Thursday, January 20, 2011

Part 19: Jezebel vs Sarah - When a Woman Speaks in Church

A couple posts back, I wrote that what has been brought forth about obedience regarding such as adornment, marital subjection and head covering is not yet what will shake some of us from deep slumber. As this challenging series of posts continues, I ask once again for your patience as this work is brought forth here and in your life. Even having now addressed the matter of a woman teaching a man, there remains more to be brought forth concerning what things daughters of Sarah know and practice, and what pertains to the Bride of HaMashiach as preparation for her Bridegroom.

After the last post you may be convinced that I've lost my mind. I'm not disconnected from reality but I'm just not interested in persisting status quo or playing religious games. I have no affiliations with institutions or associations with constraining agencies. I've been brought to such a place where I have few if any conflicts of interest or competing agendas. I'm not trying to defend anything or anyone or become popular. I'm not here to act friendly: I'm here to be a friend. My "angle" is that I'm conscious of how you and I will share in each other's reward. Hey, help me out, won't you? :)

We need each other in this hour, to pray and intercede as the Lord directs, to encourage, uplift and support as we seek to discover and abide in the narrow way. It's difficult to remain fast in the light when all we want to do is flee into the darkness. I want to encourage you to abide with me in this. Please pray for those whom the Lord draws to this blog, that they will receive what the Lord has for them and return unto Him what is His due.

I can't share with you the touching personal testimonies shared with me, but I want you to be assured that the Lord is faithful, who promises. He upholds His word and strengthens His people. Those who are hearing His voice and dare to respond with courage and faith are being rewarded even now with tokens of His love, which are testifying of what great things are yet to come!

There is a passage in I Corinthians 14 that must now be considered.

34) 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.
35) 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.
I Corinthians 14:34-35

Instead of following these directives with specific scriptural reasons why, like in 1 Timothy 2 and 1 Corinthians 11, the basis is assumed to be so well established that, "as also saith the law" provides adequate support. These directives are immediately followed by an assertion of authority by the Apostle that Paul was, ordained and anointed to bring forth the commandments of the Lord.

36) What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only?
37) 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.
38) But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.
I Corinthians 14:36-38

It is as though the spirit of the Lord is testifying to those who challenge the truth and authority of what was declared in a forceful and rather blunt way: "Because I said so - that's why. Deal with it." Paul by the holy spirit had to know folks would squawk about this, striving against the hardness of its appearance as it confronts the carnal mind.

When the Word of the Lord is given, some will perceive it. "My sheep hear My voice," the Good Shepherd has testified according to the tenth chapter of John. There are, on the other hand, those who do not hear His voice, and they will not follow Him. I won't make a fuss about those who won't hear what is written about women speaking in the assembly. "But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant."

If you want to stay the mess you are in the mess you're in, do as you have done. If you want to be free - change! There is in this post a message of great value. I love you. I'm telling you the truth.

What circumstances are addressed in 1 Corinthians 14 are similar to but different from what's addressed in 1 Timothy 2. We must be discerning and considerate of the details in this matter so there's no confusion. When one has no concern for obedience, all these things can be broadly dismissed and the details are of no concern. When one has in mind to honor the Lord with obedience to His commands, the details matter! Let's get it right! He is worthy of our every effort!

Some of us can accept what has been declared without a struggle and there's not too much more that needs to be said. Most require more explanation, which will do nothing to alter the simplicity of the truth presented but offers more insight that engages us and helps us define what obedience looks like in our world as we endeavor to walk it out in shoe leather.

Where the passage in Timothy prohibits a woman from teaching a man, we find that the passage in Corinthians extends further to include all speaking without regard for content or purpose. The passage in Timothy doesn't specify whether what is done is in an assembly or in private, so there is no limit placed on the context. In Corinthians, however, the context in which it is a shame for women to speak is specifically that of a mixed gender assembly.

The prohibition in 1 Corinthians 14 relates to women speaking in the church. What is meant by 1. speak 2. women 3. the church?

What does it mean to "speak"?

In contrast to "silence" meaning "quietness of manner" in 1 Timothy 2, when you read keep silence in Corinthians it means just that, silence; i.e. hold your peace. Follow the links on the words "keep silence" and "speak" to the Blue Letter Bible's Greek resources.

34) 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.
35) 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.
I Corinthians 14:34-35

That "silence" really does mean "silence" is confirmed by the use of the Greek word "laleo" for speak in verses 34 and 35. Strong's Outline of Biblical Usage reveals how the prohibition is such that a woman's voice is not even to be heard.

1) to utter a voice or emit a sound
2) to speak
a) to use the tongue or the faculty of speech
b) to utter articulate sounds
3) to talk
4) to utter, tell
5) to use words in order to declare one's mind and disclose one's thoughts
a) to speak

Can women teach in the church? No. Can women prophesy in the church or read from the scriptures? No. Can a woman give her testimony? How about announcements? Can they sing in the choir? No, no and no. Ahah! Can they sign for the deaf? Hey, come on. There's no prohibition against a woman being present in the church or serving in some capacity, however, if words come out of her mouth she is not keeping silence and it's a shame. Really, a shame? Yes, a shame, base or dishonorable.

