109: First Corinthians 14 The Role of Women in the Ekklesia

Toward the end of the chapter in which Paul is instructing the brethren on the spiritual gifts of tongues and prophecy, he then goes into detail about how things are to be done with proper order and decorum in formal worship services, ending by saying that women are to keep silent and are not permitted to speak in the context of formal worship services.

1 Corinthians 14:34 Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak;

The context here is the New Covenant priesthood and formal worship services based on the Mosaic Covenant command of God that only the males could serve in the priesthood and officiate during formal worship activities.  Remember that the God who was the Husband of Israel was the Being who gave up his God-hood to become flesh as Jesus Christ

Exodus 28:1 And take thou unto thee Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, that he may minister unto me in the priest’s office, even Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, Aaron’s sons

The commandment of God was that only males [sons] could be priests and the Mosaic Levitical priesthood was an instructional allegory of and for, the New Covenant priesthood of Melchizedek; and Jesus fully kept this same command of God ordaining only men.

It is clear that by God’s command only males [sons] could take part in the Mosaic priesthood; and only males can take part in the ministry of the New Covenant priesthood of Jesus Christ.

The biblical instruction for women to keep silence in the churches refers to conducting the duties of a priest or elder in overseeing or carrying out formal worship services and does NOT forbid women to speak or teach the Word of God in other situations.

In the New Covenant God has called both male and female into the New Covenant priesthood of Jesus Christ (Rev 1:6).

Today in the New Covenant, there is neither male nor female in terms of our relationship with God, but all have that exact same relationship and potential to be resurrected to spirit as kings and priests of Jesus Christ forever.

Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.

1 Peter 2:5 Ye [all of the spiritually called out] also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. 

In the resurrection males and females will lose their gender distinctiveness and will be without gender just like the angels.   Therefore being neither male n or female when resurrected to spirit the gender distinctiveness of the eternal resurrected to spirit priesthood of Jesus Christ no longer applies.

Matthew 22:30 For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.  

Nevertheless at this time we have not yet attained to that resurrection to spirit and we are still flesh and therefore male and female.  

As long as we remain flesh we are both male and female and God commands that only males be in the physical ministry because of the command that God gave to Moses; and because of the command of the Creator that women should be subject to their men, which Paul refers to in his instructions.   

1 Corinthians 14:34 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.

This command of God is found in:

Genesis 3:16 Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire [women are to be subject to] shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.

Paul also teaching:  1 Corinthians 11:3 But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.

In the flesh, women are under the authority of their men; both being under Jesus Christ and God the Father.    Yet in the flesh we are ALL – both male and female – in training to become priests of the eternal priesthood of Jesus Christ at the resurrection!  

Once the resurrection to spirit is attained, there will be no more male and female and all who are changed will become priests of the Most High of the order of Jesus Christ [Melchizedek].  

Nevertheless, as long as we are flesh being male and female, the order that God has ordained is to be followed: women are to be subject to their husbands [in the Lord], and only men may be ordained to the ministry and fulfill the offices of the priesthood including officiating at formal religious services. 

 

Women Teachers and Prophets

It is important to understand that prophets ARE NOT part of the ministry or priesthood. God calls whoever he wants to be prophets, to deliver messages from God and very often prophets are sent to correct the ministry when it has gone astray.  

Do remember Deborah, who God gave to judge all Israel, or other prophetesses like Huldah or Anna or Noadiah or the daughters of Philip. 

The biblical instruction for women to keep silence in the churches refers to conducting the duties of a priest or elder in overseeing or carrying out formal worship services and does NOT forbid women to speak or teach the Word of God in other situations..

This leads to a question about the gift of prophecy; if both men and women are to prophesy, as we saw earlier in 1 Corinthians 11:4-6 – and to prophesy means to edify, exhort, comfort, and teach, according to 1 Corinthians 14:3-5: how is it that some believe that Paul commands women not to teach (which also means to prophesy) in the Ekklesia, because of what it says in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 and 1 Timothy 2:11-12. In other words, are women in the church ever permitted to prophesy and to teach men?

In some circles, there is the theological belief that women must be silent and are not permitted to teach men ever. Let us look at the two often quoted passages that some use to substantiate this teaching.

