Vol. 1 - No. 4 

April, 1982

Women...Keep Silence In The Churches

by John W. Wilson

 The Apostle Paul said, "Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but are to be under obedience as also saith the law. And if they will learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for a woman to speak in the church." (1 Corinthians 14:34-35)

The above passage has nothing to do with a woman's ability, her right, nor her responsibility to teach in the church of the Lord today. The passage has been misused by many down through the years to try to prove that neither elders, the evangelist, nor anyone else can ask a woman to teach in any capacity. They misuse it to try to prove that a woman cannot speak up and make a Bible comment or ask a question in a class conducted by the church; rather, if they will learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home.

Of course, all Bible students who have carefully studied 1 Corinthians 14 know that these women were the wives of the prophets upon whom the hands of the apostles had been laid imparting unto the prophets the spiritual gifts needed for the edifying of the church. These were the days before the New Testament was completed. The inspired message was placed in the men. When the church came together to be edified revelations would be given to the prophets so that they would know what to teach. Some would have revealed unto him a psalm, a doctrine, or a tongue or language. Some would be given a revelation and some an interpretation. The apostle admonishes them to make certain that all things be done for the purpose of edifying or teaching. He warned that if any man had a gift of speaking in a tongue and there happened to be no interpreter present; then let him with a gift of a tongue KEEP SILENCE IN THE CHURCH. If another man sitting by had something revealed to him; then let the first man who had a revelation HOLD HIS PEACE. Why? Because "God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in ,all churches of the saints." (1 Corinthians 14:33)

I do not know how many women were in that assembly. I, personally, do not believe that any of the women including the wives of the prophets were getting revelations. There is nothing to indicate that the hands of the apostles had been laid upon any of the women there; therefore none of them would have had the ability to teach at this particular time; especially concerning things they had not learned from their husbands at home. The wives of the prophets seemed to be interrupting the revealed teaching of their husbands. The apostle said, "Let YOUR women keep silence in the churches." The women could ask their husbands at home because their husbands had the inspired answers. They were not to cause confusion in the assembly. Even IF some of the wives were receiving some revelations as some seem to believe, they still would have been usurping the authority which had been given to the prophets at this time.

Women as well as men are forbidden to cause confusion in the assembly today but the asking for God's revelation from their husbands at home is not a command to women today. Women have the same source of the revelation from God as does her husband, the Bible. Most of the women of this persuasion where I have preached are those whose husband bands are not even members of the church, or whose husbands are dead. Some are women who have not married. How can they ask their husbands at home, and why should they?

There are certain things that a woman cannot do today when the church is assembled in one place, and there are certain things she can do. She cannot take the pulpit as a public evangelist. She cannot act as an elder or a deacon. She cannot lead the church in public prayer. Why can she not lead the church in public prayer? Paul in outlining the conduct of the church in public worship said, "I will therefore that MEN pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands without wrath and doubting." (1 Timothy 2:8) The word MEN is not the one commonly used to represent all of mankind, but is the word used for the male. For a woman to take this lead where there are men in the assembly is to usurp authority which has not been given to her. I do not know why this part of the worship was assigned to men, but I know that it was. I do know that it was not because a godly woman cannot lead an intelligent prayer; nor because she is not commanded to pray as are all the children of God.

Women are commanded to sing with the word of God dwelling in them richly with all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in the heart unto the Lord. (Colossians 3:16) Woman is commanded to engage in all of the items of worship. I believe however, that there are customs, good customs which have grown out of the commands and examples given to us by inspiration which we would be hard-pressed to prove. I doubt seriously that we could prove that a woman would be usurping authority over the man by leading a song in public worship. We would first have to prove that such a work was ever given specifically to the male. I doubt seriously that we can prove that woman would be usurping authority by serving at the Lord's table. We can find no place where this specific work was placed in the hands of men. However, let's not anyone get any ideas. I've said these things only in order to show that a woman should not be considered "out of place" as it is so often put just because she is a woman and happens to be in the presence of men in the church. Usurping authority which belongs to another is all that is involved.

Frankly, I would not want my wife or my daughter standing before the assembly as a song leader, but I've been in assemblies where there was not a man who could carry a tune, including myself, and thank goodness for some fine sister who could start the song. There is no scripture which demands that any person, man or woman stand before the assembly. It is nice, it is convenient, and it is orderly, but not especially necessary to the singing of praises to God. There is no reason for a woman to wait upon the congregation at the Lord's table where there are men, but I have been in assemblies where the emblems were not passed. Christians gathered quietly one by one around the table. The passing of the emblems is not a command to either men or women. God does expect us to be reasonable and to do all things decently and in order, and as for me, I'm for it just the way it is. I'm glad it's done the way it is in most churches of the saints. We never know, since Eve was deceived, a woman could be deceived into taking more authority than she should, but enough on that point.

There are three principles given by the Holy Spirit which are universal in the application of 1 Corinthians 14. (1) When the church comes together in one place, all things are to be done to the edifying of the church. (2) There is to be no confusion caused in the assembly of the saints by anyone because God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints. (1 Corinthians 14:33) (3) There can be no kind of unbecoming demonstrations or outbursts on the part of anyone ... male or female. These principles are laid down to the end that all may be edified.

I wish I had the space to enumerate all of the many roles women have played in teaching to the glory of God down through the ages, but I will briefly name only a few. Miriam, the sister of Moses, Exodus 15. Deborah, Judges 4:4. Huldah, 2 Kings 22. Anna in Luke 2:38. Mary Magdalene, 1 Corinthians 15:1-4. Phillips virgin daughters, Acts 21:9. Priscilla, Acts 18:26. I could go on and on. "There is neither male nor female, but we are all one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:28) God simply has reserved leadership for the man. He has not restricted woman from doing any work toward the salvation of souls to the up building of the body of Christ and to his name's honor and glory. Is it not strange that Christ chose to call his wonderful teaching institution his BRIDE? Thank God for Godly women, and thank God that they were never excluded from teaching others the wonderful message of salvation.