Some challenge the comprehensive prohibition against women speaking in church with claims that it only pertains to the asking of questions, because verse 35 reads, "if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home." If one places the entire focus of attention upon that to the exclusion of all else, one could make their point, but not honestly. Such is the common manner of taking of what's provided for further insight and wrestling it to obscure and contradict the simple truth. That kind of "reasoning" is the rebellious striving of the carnal mind against the spirit for the justification of sin, the seeking for a personal exemption, loophole, excuse or escape route.

What is meant by "women"?

Some insist this only applies to married women because of how verse 35 reads, "if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home," and logically, only married women have husbands. The Greek words used in the biblical text cannot be used to support the "married women only" argument. The Greek word used for "husband" is "aner," which is translated "husband" 50 times but as "man" 156 times in the KJV. What determines whether an "aner" is married comes from the context. Such is also the case with the Greek word used for women, "gyne" (as with "gynecology," literally "the study of women"), which is translated "wife" 92 times and "women" 129 times in the KJV. The words aner and gyne generally reference the genders as male and female without explicit reference to age or marital status. Neither can the context be used to support the supposition that "women" means "married women." To suggest that Paul addressed the situation of married women and completely neglected addressing females of unmarried status is to express ignorance about the context of the presentation, of Paul's manner and the "real world" he lived in and ministered within. Who are the women that are to keep silent in the church? Females.

When we read in verse 34, "but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law," it should be plain enough that the direction here is not a "New Testament" invention or some departure from the long-standing tradition of a culture rooted and grounded in "the law." Even the converted saints of the pagan culture of Corinth in that day must have had a sufficient model before them.

Many women today are unable to ask their men at home because there are no men at home. Yet, you may perceive how this is not supposed to be the case. The law as given and practiced provided for women to have a man at home, whether married or unmarried. A woman was first subject to her father. If and when she married, she became subject to her husband. Consider Numbers 30 and Ruth 1, and study up on the godly culture of old, if you're interested. If the father was dead, the woman was subject to the patriarch of the house. Women didn't just have roommates, living with their boyfriends or girlfriends, and, except in rare circumstances did not live alone. What was recorded in 1 Corinthians 14:35 was and is valid. Are you a woman with no man at home? You have a problem that I recommend very seriously seeking the Lord about as to His provision for you. "Independence" is not the blessing you may been led to think it is.

When a woman wants to learn and can't speak in the church and there's no man at home, well, she has a problem. What is a woman of faith to do? The answer seems pretty simple. If you're some father's unmarried daughter, unless he won't have you, your place should be obvious. A lot of things could be and must be taken into consideration in such matters as this. If you're willing and truly seek to honor Him, dear sister, the Lord will direct you and grant favor as you trust Him. With regard to changing your marital status, what's written in 1 Corinthians 7 must be considered, and you may consider dwelling with brothers, sons, uncles or cousins as appropriate.

You may have noticed how there is nothing here in these posts resembling counsel for the faithless. This is not Staples and there is no Easy Button. Yet, we do have a Helper who is abundant with mercy and grace! The Lord calls out, "Trust me."

What is meant by "in the churches" or "in the church"?

The context of 1 Corinthians 14 presents us with the church as an assembly where men and women have gathered to engage in teaching, prayer and fellowship. There may also be speaking with tongues, prophecy, the singing of praise, worship, perhaps a baptism, etc. It's a gathering where saints are doing what saints are inspired to do when they meet.

Early in the history of the church "assembling" usually happened in someone's house. Big halls with bench seating, platforms and podiums, not so much, until pagan temple models were adopted and merged. Today, of course, there's a variety of venues, but the home is where it really happens best. Such a place of assembling may be a home or a hall, a yard, a park or a beach, a bus, car, train or plane. It may be called church, fellowship, chapel, camp meeting, conference or seminar. Today, the state of communications technology requires that we identify such a place or instance of assembly a little more broadly than in Paul's day because, while we may still at times meet "locally," in one location, many and perhaps most of us assemble in remote locations facilitated by phone lines, fiber optic cables, satellites, wireless networks and the Internet.

With all the ways we interact socially, what qualifies as a 1 Corinthians 14 church has expanded. Such an assembly may be happening in the context of a chat room, a conference call, a Web forum, a Webinar, online groups, lists or even group email, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. It's perhaps easier to more strictly define what such a church is not. 1. Private communication between two people. 2. A gathering of saints where no man is present. 3. A mixed gender gathering where activity such as pictured in 1 Corinthians 14 is not happening.

In a nutshell, what does this mean to us?

A women teaching a man or usurping authority over him should not be allowed in any context, public or private (1 Timothy 2). Taking the traditional Sunday morning meeting at the corner church under consideration as the most simple situation, words should not be heard from any female because it's a shame for women to speak in church. After "church" in the fellowship hall, is a woman free to speak? That depends. If folks are engaging in "assembly behavior" and a man is present, it's "church" and she must hold her peace. How about after church when the folks go out to eat together? Ditto. In the marketplace and elsewhere, where and when no "church" activity is being engaged in (or no man is present to hear if there is), a woman is certainly free to speak because the gathering is not a biblical assembly. One who is attentive will be aware how situations change quickly without notice, and it's easy enough to perceive it and then also to recognize when a woman is speaking.