How do we rightly divide these verses which make up the Word of God? And how to we reconcile them with so many other verses in the Bible that quite plainly say that women are to speak and teach others biblical truth and to encourage all the brethren, whether they are male or female?

1 Corinthians 14:34 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. 14:35 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.

1 Timothy 2:11 Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. 2:12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. 2:13 For Adam was first formed, then Eve. 2:14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. 2:15 Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.

If taken out of the context in which it is written, it may appear that these verses are telling the women of the Ekklesia that they are not permitted to teach, period. Also that it is a shame for women to even speak.

In order to rightly divide the word of truth, we can ask some questions in regard to what this is actually saying and look to Scripture for the correct application of these verses. 

We should not take these verses out of the context of the whole message that Paul is trying to convey in these passages, but instead seek to understand exactly what he is referring to.

We must put all Scriptures together if we want to know the truth about a particular subject and the Bible clearly tells us in other places that women are to “prophesy” in the body. It helps us to understand if we know that the definition for “prophesy” is another word for “to teach, refute, reprove, admonish, and comfort.” (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon)

What are some of the other verses that seem to “contradict” these two passages appearing to forbid women to ever teach in the Ekklesia?

And Your Sons and Your Daughters Shall Prophesy

Let’s begin by addressing the “to be in silence” part. If women are to be silent and are not permitted to speak or teach, how do we explain the numerous other passages of Scripture that seem to imply that women are exhorted to prophesy; which simply means to speak, to teach, reprove, admonish, proclaim, comfort and edify the church? In Joel, the prophet foretells that at a certain time in the future, that both men and women would be prophesying.

Joel 2:28 And it shall come to pass afterward, [latter days] that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions:

On the day of Pentecost in 31 A.D. when the Holy Spirit manifested itself in the form of cloven tongues of fire, Luke the author of Acts, says that all who were present were filled with the Holy Spirit and all began to speak with other tongues (foreign languages). We can assume that there were both men and women disciples present. This does not say, just the men, but all began to speak. Peter quoted this very verse from Joel 2 to explain what was happening which clearly says that in the last days the sons, the daughters, and handmaidens shall prophesy.

Acts 2:1 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2:2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. 2:3 And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. 2:4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

We know from the context that Peter was referring to what had just happened, both men and women had just been endued with God’s Holy Spirit in a spectacular display of what appeared as cloven tongues of fire. Peter went on to say:

Acts 2:16 But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; 2:17 And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.

The apostle Peter quoted Joel and reiterates that God promised to pour out His Spirit on all flesh in the last days, which had just happened (as a forerunner of this) to the small group of disciples that were gathered and had just received God’s Spirit, including men and women. The result of that pouring out would be that they would then prophesy.

Paul elsewhere demonstrates that women were to prophecy when he says that women must be covered when they prophesy.

1 Corinthians 11:5 But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth  with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven.

And in Acts 21, Luke records the account of Phillip, one of the seven disciples who were chosen to handle the food distribution in the early days of the church (Acts 6:1-6).  We are told that Phillip had four daughters which prophesied.

Acts 21:8 And the next day we that were of Paul’s company departed, and came unto Caesarea: and we entered into the house of Philip the evangelist, which was one of the seven; and abode with him. 21:9 And the same man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy.

These verses make it clear that women may prophesy, and that God even expects them to prophesy and not remain silent. What does it mean to prophesy? Paul defines for us what it means to prophesy in 1st Corinthians 14.

1 Corinthians 14:1 Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy. [prophēteuēte] 14:2 For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries. 14:3 But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort. 14:4 He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church.

In verse 3 Paul states “he who prophesies speaketh” and goes on to define in what way this person is to speak; namely to edify, exhort and comfort.  To “speak” is the exact opposite of being silent. This verse does not have a clause excluding women from edifying the Ekklesia. Men and women who prophesy will speak. How and what will they speak? This verse tells us that to “prophesy” will be words spoken that edify, exhort, and comfort others. He repeats in verse 4 that “he that prophesieth edifieth the church”; that is to whom we direct our prophesying primarily, to our brothers and sisters in the Ekklesia. Paul exhorts all, which includes both men and women, to prophesy which means to edify, exhort, and comfort one another.

