Saturday, May 18, 2013

Silent in the Churches



"As in all the churches of the saints. Let the women keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but let them subject themselves, just as the Law also says. And if they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church. Was it from you that the word of God first went forth? Or has it come to you only? If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, let him recognize that the things which I write to you are the Lord’s commandment. But if anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized." (1 Corinthians 14:33b–38)

The second half of verse 33 seems to fit best with verse 34. The phrase as in all the churches of the saints is not logically related to God’s not being a God of confusion. The phrase does, however, make a logical introduction to Let the women keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak. Paul was emphasizing the fact that the principle of women’s not speaking in church services was not local, geographical, or cultural, but universal, in all the churches of the saints. Though it embraces tongues, the context here refers to prophecy. Women are not to exercise any such ministries.

The women who joined in the chaotic sell–expression which Paul has been condemning not only added to the confusion but should not have been speaking in the first place. In God’s order for the church, women should subject themselves, just as the Law also says. The principle was first taught in the Old Testament and is reaffirmed in the New In reflection of that principle, no women were permitted to speak at the Jewish synagogues.

One of the designs of creation, as well as one of the primary consequences of the Fall, was the submission of women (Gen. 3:16). Paul reflected that principle explicitly when he said, “Let a woman quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet” (1 Tim. 2:11–12). Paul’s argument was not based on cultural standards but on two historic and foundational facts: (1) “Adam … was first created, and then Eve” and (2) “it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman” (vv. 13–14). Men are to lead in love; women are to submit in love. That is God’s design.

It is not coincidental that, like Corinth, many of the churches today that practice speaking in tongues and claim gifts of healing also permit women to engage in speaking ministry. Many charismatic groups, in fact, were begun by women, just as many of the cults that have sprung from Christianity were founded by women. When women usurp man’s God–ordained role, they inevitably fall into other unbiblical practices and delusions.


MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1984). 1 Corinthians. MacArthur New Testament Commentary (391–392). Chicago: Moody Press. www.gty.org

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/statelibraryofnsw/2866527135/