Should women preach or remain silent in church?

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Women can certainly teach in church. But let’s examine a passage in the Bible that has caused some to think that God forbids women to speak in church. Paul says, “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law.” (1 Corinthians 13:34).

Paul’s prohibition for woman to speak or preach in church has caused some misunderstanding in comparison to our modern concepts of the place of women in the church and also of the place and service of women in Bible history (Judges 4:4; 2 Kings 22:14; Luke 2:36, 37; Acts 21:9). Paul himself commended the women who labored with him in the gospel (Phil. 4:3). There is no doubt that women played a definite part in the life of the church. Why, then, should Paul prevent women from speaking in public?

The answer is found in verse (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.”

Paul’s request would prevent unseemly interruptions in the service of worship and avoid the confusion attendant on such interruptions. This was true because both Greek and Jewish custom dictated that women should be kept in the background in public affairs. Violation of this custom would be looked upon as disgraceful and would bring reproach upon the church.

The Corinthian church had apparently adopted unusual customs, such as that of permitting women to appear in public services unveiled (ch. 11:5, 16) and to speak in the church in a way unknown to other churches. They had allowed irregularity and confusion to exist in the church. But they had no right to differ from other churches in this way, nor had they any right to tell the other churches that they too should tolerate such confusion and disorder. They should have recognized their duty to conform to the practice of the general body of Christian churches.

While women may speak in church, this doesn’t mean that they can hold a leadership position over men. The Scriptures teach that, on account of her part in the fall of man, woman has been assigned by God to a position of subordination to her husband and to the church leadership (Gen. 3:6, 16; Eph. 5:22–24; 1 Tim. 2:11, 12; Titus 2:5; 1 Peter 3:1, 5, 6).

In His service,

BibleAsk Team

 

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