“Prophesy” can also be translated as: teaches, refutes, reproves, admonishes, or comforts (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon). When “prophesy” is used in 1 Corinthians 11 and 14, it is translated as “teaches, refutes, reproves, admonishes, or comforts”; in this passage the word does not mean to foretell future events.

Adam Clark’s Commentary has this to say about how “prophesy” is being used in these instances which talk about both men and women prophesying.

“The word prophesy is not to be understood here as implying the knowledge and discovery of future events; but signifies to teach and proclaim the great truths of God, especially those which concerned redemption by Jesus Christ.” (Adam Clarke’s Commentary)

The word “prophesy,” in simple terms is inspired speaking, preaching, proclaiming, and teaching which edifies, exhorts and comforts which has to do with telling and reminding others of the “great truths of God”.

Again that in 1 Corinthians 11:5 Paul teaches about head coverings in conjunction with a woman prophesying.

1 Corinthians 11:5 But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven.

If the apostle Paul forbids women from prophesying (speaking, teaching and edifying) why would he say a woman must wear a head covering when she prays and prophesies? It does not make sense that Paul would say this if he had in other epistles told women they could not prophesy [speak or teach] as per what some teach 1st Timothy 2:11 forbids.

Therefore if a woman is commanded (as per Paul states in 1 Corinthians 11:5 and 1 Corinthians 14:1-4) to edify the church, that means she will have to “speak” words of edification in order to do so. But if she is on the other hand not permitted to speak or teach, how can she remain silent and edify at the same time? Does this make sense and is this possible? No, of course it does not make sense and needs further exploration, for the Bible does not contradict itself. The same apostle Paul who admonishes women to prophesy in 1 Corinthians 11:5 and in 1 Corinthians 14:1-4 meaning to edify the church, is the same apostle that wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 and 1 Timothy 2:11-15.

The Example of Priscilla

If women are never to teach men then why was Priscilla permitted to help in expounding “the way of God more perfectly” to Apollos who needed more instruction in how to teach others himself. To expound is the same as to “teach” and Priscilla in this instance was used by God to help teach a man.

Acts 18:1 After these things Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth; 18:2 And found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla; (because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome:) and came unto them.

Acts 18:24 And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus. 18:25 This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John. 18:26 And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.

The Greek word for “expound” is ektithémi: (Strong’s #1620) and means to set forth, figuratively to declare. (Strong’s Concordance)

When Priscilla and her husband Aquila heard Apollos speak in the synagogue, they took him aside and showed him what he needed to be teaching about Jesus, the Messiah. Apollos must have been very teachable for after they instructed him, God was able to use him in an even more powerful way in publicly proclaiming the Gospel to convince the Jews that Jesus was the Christ. There is no hint whatsoever by the writer of Acts that Priscilla had overstepped her bounds by not remaining silent; but rather Luke goes on to write of the fruit of her teaching Apollos along side of her husband.

Acts 18:27 And when he [Apollos] was disposed to pass into Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him: who, when he was come, helped them much which had believed through grace: 18:28 For he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publicly, shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ.

The Bible states emphatically without exception that both men and women are to prophesy, teach and preach God’s Word and speak to the church words of edification, exhortation, comfort, and building others up by encouraging and strengthening them.

The meaning of “prophesy” has the same meaning, whether it is referring to a man prophesying or to a woman prophesying. This kind of prophesying or teaching was predicted in Joel 2:28, and then quoted by Peter in Acts 2:17; that God would pour out His spirit upon all flesh; and that His sons and His daughters would prophesy.

God’s faithful know that the Bible does not contradict itself. So how do we explain the verses that state that women must be silent in the church when comparing them to other verses that exhort women to prophesy, to edify and encourage? We know that the Bible does not contradict itself, and God is not the author of confusion and that includes this subject of women teaching. The gifts of the Holy Spirit were given to both men and women for the edification of the body (with no gender qualifications).

The Context in Which Women Must Remain Silent

The understanding comes when we go back a few verses to discover the context and to see just what Paul is talking about when he says that it is a shame for women to speak in the church. In verse 26, he says “when you come together” which would mean on commanded assemblies like the weekly and annual Sabbaths; and from the context we can see that he is talking about formal church services.

