Keeping Women Silent in the Church

Today we stumble across one of the more debatable passages in the bible.  Is Paul really saying that women shouldn’t speak in the church?  Does this apply to today?  What about other women in the scriptures who have been deaconesses and leaders in the church, were they not allowed to speak either?

1 Corinthians 14:34-40

34 The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. 35 If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church. 36 Was it from you that the word of God first went forth? Or has it come to you only? 37 If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, let him recognize that the things which I write to you are the Lord’s commandment. 38 But if anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized. 39 Therefore, my brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak in tongues. 40 But all things must be done properly and in an orderly manner.

I love how these verses are grouped together because this is usually how they are read to start the argument.  However, we need to understand that this is the ending of Paul’s point he has been trying to make about spiritual gifts.  The verses after 35 are Paul’s conclusion, not his assertion over 34 and 35.  So, the question is: do we take these things literally as they are written or should we try to dig deeper and understand what is being taught?  YES.  We need to do both of these things with ALL scripture.

We must never forget that scripture supports scripture.  The various letters, doctrines, and books were assembled because they are congruent.  This means that if we find some sort of contradiction, it isn’t to say that scripture is false because it contradicts itself, rather we must look deeper to understand how and why it is congruent.  This helps us understand the overall message.  Afterall, would you read only select chapters in a different book and discredit its authenticity because the specific parts you read didn’t match up?  It’s illogical to read this way, so why would we do it with anything else?  I’m starting to rant about cut and paste theology; I’ll try to stay focused on keeping women silent in the church.

What have we read so far in this letter?  Paul discussed the importance of cultural relevance while maintaining the newness of life that comes from being born again.  He also is helping the church maintain discipline during church services while at the same time utilizing the gifts God has given us for what they were designed.  Does it make any sense that, while still in the flow of this thought process (actually, as a closing) Paul would suddenly shift gears and say, “oh by the way, tell the women to shut up”?  Not at all!  He says it plainly and bluntly in verse 40, but all things must be done properly and in an orderly manner.  It is about maintaining order and being able to relate to the community WITHOUT compromising the commands of God, while at the same time edifying and building up the church.  Ok, so what does this have to do with women talking in the church?

My wife and I are slowly learning the customs of the people of Guatemala.  As we integrate with the church culture down here, we are learning some interesting things.  The culture here is very, what they call “machismo” meaning the men are given priority over the women.  There are some of the customs built around this that we are finding as negligible as far as cultural relevance and others that we should probably adapt to.  For instance, when we were in language school being hosted by a Guatemalan family, I made sure that when dinner was served, my wife received her plate before mine.  The host mother explained to the girl who served dinner that in the United States, women are served first.  This wasn’t an issue and throughout the rest of our time there, my wife and the other women at the table ate first.  Later this month, however, we are going to a remote village for some training where all women are expected to wear ankle length skirts, regardless of what they are doing.  We could very easily stick to “well, we don’t follow that in the US, so she can wear shorts or jeans if she desires.”  The problem with this is that according to the culture, women who wear pants or shorts are considered prostitutes and therefore drop themselves to the bottom of the respect chain in society.  Even if the local people recognize that she is not a prostitute, it is seen as a sign of disrespect to the local culture.  What is more important, maintaining independence of clothing choice or being able to relate to the people?  Is it really that big of a deal for a woman to wear a skirt instead of jeans or shorts?  Remember the times Paul has instructed us not to become a stumbling block to others and to recognize where others are in their process of faith and meeting them there?  He spent much time on telling the Corinthians how he becomes “all things to all people so that they may be saved.”  When Paul says it is improper for a woman to speak in church, he doesn’t mean that God doesn’t want women to speak in church because they are lesser beings.  Rather, he is saying that it is improper in Corinth for women to speak in church.  It very well may be this way in other parts of the world today!  So, in relation to those cultures, is this morally right or wrong?

