First Corinthians 14:33-35 teaches, "As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church." Does this mean women are to remain silent in churches today? Why or why not?
Are women supposed to be silent in church?
At first glance, this appears to command against women speaking at all during church gatherings. However, elsewhere in 1 Corinthians Paul spoke about women praying and prophesying in church gatherings (1 Corinthians 11:5). The context of this passage must refer to women not speaking during particular times or aspects of church gatherings.
Because the immediate verses prior to 1 Corinthians 14:33-35 address the main gathering time of the church, it appears Paul's instructions apply to the main gathering. Evidently the Corinthian worship meetings were generally disorderly. Paul's instruction to women seems to imply that women were interrupting the learning times of the gatherings, thus being seen as overtaking the authority of the male leaders who were present. The women were not to interrupt during this aspect of the service and in doing so be disrespectful of the church worship time.
Further, Paul expanded the command by stating this was the practice in "all the churches of the saints" (v. 33). In other words, Paul wanted to make it clear the women were not to interrupt this time of learning in other locations either. He was not trying to make special rules for the Corinthian women but wanted them to follow the practices of other Christian house churches of the time.
While 1 Corinthians 14 addresses the issue of women not speaking out during the main teaching time during a worship gathering, there is much this passage does not address. Other biblical passages must also be studied regarding women in church leadership (such as 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1). Also clear is that men and women are both called to follow Christ and are one in Him (Galatians 3:28).
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