Paul And The Place Of Women In The Church

The Scriptures are not silent or obscure regarding the issue of women and their place in the church of Jesus. Neither should we be.

Before sin came into the world God created, first, a man. Then in response to man's need, and out of that man, God created a woman. Woman is from man. Woman was brought to man. Woman was to be a helper for man. That is the Divine order. All else falls short of His glory.

We must remember that this was before the curse. When that curse came, the natural submission of woman to man became law. Now the man was to rule over the woman. She would be at his mercy. It was her enticement that brought man down, so man would bring her down.

Now, in Christ, the curse is done away. Men are to "rule" women, but in love, and women are to return to natural and holy submission, as before sin came into the world. The error into which women fall in our day is the departure, not only from the curse, but from the very order of creation. This, Paul tells us, can not be in the true Church.

By the time Paul takes pen in hand to address the issue of female leadership, over 4000 years have passed. But in the great apostle is no desire to remove the ancient landmarks. 2000 years from Paul, we should be similarly steadfast in our resolve to pass to the next generation, unchanging truths.

Paul's letter to the Corinthians contains a number of straightforward commands. Flee sexual immorality. Flee from idolatry. Earnently desire the best gifts. Let all things be done decently and in order. Few would have a problem with any of that. In the midst of all of this command giving (chapter 14) is this command, of equal authority: (verse 34) Let your women keep silence in the church.

Oh my! We have a serious problem with that one. That was cultural, we say. That was historical. That was temporary. Oh a multitude of "reasons" are elevated to truth status by those who would excuse the woman teacher, for this is not an age when one wants to confront women's rights!

But Paul's statement stands. In fact, in many translations, including the Greek rendition available in the Parallel New Testament, part b of verse 33 is connected to verse 34, making the statement even stronger: "As in all the churches of the saints, let your women keep silence in the Church. " I am assuming that modern translators found textual evidence to be sufficient for such a rendering.

"Silent" means "silent." "Women" is translated "wives" by some, although the same word is rendered "women" in other passes. Consistency will not allow such random changes. I Timothy 5: 2 commands younger "women" (same word) to marry. Try "wives" there! But even if it were "wives", the command is generally disobeyed. And why the word "your"? The letter is addressed to the church. The "your" refer to that church, not to the men of that church only!

They are not allowed to speak. And permission is denied because of God's original commands in Genesis, not because of some local restraint placed on them by "woman-hater" Paul. (Such rubbish actually circulates among us!)

In Paul's mind the opposite of female authority is female submission, and he places it here as being a command from God in "the law". In the same chapter (verse 21) he refers to Isaiah 28: 1 as the "law". For him it is a broad term that encompasses Genesis to Malachi.

Verse 35 mentions a possible incident that may have given rise to this apostolic injunction, but this does not in any way affect the strong language of verse 34. It is possible that women were shaming their husbands by raising their voices in the assembly and boldly questioning the speakers, ignoring the fact that their own husbands could supply them the knowledge needed. At least this is the gist of the "myth" that has been created to make this verse understandable to us. I am not aware of the historical proof-text from which this story is lifted.

Paul tells them that such action is not called for, that women are to be silent. He settles that Corinthian issue, but in so doing he has settled our issue too, if we will hear him. Silence means no more questions! It follows that this also means, no teaching! If the simple asking of a query is met with such consernation by the man of God, with what spiritual rage would a full-blown lesson be met? Unthinkable!

Keep silent. It is shameful. Is this not clear enough? Much of the New Testament was written to correct a local issue. But for the most part, we do not shrug off the teachings because they were first written to the "early" Christians. We assume the eternality of a Word from God. Why not here?

He goes on to ask, (verse 36, paraphrase) Are you the originators of Scripture? Are you in charge here? Is it to be your feelings and experiences that will dictate the practices of the church of God?

More than that! (verse 37), even if there be among you a "godly" person who basks in his great revelations from Heaven, let him come down out of the clouds long enough to realize that we're dealing here with the Prophet Moses and the Apostle Paul!

Of course (38) he adds, if you'd rather ignorant, go ahead, but to your own peril.

Paul knew his teaching was not popular, and I know it too. But what does that have to do with the issuance of truth? Let's say what God says and see what happens.