This is the ninth sermon in a series covering marriage, family, and the church. This message was delivered on the evening of July 29, 2012 at Hillcrest Baptist Church. This message deals with the praying, speaking, and teaching in the church. Of special interest are the male and female roles. You will find the sermon notes, and the audio. Please note that the sermon notes are NOT a full transcript. Typically, as I preach, I add to what is in my notes. So, for the full sermon, please listen to the audio version.
1 Corinthians 14:34
“Let your women keep silent”
“And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence”
“But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, for that is one and the same as if her head were shaved”
What are we to make of these seemingly contradictory verses? Are women allowed to pray and prophesy? Are they allowed to teach, or are they required to maintain silence in the worship service?
There is a lot of confusion surrounding this, and one of the main reasons that it is not taught.
Rather than simply citing isolated examples and commands, and then having to decide which one we are going to believe (which typically is what happens).
We’re going to pull it all together, and make some sense out of it. You’ll be able to believe all of it without fear of contradiction.
The first thing that we need to keep in mind is that, as we’ve already learned, the basic gender roles in the home apply in the church.
So what does all that mean?
1 Corinthians 14:29-35
In a chapter that is detailing the gift of tongues and prophecy in the assembly, Paul instructs others to judge the messages of the prophets. This commandment; however, does not extend to women. See 1 Corinthians 14:34-35
In 1 Corinthians 11:5 we see that women may pray and prophesy in public worship (with some restrictions). Because of this, we know that we must take Paul’s command for women to remain silent, only in the immediate context of this passage.
The command in this verse refers back to the judging of the prophets in 1 Corinthians 14:29
When tying this verse to 1 Timothy 2:12, we can understand that women are not to usurp authority by teaching men in matters of doctrine.
Doctrinal purity is the sole responsibility of the men of the church.
Paul points out that since women are under the authority of their husbands, if a woman has a question or a problem, she will go to her husband in the privacy of their home.
For a woman to raise questions on matters of doctrine at church, would be akin to questioning the authority of the church leaders.
Since women, themselves, have no such authority in the church,it would be shameful for them to speak out in such a way.
As such, they would go through their husband.
What of an unmarried or widowed woman?
We have to use our best judgment, and there would seem to be a couple of options.
1) go to an elder in private.
2) go to a married woman and let her take it to her husband.
Let all things be done decently and in order. V.40
1 Timothy 2:12-13
Paul has written this letter to a young pastor named Timothy, and is instructing him on church leadership.
We see some examples of women teaching men in the Bible, but none of those examples are in a formal church setting.
Here we see specific instructions for church.
Women are not to teach men, and taken in conjunction with 1 Corinthians 14:29,34, it becomes very clear that women are not to instruct men in matters of doctrine.
To teach men, would be to presume a position of authority over them. In fact, in the next chapter, Paul makes it quite clear that the leadership positions in the church (pastor and deacon) belong to men.
So what of the examples of women teachers in the Bible?
First, a distinction must be made between teaching in public organized worship and private teaching.
I’m not sure I can say why there is a distinction between the public and private, but scripture shows a clear distinction, and that’s good enough.
Paul held many women in high regard, but he was always mindful of God’s designated gender roles.
Some examples that are commonly used:
Nymphas col 4:15. Unsure whether male or female, but no mention of teaching, and gender is irrelevant, as it was simply the house that was being used or meetings.
Junia Romans 16:7. Simply known among the apostles. No other details given.
Priscilla acts 18:26; 1 cor. 16:19; Romans 16:3. She did not teach Paul on her own, but in conjunction with her husband, and not in public worship, but in private. Their home was used for church, and they were faithful workers.
We can’t read more into it than is actually there. There is no Biblical justification for women teaching men in any authoritative manner.
Special note should be taken of the Greek word “heyschia” which is translated as silence in some translations.
ἡσυχία [hesuchia /hay·soo·khee·ah/] n f. From 2272; GK 2484; 1. A description of the life of one who stays at home doing his own work, and does not officiously meddle with the affairs of others. 2. Silence
The first and primary definition fits perfectly with one of God’s stated roles for women. Titus 2:3-5
It is ultimately a command for women to embrace their roles which God has assigned them, and not to usurp an authority which God never intended.
This is not a command for total silence, and cannot be per the instruction for prayer in 1 Corinthians 11:5. Also, “heyschia” is much different than “sigao” which is the word for silent in 1 Corinthians 14:34
Sigao is a much more definitive word for total silence.
We should also remember that these churches weren’t quite like ours today.
All of the teaching was done by the elders, in a very authoritative manner.
They didn’t have Sunday school classes like we have today, in which we have informal and open discussions.
