Why Does the Bible Say Women Must Be Silent In the Church?

This week, Pastor J.D. answers a question from Justin, who asked, “Why Does the Bible Say Women Must Be Silent In the Church?”

Show Notes:

  • There’s some things in Scripture that even Peter said were often hard to understand. So if Peter had a hard time understanding, it doesn’t surprise me that there’s some things in our New Testament that we’re not sure what they mean.
  •  In 1 Corinthians 14:33-35, it says, “For God is not a God of disorder but of peace—as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people. 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.” (ESV)
    • Paul is clearly not saying that women should never speak in church. How do I know that? Well, for one thing, just three chapters before this in chapter 11, Paul gave instructions for how women were to speak and pray and prophesy in church.
    • He said women were to do so “with their heads covered” which communicated that they weren’t elders.
    • The point is, Paul’s not going to give an instruction about how women should speak in church, and then turn around and give a verse that means they should never speak in church, because that wouldn’t make any sense.
    • The biblical rule of interpretation is that you interpret hard verses by easy ones because the Bible doesn’t ever contradict itself. The easy verse here is that women are given instructions about how to speak in church. Clearly, this can’t mean women don’t speak in church because it would would contradict him own words, so what does it mean?
  • Well, you can see from this chapter that there was a particular problem that Paul was addressing:
    •  In 1 Corinthians 11 and 14,  you see that in their worship services there were different groups in Corinth who were apparently interrupting each other with with some kind of agenda that they were bringing to the surface.
      • Some are speaking in tongues in the middle of a church service and others were disputing those words or disputing the tongue that was given. So Paul gives instructions to three different groups in chapter 14.
        • In verse 28, he says don’t just yell out in the tongue if there’s no interpreter.
        • In verse 30, he says don’t interrupt somebody else who was given a prophecy with a better one that you think you have.
        • And now verse 33, to the women of Corinth, he says, “Don’t be disputing prophecies that are given by others and evaluating publicly whether they’re from God because that’s something reserved for the office of the elder.”
      • Paul refers to 1 Corinthians 11 to say that the the official evaluation and disputation of prophecy, the authoritative teaching on what is really from God and what’s not, is the  function of an elder, and a woman is not to play that role in the church.
      • So that’s the kind of speaking he is referring to in the authoritative capacity of an elder.
  • Now, here’s one objection that I’ve heard. Sometimes people will ask, “Maybe Paul’s instruction here is only for a particularly boisterous group of women in Corinth.” But here’s why I don’t think that’s a good explanation.
    • If that were true, why would Paul say it this way?
    • In verse 33, he says, “as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people.” In other words, he said: this is not just about Corinth, it’s about all churches of saints everywhere.
  • So I think the better interpretation is what we’ve talked about and is consistent with what Paul says everywhere. Women have access to all the spiritual gifts and they should use them in the church and use them publicly and privately. They should use them from the stage and one on one.
    • But they should just not do so in the capacity of an elder.
  • We want more women speaking in church and we want more women using their spiritual gifts in church, which often involves speaking.
    • We can encourage and bless that, while respecting the order that God established since God’s church is a reflection of his image. And God’s plan is always best, which is the doctrine we call complementarianism.
    • The New Testament is clear. From start to finish, women play a crucial part of Christ’s body, and they have access to all the same spiritual gifts that men do. Their insight is valuable. The church needs to hear from them, and our body is much worse off without them.

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