This is one of, if not the most controversial issue in church today. This is one issue that most pastors will rather avoid. This is one issue that most gender based organizations have been fighting against and continue to fight against even today. The question is, should women be allowed to preach, prophesies or be a pastor of a church? I can see most ladies already saying to themselves, this should be interesting and others asking why not?
Well, it is not about what we think should happen, it is always about what God wants. Remember that the church was created by God and therefore the rules that will apply in church will be that of God. We also know that God is fair, just and orderly and in the passage that we will be looking at, Paul talks to the Corinthians about an orderly worship. He wants that Corinthians to understand how God wants people to behave in church and in what order.
We must first acknowledge that God created all people equal. Men and women alike. God never said that men are superior or better than women. The only time God made a woman submissive to a man was because of a sin that was committed by the woman and then the man. In Genesis 3:16 God says
Genesis 3:16 (ESVST)
To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”
h4910. משׁל masal; a primitive root; to rule: — ( have, make to have) dominion, governor, x indeed, reign, ( bear, cause to, have) rule (- ing,- r), have power.
AV ( 81)- rule 38, ruler 19, reign 8, dominion 7, governor 4, ruled over 2, power 2, indeed 1;
to rule, have dominion, reign ( Qal) to rule, have dominion ( Hiphil) to cause to rule to exercise dominion
The word rule is a Greek word “masal” which means to have dominion over or to have control over. Others understand this verse to mean that there will be a power struggle between men and women and it makes sense when you see what is happening right now. Others simply take it literally to mean that a man will rule over a woman and a woman will not like it and will always want to overthrow this position. To me this makes more sense. The reason I choose this position is simply that, this was a punishment to the women and a punishment cannot be something that you enjoy. If this verse simply means a power struggle, how then is it a punishment to a woman?
This was a punishment for disobedience but, before this, inequality was not there. Now, we can do two things, we can argue with God and tell him that this is unfair or we can accept God’s punishment as fair, just and without prejudice and accept it and comply with it. After all, God was not asking Eve, He was telling her. I choose to accept God’s punishment without question, not because as a man it suits me, but because, I am not in a position to take God on. At this stage in my life, it is only because of God’s grace that I am not going to hell and I am not about to challenge His authority like the devil did. Now, the punishment given to a woman through Eve is, a woman shall be ruled over by a man.
Now having hopefully understood the above, let’s get to our passage.
1 Corinthians 14:33-40 (ESVST)
For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.
As in all the churches of the saints, 34 the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. 35 If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.
36 Or was it from you that the word of God came? Or are you the only ones it has reached? 37 If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord. 38 If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized. 39 So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. 40 But all things should be done decently and in order.
In verses 26-33a, Paul is talking to the Corinthians, addresses an issue on orderly worship. He discusses tongues and prophesies. How they should be handled in the church. Who must speak, when to speak and how to speak. Paul then comes to our passage and he starts to address the role of women in church. I think it is important to note that Paul is not discussing gender equality rather, he is discussing the role of a woman in church.
This is what Paul says in verse 33-34, For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.
As in all the churches of the saints, 34 the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. Paul says that God is not a God of confusion but of peace and as in all the churches of the saints. Paul gives two reasons upfront why he will be saying what he will be saying. Paul says, what I am about to say, I say firstly because God does not like disorder and secondly because this is happening in all other churches of the saints. This is not something that Paul wanted only for this church at Corinth but, it was something that was also happening in all other saints churches.
Then Paul continues to say, after giving the reasons, women should keep silent in the churches. The word silent means just that, to keep quiet. So, women should keep quiet in church. Why must women keep quiet in church? I mean Paul is not going to make such a statement and not give reasons. Then why Paul, why must women be silent or quiet in church? Well Paul says For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church. Now summarizing the above to remove adjectives and amplifiers, the text looks like this For they are not permitted to speak, as the Law also says. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.
Paul says there are two reason
1) The law prohibits it
2) it is shameful
1) The law prohibits it
There are two passages that Paul could be referring to here. Paul is not going to quote a law that does not exists as it will make him a liar. We all know that Paul was not a liar. Paul did not indicate which law he is referring to but, I believe that Paul could be referring to Genesis 3:16 where God told Eve that Adam will rule over him. In Timothy, Paul says there as well that woman must learn quietly. Paul says he does not permit a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man. He gives a reason that indicates to me that, Paul sees God’s punishment to Eve as a command that must be obeyed and not challenged. Paul says
1 Timothy 2:11-14 (ESVST)
Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.
1 Corinthians 11:3 (ESVST)
But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.
The word wife is a Greek word “gyne” meaning also a woman. Paul here emphasizes the order in the church and again here he says Christ, then husband, then wife.
Paul is also supported by Peter in this question at least as far as submissiveness by women to man is concerned. Peter says
1 Peter 3:5-6 (ESVST)
For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, 6 as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.
2) It is shameful
This could have been based on the culture around Paul’s time. This would certainly make sense as even today, in most cultures women are not allowed to speak. It is seen as disrespectful for a woman to address any public meeting.
So, all in all Paul gives two reasons why women should not speak in church but, Paul does not end here. From verse 36, Paul says Or was it from you that the word of God came? Or are you the only ones it has reached? 37 If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord. 38 If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized. He asks those that were claiming to be prophets or those that claimed to be spiritual, wether was it not from them that the word of God came or if they are the only ones the word has reached. Paul does not wait for them to answer and says, if anyone of you thinks he is a prophet or a spiritual person, then he will know that the things he is telling them is indeed a command of The Lord, if not, then they are a false prophets. Paul is saying, since I am only telling you what is from The Lord, if you are a prophets from The Lord as well, you would know the same things that I do, otherwise, you are a liar.
Pail ends his passage by saying But all things should be done decently and in order. This is precisely why he said all this, so that there can be decency in the church and order. The word decent comes from two Greek word “eu” and “schema” to form “euschemon” meaning noble or honorable.
g2158. ευσχημων euschemon; from 2095 and 4976; well- formed, i. e. ( figuratively) decorous, noble ( in rank): — comely, honorable.
AV ( 5)- honourable 3, comely 2;
of elegant figure shapely, graceful, comely, bearing one’s self becomingly in speech or behaviour of good standing honourable, influential, wealthy, respectable
Lastly, what if a women does not understand and wants to ask a question, is that allowed? No, Paul says, If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home.
So clearly, Paul completely prohibits women from teaching, exercising authority in church and speaking. This means women cannot be Pastors in church as I see nowadays. What then is a woman’s role in Church? Is there any? Yes, of course. Paul says
Titus 2:3-5 (ESVST)
Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, 4 and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self- controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.
The word reverent means holy or befitting. The word slanderers means gossipers. So elderly women who themselves are of an acceptable and befitting behavior, not gossipers and too much drinkers of alcohol, must teach younger women to
1) teach them what is good
2) train them to love their husbands and children
3) be self controlled
4) pure (meaning holy, sacred)
5) working at home (meaning household chores)
7) submissive to their own husbands
This is the role of women in church and I wish women did play this role in our churches today.
I hope that this message has clarified this issue and made everyone submissive to the word of God. What is my standpoint on this issue, my stand point is whatever the word of God says. If there is any conflict between what I think and what the word of God says, the word of God becomes the winner. This is what is called renewal of the mind.
Romans 12:2 (ESVST)
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.