t mean that women are to remain absolutely silent, after all, women are commanded to sing along with the men, Ephesians 5:18-19.

What Paul means is that the woman isn’t to speak or teach in a manner which violates her role as a woman, this is what Paul teaches in 1 Timothy 2:12.

 

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go."

Joshua 1:9

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