Some of you might think women keeping silent in the church and wearing a skirt are two completely different things, but some of you attend churches that wouldn’t really allow someone wearing less than a shirt and tie through the doors.  Paul’s meaning in keeping women silent is not for sexist oppression; rather it is for order and cultural relevance.  He also told people who speak in tongues and those who prophesy to keep silent as well.  What was his final comment on that? Desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak in tongues. If you think Paul is contradicting himself, then you are missing the point.  Remember when he mentioned that all things are for the edification of the church?  This is why he is instructing the way he is, to help the church edify, grow, and relate to others.

Too often we get caught up in causes and idealism and it blinds us from the real things that matter: spreading the word of God and loving others unconditionally.  We are called to humble ourselves not just to the Lord, but to others so that they might have an unobstructed opportunity to hear and learn the truth of God.  Is your own pride and self-righteousness more important than this? We are not only being a stumbling block to ourelves, but also to others.

2 thoughts on “Keeping Women Silent in the Church

  1. Religions? Why does everything people do have to have multiple people involved in their thoughts, feelings, heart an mind, possibly changing them from who they are, and f rom my experience it’s not for the better… why do people follow religions,governments,trends,materialism, etc. is support system? I will never understand why people blindly follow, conforming to the masses, changing their inner self-who they are- knowing deep down what they are doing, yet conform falling in line to be alike in the group they follow? Can no one think for themselves anymore…well the answer is no and there is a reason as you mentioned.. people have tossing god an his gifts aside following an believeving in their masses,countries,religions,news,leaders,etc. the eyes cannot see when the mind is blind… and why do people break down verses in the Bible to fit their religions beliefs, lots a time spent debating an coming to a conclusion,yet cannot seem to use their eyes on simple texts/verses? Some people quote the whole bible for crying out loud an miss the “truth” because they to have tossed God’s gifts aside conforming with that religion and society.. how can Christians not realize religions that are for and about him are not right.. because all for the same Jesus same bible, in most cases, yet are the only true religion an look down on other all other religions That’s pretty superior if you ask me for one that judges is ignorant and in most cases the fool, it’s not for them ever to judge ther is only one judge, and pretty sure Jesus would say “hey knuckle heads I said love an forgive everyone you are all for me don’t choose who is Right or wrong come togather as one” But that can’t happen because Satan wouldn’t have it that way it would be too powerful no bickering no judging nor love it’s Satan’s last stronghold on his little trick he’s doing the biggest religions are led by him Satan that is sad but true the people that go to their religions I’m not saying you’re bad but the leaders worse than you can imagine and I can prove it more ways than one I have eyes to see and ears to hear and I don’t argue with myself what I see or what I hear it’s no debate I’m my mind to myself I don’t need to convince myself otherwise what I see is what I see what I hear is what I hear can any of you try this for me “FREE THINK” and if so maybe somebody could explain to me Chronicles 16:30 Psalms 96:10 psalm 93:1 for any Christian out there explain that to me it’s no riddle folks. Don’t change gods words it’s been done plenty and books removed, let’s not forget who’s realm this is! (Satans greatest achievement is making people believe he don’t exist) and let me tell ya he has done just that to 99% of the masses an Christians. “Truth”I know the most important truth a lot of it, satans trick,once people break away from the following of society’s decisions and use gods gifts they will then know truth because it comes from the heart his gifts an being a individual then god will show you… in fact believers or not will see what they turned cheek to within 10 years Christians included… there won’t be any turning of the cheek then everybody can see where they put their faith they into, their leaders their countries their religions leaders, societies materialism, followers follow but when The trail ends their support system won’t be there to back em up. I was born in this world alone and I will talk to Jesus when I die alone I don’t need anybody there for me or anybody to change who I am in my eyes no man has the right to do that we’re all equal here I understand laws and all that but I worship no country and I have no king I bow to no one I don’t believe in imaginary lines on this earth man-made BS Leading everybody down the trail I am one a individual and I am me….. Luke Angell

    1. yes indeed! It’s crazy how much we let tradition and religion dictate our feelings or what we say we believe instead of truly testing why we do what we do.

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