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Women speaking in the church

Query for the Month


April 2007

Next up-date: May 1st 2007 (God willing).

Previous "Queries" are available. Click here to access.

Some perpetual questions ....

Is there really an immortal soul?

Do you know the difference between the "love" that is of Christianity
and the "love" that is of the world?
Click here to find out!

Click on the link for a good book on the character of our God which you can download for free and share amongst your friends.   It's called "Light on the Dark Side of God" and is one of the best on this subject that I have ever read!


1 Corinthians 14:

33 For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints. 34 Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted to them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also says the law. 35 And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.

 Just what was Paul trying to say when he wrote these words? 



Paul wrote: “God is not the author of confusion, but of peace”, and He is as particular now as then.  He desires that we should learn lessons of order and organization from the perfect order instituted in the days of Moses for the benefit of the children of Israel.

 But he also wrote:

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1 Timothy 2:

8 I will therefore that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.

9 In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with embroided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; 10 but (which becomes women professing godliness) with good works.

11 Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.  

12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to USURP authority over the man, but to be in silence. 13 For Adam was first formed, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. [Genesis 3:6.]  

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On the basis of those words some people have thought that women professing godliness should always keep silence and not talk at all in church.  But a single Bible passage cannot establish a doctrine or theory – “out of the mouth of two or three witnesses”, God says. [Deuteronomy 17:6.]  In fact, we can easily find other scriptures that suggest otherwise.  However, all scripture is true and useful and not to be disregarded, so we need to look more deeply into this idea.

Let’s read something else that Paul wrote under inspiration:

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1 Corinthians 11:

3 But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.  

4 Every man praying or prophesying, having his head COVERED, dishonours his head [Christ]. 5 But every woman that prays or prophesies with her head UNCOVERED dishonours her head [her husband]: for that is even all one as if she were shaven [so Paul expected women to be speaking in church!]. 6 For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered [as a symbol].

7 For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man. 8 For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. 9 Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man. 10 For this cause ought the woman to have power [a cover] on her head because of the angels [who cover their heads when approaching God].

11 Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman [for he is born from her], neither the woman without the man, in the LORD. 12 For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God. 

13 Judge in yourselves [you should decide for yourselves]: is it comely [proper] that a woman pray to God uncovered?  14 Does not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame to him? 15 But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.

16 But if any man seem to be contentious [wants to argue], WE HAVE NO SUCH CUSTOM, neither the churches of God [so it must be self-imposed].  

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Another translation puts it this way:

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1 Cor 11:1-16 (MSG)

1  2 It pleases me that you continue to remember and honor me by keeping up the traditions of the faith I taught you. All actual authority stems from Christ.

3 In a marriage relationship, there is authority from Christ to husband, and from husband to wife. The authority of Christ is the authority of God. 4 Any man who speaks with God or about God in a way that shows a lack of respect for the authority of Christ, dishonors Christ. 5 In the same way, a wife who speaks with God in a way that shows a lack of respect for the authority of her husband, dishonors her husband.

6 Worse, she dishonors herself—an ugly sight, like a woman with her head shaved. This is basically the origin of these customs we have of women wearing head coverings in worship, while men take their hats off. By these symbolic acts, 7 men and women, who far too often butt heads with each other, submit their “heads” to the Head: God. 8   9 ] 

10 Don't, by the way, read too much into the differences here between men and women. 11 Neither man nor woman can go it alone or claim priority. Man was created first, as a beautiful shining reflection of God—that is true. But the head on a woman's body clearly outshines in beauty the head of her “head,” her husband. 12 The first woman came from man, true—but ever since then, every man comes from a woman! And since virtually everything comes from God anyway, let's quit going through these “who's first” routines. 13 Don't you agree there is something naturally powerful in the symbolism—a woman, her beautiful hair reminiscent of angels, praying in adoration; a man, his head bared in reverence, praying in submission? 14  15  16 I hope you're not going to be argumentative about this. All God's churches see it this way; I don't want you standing out as an exception.

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So what does the word “prophesy” mean in that text?

We are told that “He [or she] that prophesies speaks to men to edification [instruction], and exhortation [encouragement], and comfort” a role for which women are eminently suited. Then he says,  “For you may ALL prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted”.  1 Corinthians 14:3; 31.  It is only after having written that that Paul seems to tell women not to talk in church at all, which appears very contradictory.  Verses 34-35.

But when Paul wrote to Timothy, he said that women should keep silent and not USURP men’s, especially their husband’s, authority.  Here we are told that simply praying, singing, or speaking during a church meeting is not necessarily usurping authority, but could actually be edifying men, and therefore pleasing to the LORD.  The check on the Corinthian women was for those who were too forward in asking questions which could be better asked at home, or advancing opinions which should have been talked over with their partners first, instead of troubling the meeting with things which didn’t concern it at that time.  Not all the women would have been in that category, but there were enough of them to draw out the apostle’s comment.

