Good intentions are seed of grand inventions. Such is the case when verses are taken out of context. Sometimes a verse is followed out of a pure intention to honor God, but the follower is in error. But certain verses have also been used to exercise power over others. Therefore, we must be very careful in how we interpret the Bible and make sure we are honoring God’s original intention: not leaving room for liberal inventions but only honest interpretations.
In this case, I’m examining the case of silencing women in the churches. I have been around almost every iteration of this, from women who literally don’t even pray to brash women pastors. What is God’s will? Must a Sister in the Lord be silent in the gatherings? What is a woman to do in an assembly of the saints given difficult verses such as the following?
Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church. (1 Corinthians 14:34-35)
With any verse, we must:
- consider the context — the surrounding verses and overarching message,
- consider the original or intended meaning — language is not black and white,
- and reconcile scripture with verses, because the Word of God does not contradict itself.
What does Paul mean by “silence”?
Could it really mean not uttering a single sound, ever… or could it mean something else?
Objection: A woman is equal to a man in Christ, so they should be able to do all the things a man can do.
Is a woman a “lesser” member of the Body of Christ? Of course not! Women are equal in their accessibility to Christ and their value in the Body, but not necessarily in function. But there are no “second-class citizens” in Christ! In Christ, men and women, slaves and free, Jews and gentiles, judges and ex-prostitutes, etc. are all highly esteemed because of Jesus Christ.
Galatians 3:27–29 (NKJV)
For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
Both Jew and Gentile — if in Christ — are true Jews and jointly of the seed of Abraham, one in Christ and heirs to the Promise.
Colossians 3:10 –Colossians 3:11 (NKJV)
…and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.
Objection: This was a cultural mandate of Paul’s, not the commands of the Lord.
Was Jesus misguided, wrong, or simply placating a male chauvinists culture by not choosing any women as Apostles and Overseers/Elders? Of course not. In fact, Jesus was liberating and exalting the women who followed Him.
It’s important to remember that Jesus talked to the Samaritan woman at the well against what was socially acceptable. Jesus came to the rescue of a woman caught in the act of adultery… a prostitute no less. Jesus allowed this woman to worship Him, knowing her heart of humility and brokenness. Jesus talked and ministered to many other woman, and woman ministered to him and the apostles. It’s also significant that Mary had the prominent role of discovering the empty tomb, as well as being the first to whom Jesus appeared.
However, as in the beginning and as fortified in the NT, it is clear that there is an order of creation.
But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. (1 Corinthians 11:3)
For man is not from woman, but woman from man. Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man. For this reason the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. (1 Corinthians 11:8-10)
These verses pertain not only to the marital order of authority, but to authority in the Church. But we as with the members of the Body of Christ, “the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” (1 Corinthians 12:21)
Nevertheless, neither is man independent of woman, nor woman independent of man, in the Lord. For as woman came from man, even so man also comes through woman; but all things are from God. (1 Corinthians 11:11-12 )
But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.
For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ.
For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. For in fact the body is not one member but many. (1 Corinthians 12:11-14)
But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. (1 Corinthians 12:18)
Women are highly esteemed in the Body of Christ
This is a recurring theme in the scriptures. Women, you are highly esteemed in the Body; you are needed in the Body of Christ. You are called (invited) with the same invitation, and yet we are each called to different types and positions of service.
Bullies: Stand Down!
Those in authority are not to “lord it over” as do the gentiles. The scriptural model, according to the will of the Lord, is to be servants, not lords. The authority given is so the Body of Christ, the Bride (and the wife, as in the marital model), will be equipped, built-up, strengthened and matured. Jesus gave us this example:
But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-28 )
Husbands, as a figure of “Christ” of the wife and family should not be manipulative or controlling, but leading and teaching by example, with gentleness and love.
Passive Men: Stand Up!
The man who abdicates all decision making and spiritual teaching, leading, and headship to his wife is equally in sin. They should be laying down their lives as did He. They should be showing their wife Christ and their children the Father. If they are “seeking their own,” they are not fulfilling the royal Law of Love.
The wife is a picture of the Body of Christ, the Bride—believers who have “put on Christ” and no longer living a life to themselves, but for the Lord. Serving Him that His will would be done. The wife who is insistent on being the head of the family and husband, leading rather than submitting, is anti-christ (in place of Christ) and in rebellion, which again is not fulfilling the royal Law of Love.
