Women speaking in the church

Note, this article is part of a topical study series.

One of the more contraversial subjects in the church today is whether women are permitted to speak. This article examines several passages on this subject.

Instructions to the church at Corinth

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.
1 Corinthians 14:34-35

It should first be noted that this verse should be taken in the context of the passage. The apostle Paul is addressing orderly conduct in the church meetings: Whenever you come together (1 Corinthians 14:26), "since you come together not for the better but for the worse" (1 Corinthians 11:17). Therefore, it appears that Paul is instructing the Corinthian church that the women should keep silent.

The word silent used here comes from the Greek word "sigao" (Strong's number 4601) which means "to keep silence, hold one's peace". This is the same Greek word translated in Acts 15:12 and Luke 9:36. If we put this in the same context as verse 28:

If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret. But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God.
1 Corinthians 14:27-28

It would appear that he means to be quiet, not to speak. However, it should be noted that the reason for this is to maintain order in church meetings "For God is not the author of confusion" (1 Corinthians 14:33).

Furthermore, in the context, this seems apply in the case when the church is gathered together for the administering of the word of God. In other words, the women should keep silent when it comes to preaching God's word to the church, when all are gathered together. There would appear to be exceptions to this in the cases of older women teaching the younger women (Titus 2:3-4).

Instructions to Timothy

Again, Paul gives similar instructions in his letter to Timothy:

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.
1 Timothy 2:11-12

The silence used here is translated from the Greek word "hesuchia" (Strong's number 2271) which is defined as "quietness" or "description of the life of one who stays at home doing his own work, and does not officiously meddle with the affairs of others" (BlueLetterBible.org). This is the same Greek word that is translated as quietness in 2 Thessalonians 3:12:

Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.
2 Thessalonians 3:12

Therefore, this verse in Timothy seems to be talking about the demeanor of the women. That she is to lead a quiet life.

What about the woman's ministry?

The fact that the Lord desires a woman to have a quiet demeanor and not to administer the word when the church gathers together, should not affect the ability for her ministry:

Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing,
if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.
1 Timothy 2:15

The word saved here is the same Greek word ("sozo" Strong's number 4982) which is translated in 1 Timothy 4:16:

Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.
1 Timothy 4:16

In other words, it appears to be saying that your ministry will be saved.

Does it really matter what Paul thinks?

Yes, these are commandments of the Lord:

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. 1 Corinthians 14:37

Isn't this just a cultural thing?

Many people would say that Paul's instructions are because of the culture of the church in that day. However, Paul gives the reason for his instructions directly following, which does not appear to be cultural:

For Adam was first formed, then Eve.
And Adam was not deceived,
    but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.
Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing,
    if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.
1 Timothy 2:13-15

Thus, the reason for women not speaking in the church goes all the way back to Eve. She was deceived. In other words, it appears that there is something about the nature of the woman that makes it more easier for them to be deceived. This does not mean women are any less important in God's eyes than men.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free,
there is neither male nor female:
for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
Galatians 3:28

In conclusion, God has given both men and women individual roles and duties they are to perform. As we each do those things which God has commanded us, the entire church body will be able to work together in a way which glorifies the Lord.

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