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This topic is one that is sure to bring disagreement.  Yet, we will try to answer it correctly in the light of scripture.  There are two passages that are normally cited in a discussion of this topic of the woman’s proper function in the church.  Let’s first read 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, “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. 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.”  In this chapter, the Apostle is instructing the Corinthian church about order; what is proper and what is improper behavior in the church.  We read in 1 Corinthians 14:40, “Let all things be done decently and in order.”  In the context of instruction concerning order, we have the teaching of the women keeping silence in the church, or the assembly of the Lord’s people.

Paul had already addressed speaking in tongues and prophesying in this chapter, and now he moves on to address the role of the women in the church.  There is no ambiguity in the words of the Apostle here.  His statement is concise and clear, “Let your women keep silence in the churches…”   Some have insisted that Paul’s words were only for the Corinthian church at that time, but the directive to the women here concerned “the churches”, not the singular Corinthian church.  Some have said that these words were just the opinion of Paul, however he writes in 1 Corinthians 14:37, “If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.”  He is sharing the “commandments of the Lord”, not his opinion.  Paul wrote later in 1 Thessalonians 2:13, “For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.” 

According to verse 34, the women were to be “under obedience” or subjection to their husbands.  Often the Old Testament was referred to as the law, so we read how the woman was put into a place of subjection in Genesis 3:16, “Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.”  So, according to these instructions, if the woman learns something in the church and desires to talk about it more and ask questions, she is to ask her husband at home.  This shows the importance of the role of the man as the spiritual leader of the home.  If his wife is to come to him with questions concerning the Word of God, he should be knowledgeable enough to answer her questions.

Now let’s look at another portion that is often cited concerning the role of the woman in the church.  1 Timothy 2:11-14says, “Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.”  Here, the Apostle Paul expounds on what he had written in 1 Corinthians 14.  The woman is not merely to be silent in the church, rather she is to “learn in silence.”  While her lips are to be still, her mind is to be busy taking in what is being taught and truly learning from God’s Word.  In addition to forbidding the women to speak, they are also forbidden to “usurp authority over the man.”  This, of course, has to do with public teaching in the church.  Here we learn the reason why the Lord has put this restriction on the women.  It is because of the order of creation, and because Eve was deceived by Satan in the Garden of Eden.

What are we to think of this?  Does the Lord think of women as inferior to men?  Absolutely not!  When we carefully read the Word of God, we see that the Lord highly exalts Godly women.  I believe it is only in true Christianity that the women are treated with the utmost respect they deserve.  However, the Lord has given an order for His church that we must obey if we truly want to honor Him.  When we follow the Lord’s order, we glorify Him and He is able to minister to our needs.  For more about the role of women, I invite you to visit our website: www.answersfromthebook.net and type “How many women were used by God in the bible?” into the search box.  (145.4)