Are Women Really To Remain Silent?
We live in a radical feminist-influenced culture. Therefore those who hold the position that women should not have elder status, nor teach or preach to the congregation of believers often get ridiculed. But does culture get to shape our views? I pray not. Let us hold to the authority of scripture as the inspired word of God instead of our emotional preference. All that God has created with a specific purpose is good. His ways are perfect and bless us as women.
Disclaimer: This is not an exhaustive study on the topic. My desire in bringing up the issue is to try and point my sisters in the direction of honoring God’s word alone, studying more for themselves and also seeking out elder/pastor counsel in the process.
For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints. 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. And if they will learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church. 1 Corinthians 14:33-35
The whole context of these verses is when believers gather in a group for prayer, singing, and the expounding of scripture for instruction through teaching and preaching. Verse 23 clearly shows this, “If therefore the whole church come together into one place.” We all know when this time is, whether it be Sunday morning or evening, or any other time of the week. When the whole church is gathered, with the elders overseeing, women must remain silent in the context of speaking instruction, asking questions, teaching scripture, and governing the church body.
- We know that from 1 Tim. 3 men are the only ones who can be elders, pastors, deacons in the church body. They watch over the flock and lead in teaching and preaching and women are forbidden from assuming those positions.
- The picture of Christ and His bride is what God desires to be seen. Christ teaches, exhorts, and leads His bride. His bride listens, obeys, and follows with beautiful humility.
- The gender difference also must be kept and seen. Men are created to defend and lead, women are to follow and be protected. Men and women were both created in the image of God. Equal in worth, dignity, and honor. But, each has a differing role to play and position to remain faithful to. The woman’s role is extremely important and the church body suffers when we neglect it. The men’s role is extremely important and the church body suffers when they neglect it.
“Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. 1 Timothy 2:11-14
- The context of this verse here is even more direct. Please note, the teaching or usurping authority are not together. Some think women may teach as long as they are not using authority over men. But it is clear both teaching and or using authority are forbidden.
- Also, take notice that the grounding of this principle is found in the creation of the world in verse 13, which transcends time and culture. God’s word doesn’t change over time or because feminists are unhappy with His design.
Here are some common objections.
What about Deborah?
In Judges 4:4-24 we have a story of Deborah, a prophetess, judging Israel. The context of this story is that there was a lack of men to lead and since that was the case, God used a woman to their shame. I don’t understand why anyone would want to use this as a proof text for women being elders or leading. Barak showed himself to be a coward and refused to go to war with Deborah. She was disgusted by it and told him he would lose the honor and it would go to a woman instead, which was considered shameful. Jael killed the enemy with a tent peg and got the honor for it. This story is not necessarily painted in a positive light, it is simply a narrative of something that happened and not a description of the new testament church. “As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths.” Isaiah 3:12 Here we see it is a curse on a nation when women leave their position to assume the men’s.
What about Philip’s daughters?
In Acts 21:8-9 we have a description of Philip the evangelist having four daughters who were prophetesses. Firstly, there is no mention of location in these verses. Since there is no information given as to where they prophesied, we are not allowed to simply inject our assumptions. We must let clear passages interpret the unclear. It is highly important to take note that through all of the new testament you can not find one woman mentioned being an elder, pastor, or apostle. No women wrote epistles to the church body. No women address the church body in instruction, rebuke, teaching, preaching, and exhorting. But the daughters did prophesy, which leads us to the next subject.
Were there women who prophesied?
Yes, there was! Philip’s daughters were mentioned already. Acts 2:17-18 speaks of God pouring out His spirit on all flesh, sons, and daughters prophesying. 1 Corinthians 11:5 discusses women praying or prophesying with their heads uncovered. We cannot deny this. But for us to harmonize scripture, again there is one small factor, location. Where women prophesy, share the gospel, pray or exhort someone in the faith is key to these questions. Being that Phillip was an evangelist, one thought could be that perhaps his daughters were out in the streets with him evangelizing. Women were given the same commission to take the gospel everywhere. They are not forbidden from sharing the truth with friends, family, or coworkers. Paul mentions in Philippians 4:3, “help those women which labored with me in the gospel.” One-on-one talking, sharing the gospel, and discussion of the scriptures are not forbidden for women. In Acts 18:26, Aquila and his wife Priscilla took Apollos aside and, “expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.”
What about bible studies?
Bible studies are not mentioned in scripture, therefore it is hard to make fast rules on how we should conduct ourselves as women when in them. I think we have seen from above women are free to speak, share and discuss scripture when not in the context of church gatherings with elders and overseers. Friends gathering together for scripture reading and discussion would not apply. The only thing I could urge on my sisters is caution.
- Where men are present in the bible studies, err on the side of caution. The slope of slipping into teaching or instructing the men is very slippery.
- Question your motives before you speak. Do I want to understand better? Do I want to prove I am more learned than they are? Do I feel I need to correct because I like to be in control? Heart motives matter and no one can judge them but yourself. So stop, pray and consider before you speak. You can learn a lot more by listening most of the time.
- The attributes of a godly woman should always be our aim. To honor God and love Jesus. 1 Peter 3:4-5, “But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves” We should be desiring to grow in a meek and quiet spirit, which is highly prized and honored by God. Seek to please Him above all, even above yourself.
Women can teach, but to whom?
In Titus 2:3-5 they are instructed to teach younger women very specific things. Namely, to be sober, love their husbands, love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands. Women are also instructed to teach children. “…forsake not the law of thy mother:” Pro 1:8
I hope this article will be a springboard for you in your studies. Search these issues out for yourself. You need to know what you believe and why. We must be women who love scripture and have it as the highest authority in our lives.
Our culture is crumbling around us. Marxism and feminism have done their damage well. The gender roles and family unit has been destroyed. Why be surprised if the world no longer differentiates between the genders when the church no longer does?
“There were women in pulpits before there were women in cockpits of F-16’s. The church sinned first in this.” -Doug Wilson
Part of the healing and restoration comes only with a return to God’s holy word and the proclamation of the Gospel. The church has failed, but there is hope, and it can start with you and I. You may think men’s and women’s roles don’t matter much, well, I promise you, they do.