It may not necessarily be wrong for a woman to lead such a class, so long as it remains informal and is not authoritatively setting forth the doctrine of the church.
A woman in such a position should always proceed very humbly, always keeping in mind God’s stated hierarchy in the church.
Paul takes the argument back to creation.
God instructed Adam, and it was Adam’s job to teach Eve, not the other way around.
1 Corinthians 11:2-16
Throughout the centuries, the head covering has been seen as a symbol of a woman’s submission to the headship of man.
It helped to symbolize the hierarchy of God’s creation.
The head covering was a tradition which we see examples of as far back as Genesis, yet in the Old Testament laws regarding a woman’s dress, there is no actual commandment for a covering.
By the time of this writing, the head covering was typically a piece of the outer garment, pulled over the head like a hood. It was not a veil which covered the face.
Typically, the only women who would not wear a covering were the temple prostitutes. So, for a woman not to be covered, would dishonor her husband by shunning his authority, dishonor herself, and make the church look bad for allowing prostitutes.
As a respectable woman, you would certainly want to wear the covering.
It is important to understand that the general context of the entire book of 1 Corinthians is pertaining to public worship.
This verse, alone, would indicate that women can pray and “prophesy,” but they must be properly adorned with a head covering.
An examination of this entire passage, and the entire Bible in general, tells us that in all things, a woman is to demonstrate subordination. In the culture of that time, the head covering symbolized that. It would be similar to, but not quite the same as wedding rings in our culture.
A subordinate woman; therefore, will pray very differently than a rebellious independent woman. So, while it is permissible for women to pray in public worship, they must do so in a subordinate manner.
The submissive Godly woman would never presume to lead a man in prayer, or to pray on behalf of men, though participation in prayer would be permitted.
This would also affect the way a woman would prophesy. The submissive Godly woman would not presume to usurp a man’s authority by teaching men in matters of doctrine. 1 Corinthians 14:29 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 1 Timothy 2:12 Therefore, a woman’s prophesying would be limited to the likes of giving a testimony, where men are present.
Later verses will tell us that while the head covering is important, it is a cultural tradition and not mandatory. The most important aspect is a submissive attitude, which is symbolized by the covering. God has given women a natural covering.
It is also important to remember that even though the wearing of a covering may not be necessary, doing so certainly does not violate Scripture.
If a woman is part of a fellowship that keeps that tradition, then the right thing for a her to do is to wear a covering. To not do so would go against the leadership of the church, such is not appropriate for a Godly woman.
This verse indicates that angels participate in our worship services.
In obedience to God, angels keep their proper place, and women must do the same. It would be a great insult to the angels, who have kept their place, to be confronted by rebellious women.
Paul uses an argument from God’s creation to point the church in the right direction.
We are told to judge among ourselves, using nature as a guide. If the cloth head covering were the critical issue, Paul would never have said “judge among yourselves.”
The head covering is obviously not a definitive command.
Because we are to judge among ourselves, it is clear that any physical head covering is ultimately a matter of conscience.
Paul makes it clear that God has given women a natural covering, which is her long hair.
God’s natural covering is obviously quite sufficient.
Paul makes it quite clear here that this issue is not worth an argument.
He says very plainly that “we” (the apostles), nor the churches have any such custom.
NIV, NLT, HCSB, NASB, NET use “no other” instead of “no such”
toioutos = toiouvtoßa, au/th, ouvton: pertaining to being like some identified entity or event — ‘such, like such, like that.’: ‘and I know a person like that’ 2Cor 12:3; ‘for the Father seeks persons like that to worship him’ Jn 4:23; ‘tribulation such as has not happened in this way from the beginning of the world’ Mk 13:19; ‘such a person should understand this; namely, what we say in letters while absent will be such as we will do when we are present’ 2Cor 10:11. (Louw & Nida, all other lexicons confirm this sole meaning of the word.)
It is used to convey a similarity or likeness, not a contrast. “No such” is in fact the correct usage, and “no other” is incorrect. This makes a huge difference.
In speaking: Women are not relegated to total silence in the church. The command only extends to authoritative teaching and disorderly conduct.
In prayer: It is proper for Christian women to pray, and a head covering is not a requirement. An attitude of humility should always be observed in light of Godly submission, just as in marriage.
In prophesying: Women may share testimony in church, as long as it does not rise to the level of authoritative doctrinal teaching to men.
In teaching: Authoritative matters of doctrine are the responsibility of men. So, any “teaching of men cannot occur in any authoritative sense.
Just as in marriage, it is God’s system of order, designed to produce a healthy, God-honoring, God pleasing church.