Loving the Law of the Lord
But why? Just because these are the rules? Yes and no. We submit to the “law of the Lord” because He has said to, but there is always a reason to do so. Primarily, each commandment is given so that His will is done. And His will is that none of perish, that all would come to repentance and the knowledge of the Truth. For instance, if a wife puts on Christ, as Christ submitted to the Father in EVERYTHING, and in the process is an example of the Bride (believers) submitting to the Bridegroom (Jesus Christ), the scripture says the outcome is:
Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives,
when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear. (1 Peter 3:1-2)
Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered. (1 Peter 3:7)
But what is the likewise there for? To be Christ to everyone, at all times, so that ALL would come to the knowledge of the Truth.
For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: “Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth”; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Peter 2:21-25)
If we are loving the Lord with everything we have, we will step into the roles to which the Lord has called us, according to His divine will. If we are loving our neighbors as ourselves, we will not want to give any occasion for the name of Christ to be blasphemed or stained.
…that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed. (Titus 2:4-5)
What is a Women to Do?
Pray. As a saint of God, gifted and equipped, Spirit-filled (let us hope and pursue the filling), pray without ceasing. Pray to yourself and God. Pray inwardly and outwardly, quietly and with great travail, weeping and with joy, kneeling or standing, hands folded or lifted up to our great God. Just pray!
Prophesy. If God has given you the gift of prophecy, then prophesy. Speak the revelations of God without reservation.
But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, for that is one and the same as if her head were shaved. (1 Corinthians 11:5)
‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God,
That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
Your young men shall see visions,
Your old men shall dream dreams.
And on My menservants and on My maidservants
I will pour out My Spirit in those days;
And they shall prophesy.
Now this man had four virgin daughters who prophesied. (Acts 21:9)
Sing. Sing and praise Him with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Let no man take that away from you. This verses below are for ALL believers!
And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, (Ephesians 5:18-19)
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. (Colossians 3:16)
Teach. While a woman is not to be in positions of authority in the governance and eldership of the Church, any woman can and should “instruct” unbelievers in the way of Christ. Women, you are instructed and encouraged to teach, especially in instructing other women and children… and everyone in the truths of the Gospel. If you are gifted to teach, share what God has laid on your heart. But respect God’s ordained hierarchy of your husband and leadership within the Body of Christ (the local church).
Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. (1 Timothy 2:11-14)
the older women likewise… that they admonish (teach) the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed. (Titus 2:3-5)
And yes, be silent, just as the men should be silent, at times.
Silence in the verses below are not a prohibition of the voice being heard. Certainly if a woman prays, sings, gives a testimony (as long as she doesn’t turn it into a teaching opportunity, but rather edification), and prophesies, her voice will be heard. The clarity comes into play in the preceding verses:
Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church. (1 Corinthians 14:34-35, cf. Genesis 2:18, Genesis 3:19)
Silence, in this case, is related to the proper order of Christ and our gathering in Him. Notice that the man in the following verses is allowed to speak but must remain silent. He must be silent in those things where he is prohibited and verbose in those areas where he has freedom.
But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God. (1 Corinthians 14:28)
For instance, those who pray in tongues (the tongues of angels – whether foreign languages or a heavenly language), and pray to themselves and God—even if other believers can hear them—are lawfully “speaking” in tongues. But those who would speak a tongue to and for the group without any one who can interpret are not lawfully “speaking” and should remain silent.
Women, God loves you and has extravagantly gifted you to be a blessing in the Body. You have access to the same gifts from the same Spirit as men. While God has a clear plan and designation for both sexes, you are equal in your access and ability! You are wise and knowledgeable, Spirit-filled and faith-builders. You are necessary for the Body’s health and growth!
But just as a man should respect the eldership, so should a woman. Ecstatic outbursts and contentiousness have no place in gatherings from either sex. Remain silent. If you are married to a believer, consult with your head, your husband. If your husband doesn’t know, ask of the overseers/bishops/elders or prophets. If unmarried and under her father’s authority, ask your father. If your father is an unbeliever, go to the godly, trusted leaders in the Church.
And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? (1 Corinthians 12:28-29)
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. (Ephesians 4:11-16)