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Should Women Really Be Silent?


I’m a little confused about what 1 Corinthians 14:34, 35 says. Should women remain silent in church? Does God think it’s wrong for a female to be a pastor or evangelist? Would God think I was bad if I were to stand before the church and give a testimony or something?

Steve Answers:

Those verses in 1 Corinthians 14 do seem to plainly oppose women speaking in church. But three chapters earlier, in 1 Corinthians 11:5, Paul wrote that every woman who prays or prophesies needs to follow the custom in the churches at that time and cover her head.If women were never to utter a word in church, why did Paul bother to tell them to cover their heads when praying or prophesying? He should have told them to cover their mouths instead of their heads if he really didn’t want them to speak in church!

Now, to understand those verses in 1 Corinthians 14, we must read the entire chapter. Then we discover that Paul was talking about orderly worship.Because of the way the church members in Corinth were using the gift of tongues, things were getting pretty rowdy during their church services. That’s why Paul gave them practical counsel about how to have orderly worship in church.As part of his message, he mentioned that women are to "remain silent” (verse 34). You’ll find that same kind of language in verses 28 and 30.

But notice how all three verses relate to orderly worship services.In verse 28 Paul said that if someone wants to speak in tongues but there isn’t anyone present to interpret the message, the person should “keep quiet” instead of speaking in an unknown language.In verse 30 he advised that if a person is sharing a prophecy and somebody else receives an additional prophecy during the church service, the first person should “stop” to let the second message come through.

Keep in mind that the church in Corinth probably followed the same custom as the Jewish synagogue. That meant that the men sat on one side, and the women sat on the other side.So Paul advised in verse 35 that if a woman had a question about something being said in church, instead of shouting across the church to her husband, she should “remain silent” and ask him about it at home.

Imagine a church service in which people are speaking different languages all at the same time. Then several people claim to have just received messages from God, so they grab microphones and all start talking at once. Then Gertrude shouts across the church to her husband, “Harry, what did that guy say?” Talk about chaos!So this passage isn’t about prohibiting women from giving a testimony, a sermon, a lesson study, or a prayer for the congregation. It’s about orderly worship.If God’s given you a message, definitely share it with the rest of the church. Just do it in an orderly manner.

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