The question we might best be asking at this point isn't whether this is a realistic expectation but whether this is the correct model for our behavior. It's not realistic to expect folks raised in a wicked rebellious Jezebel controlled Mystery Babylon culture to become daughters of Sarah and become worthy of being joined to the Bridegroom, yet, it happens.

When and where two or more men are led by the holy spirit to engage in such activities that are presented in 1 Corinthians 14, if a woman is present she must not speak. No questions, no words. If you're a woman and you're unsure about whether you should hold your peace, err on the side of sacrificing what you may prefer for what He may prefer.

If there's a radio show with "biblical assembly" character and folks are invited to call in with questions or comments, should a woman call in? No, that would be speaking in church. If there's a BlogTalkRadio show with preaching or teaching, prayer or prophecy, etc, and the chat room is open, and if a man is the host, guest or participating in the chat, should a woman actively participate in the chat? Technically, she wouldn't be speaking audible words, so there would be no violation of the letter of the law. However, the spirit of the law would certainly be violated so, no, she should not chat. If there is a forum, or something forum-like that is an arena for public discourse on biblical subjects, unless all men are specifically excluded as participants a woman should not be "heard."

If a blog post is ministering to the saints and provision is made for the submission and posting of comments, should a woman submit a comment? That depends. If comments are moderated and there is no provision to contact the blogger directly, the comment feature is a legitimate means of personal contact. If a woman's comment is submitted and subsequently published and therefore made public, the result is equivalent to speaking in church, is it not? (Ahhhh, right. Give me a few days to adjust my blog, if you would be so kind. I'm learning as I go. Thanks Lord for your exceeding great mercy!) Ladies, if you submit comments to such a blog, it should only be done where there is an assurance that it would not be published lest you be "heard speaking in church."

These examples aren't meant to be the beginnings of a comprehensive manual. This is a guide to inspire those who seek wisdom. How are we to know when a woman is permitted to speak? Here's two recommendations.

1. Want to obey, to please the Lord with subjection in all things.

2. Consider what qualifies as "church" in your life, seeking the Lord's guidance. Expect His help in identifying such and be attentive to His still small voice.

Women, where there's doubt, hold your peace. Men, where there's doubt, show mercy and permit it until the Lord's mind and heart is known with confidence. Seek the Lord about what He would have you do, when and how - and simply follow through with love and faith.

I'm aware how this will stimulate many readers and prompt further questions. The best way to get understanding is to commit yourself to practicing what you know is right. Lord willing, this work on the blog will continue and further light will be brought forth in these matters. I ask yet one more time for your patience as this work is brought forth here and in your life.


  1. Anonymous7:17 AM

    I'll be honest: I really don't WANT to believe this. Not even a little bit. I have two daughters. I know LOTS of really really intelligent, discerning, Godly women who, if they didn't speak up, would leave the gathering to a lot of men who don't have any clue what they're talking about and don't care to know God. I can't "see it" working.

    Which is why I immediately went searching for scripture to contradict this, sure in my own mind that Luke 10:38-42 would provide that ammunition, or at least soften it.

    There we read:

    "Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me." But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her."

    Aha! Martha owns a house. OK. Aha! Martha speaks up! OK. But look at which woman is at peace in this scene. Look at which woman Christ has to correct and which one he holds up as an example.

    Which tells me something else, Bob...

    In this day and age, virtually *everyone*, both male and female, is "anxious and distracted," unable to sit still and truly listen, much less in a state of subservience, "at the Lord's feet". Mary here is in what one could say is a rapturous (joy-filled) state *because* of the position she has chosen relative to her sister.

    If we truly desire the ONE GOOD THING, Jesus, then we as the church, the Bride of Christ (collectively in a female role to His very male role as ULTIMATE teacher and ULTIMATE authority) will *desire* to sit, shut up and listen with rapt attention at our Lord's feet. And that will bring us, at some point, to *desire* to have things in proper order according to His Will. Why? Because it brings a peace beyond our understanding and very much contrary to the kind we have been trained to engineer on our own.

    Listening... but still wrestling... mightily.

  2. Excellent point newine...I hadn't noticed before that Mary was SILENT in those passages.... you and Bob and the mercy of the Lord are helping me open my eyes.....blessings.

  3. Hello Bob,

    Does this mean I should keep quiet during family prayers (morning and night time) and wait for my husband to pray? Even if it has almost always been me leading family prayers and sometimes been asked by my husband to pray.

    1. That's a great question. If your husband asks you to pray, then you should pray, in obedience. If he does not ask you to pray, it's not fitting to do so at your own initiative. You, of course, should always be praying, but to pray out loud in that situation it really should be at your husbands bequest because leadership is his responsibility. You didn't ask about head covering, but you should be praying with your head covered, both when praying silently and aloud. That is proper, according to the Lord's revealed word.