There is ample evidence in God’s word that women have been used by God to lead out in church affairs.  For instance, Deborah, the wife of Lapidoth, “judged”, or led, Israel in the time of the judges, and General Barak even required that she go with him to the battlefield. Judges 4:4-9.  In the New Testament Philip the evangelist had four daughters, all of whom are described as prophetesses.  Acts 21:8-9.  These women did not USURP the authority of men, but they had it GIVEN to them by their spiritual “Husband”, the LORD Jesus Christ.

And finally, we are told that there will be many women leading out in the last days.  Peter said, “But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days’, says God, ‘I will pour out of My Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: and on My servants and on My handmaidens I will pour out in those days of My Spirit; and they shall prophesy”.  Acts 2:16-18.  They will certainly all be speaking out in meetings.

The following statement from my library says it all. 

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God speaks through His appointed agencies, and let no man, or confederacy of men, insult the Spirit of God by refusing to hear the message of God's word from the lips of His chosen messengers [male or female]. By refusing to hear the message of God, men close themselves in a chamber of darkness. They shut their own souls away from vast blessings and rob Christ of the glory that should come to Him, by showing disrespect to His appointed agencies.

***************(End Quote)

Those who would prohibit half the members of the church from speaking out that which God has shown them, even if they are not prophetesses, exhibit a wrong attitude.  In today’s politically correct climate we should be careful not to unnecessarily upset those who are looking for a God who loves all His creatures, by making some of them second-class members of the church.  God doesn’t, for He says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus”.  Galatians 3:28.

So why the prohibition about speaking in church?

Or anywhere public for that matter.

It was the “shameful” way that the women of Corinth were doing this that called for Paul’s comment, and God has applied the principle to all women everywhere.

God calls upon His people to walk with care and holy consistency. They should be very careful not to misrepresent and dishonour the holy doctrines of truth by strange performances, by confusion and disagreement. By this unbelievers are led to think that church people are a set of fanatics. Thus prejudice is created that prevents listeners from receiving the message for this time. When believers speak the truth as it is in Jesus, they should reveal a holy, sensible calm, not a storm of confusion.. 

Here’s another word:

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Ephesians 5:

15  See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,

16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil. 17 Wherefore be you not unwise, but understanding what the will of the LORD is . . .  21 Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.   

22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands, as to the LORD. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and He is the saviour of the body. 24 Therefore as the church is subject to Christ [of its own freewill], so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing [of their own freewill].

***************(End Quote)

How should we treat this issue?

The attributes of mercy and love are nearly lost from the hearts of many professed Christians. We should remember that all make mistakes: even men and women who have had years of experience sometimes err; but God does not cast them off because of their errors; to every erring son and daughter of Adam He gives the privilege of another trial. The true follower of Jesus manifests a Christlike spirit toward his erring brother or sister. Instead of speaking in condemnation, he remembers the words, “He which converts the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.”  James 5:20.

Finally, why, and how, should women keep silent in church meetings?

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1 Peter 3:

1 Likewise, you wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation [conduct] of the wives; 2 while they behold your chaste conversation [conduct] coupled with fear [respect].  

3 Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; 4 but let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. 5 For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection to their own husbands: 6 even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him “lord”: whose daughters you are, as long as you do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.

***************(End Quote)

Here’s another translation of the above verses:

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1 Peter 3:1-6 (MSG)

1 The same goes for you wives: Be good wives to your husbands, responsive to their needs. There are husbands who, indifferent as they are to any words about God, will be captivated 2 by your life of holy beauty. 3 What matters is not your outer appearance—the styling of your hair, the jewelry you wear, the cut of your clothes— 4 but your inner disposition. Cultivate inner beauty, the gentle, gracious kind that God delights in. 5 The holy women of old were beautiful before God that way, and were good, loyal wives to their husbands. 6 Sarah, for instance, taking care of Abraham [who was already a Godly man], would address him as “my dear husband [by her choice].” You'll be true daughters of Sarah if you do the same, unanxious and unintimidated.

***************(End Quote)



It would seem from the above texts and comments that the women of Corinth were trying to dominate the meetings and speaking over their husbands.  So God’s advice to them (and others of like character) was that they should keep silent, have their discussions at home, and not act “shamefully”.  Verse 35.   Otherwise, women have as much right to speak and ask questions as the males, for "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus". Galatians 3:28.

Who wants to add (or subtract!) from these thoughts? I won't argue as I have stated, but I will publish your Scriptures so that we may review all the words of God on the subject.

Some of the comments on this page are adapted from books in my library.  No recognition is given because they are not intended as authorities, but are used because they express my understanding clearly.


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