He goes on to list the proper decorum for formal services and admonishes that there must be order and proper authority exercised when we all “come together.” He then addresses the issue of women and their proper role when the members are assembled during those times.

1 Corinthians 14:26 How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying. 14:27 If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret. 14:28 But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God. 14:29 Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge. 14:30 If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace. 31 For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted. 14:32 And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. 14:33 For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints. 

The context here is about proper order in formal worship services and God’s commanded male priesthood and their proper functions as leaders of the formal worship activities. 

14:34 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. 14:35 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.

In 1 Timothy 2, we read that this also concerns whenever the Ekklesia came together for prayer and ministerial exhortation [in formal worship services] and again Paul gives instruction for the formal assemblies. Paul is talking about how formal worship services should be conducted and how men and women should conduct themselves in public worship.

He writes in 1 Timothy 2:8 “I will therefore that men pray every where” this would be especially when they gather together for services.

The words “every where” indicates the places where the believers would worship. This phrase, “every where,” demonstrates that Paul is giving instructions of how the brethren were to conduct themselves whereever they came together to worship. Paul is still talking about the same subject of formal worship when he begins to address how the women ought to conduct themselves in public worship as it says in verse 9 “in like manner also . . .”. In this context Paul instructs men to pray in public worship (2:8) and women to be dressed modestly and to be known for their good works (2:9-10).

1 Timothy 2:1 I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;

1 Timothy 2:8 I will therefore that men pray every where [everyplace], lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting. 2:9 In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; 2:10 But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.

Then in keeping with the subject of proper order and decorum in the services Paul continues by saying:

1 Timothy 2:11 Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. 2:12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. 2:13 For Adam was first formed, then Eve. 2:14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. 2:15 Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.

Just as he addressed maintaining order when church members come together in 1 Corinthians 14, here, again, he instructs the brethren about proper authority roles in the church when it comes to formal church services.

A woman is permitted to prophesy and teach, but she is not to usurp authority over the God commanded male ministry.

Paul is referring to the authority of a man over his wife which God has ordained and goes on to talk about Adam and Eve and the godly order of things. A woman can prophesy or teach in other venues but she is not to usurp the God ordained authority of the Mosaic or the New Covenant priesthood in formal church services.

God is telling us in these Scriptures that He has assigned the leadership role to men; to fathers and to husbands.

In his instructions about conducting worship services, Paul tells the men how to pray (without anger or disputing, lifting up holy hands), and the women, how to adorn themselves, not being overly concerned about fine fancy clothing but the proper priority of being clothed with good works; and from this he moves to the topic of the prohibiting of women from teaching or usurping authority over a man.

The subject of authority is also mentioned in chapter 11 of 1 Corinthians which instructs the manner in which women are to pray and prophesy; which is to be done with their  heads covered with a cloth. Paul then goes on to explain that women covering their crown of glory – their hair – represents submission to the God commanded roles between men and women.

1 Corinthians 11:7 For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man. 11:8 For the man is not of the woman: but the woman of the man. 11:9 Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man11:10 For this cause ought the woman to have power [a token, cloth covering] on her head because of the angels. 11:11 Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord. 11:12 For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God.

The command that women are not to teach in the two controversial passages cannot be taken as an absolute command that “no woman should ever teach a man” for if that were true, Paul would have rebuked Priscilla for having a part in instructing and teaching Apollos.

The words “usurp authority over” provide the key to understanding this passage. Women should not be permitted the role of authoritative leadership in the church which is supported by the verses that follow.  

“To keep silence and ask their husbands at home” in 1 Corinthians 14 refers to avoiding any interruption of formal service. This is what is being referred to in 1 Timothy 2:11-15.

Genesis 3:16 Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.

Which command is also taught by Paul in the New Testament. 

Ephesians 5:24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing

Women are not to hold positions of authority or become pastors or give sermons in formal church services because God has decreed that it is the responsibility of men to exercise the leadership role, and women are not to take that responsibility away from their men.

Exodus 28:1 And take thou unto thee Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, that he may minister unto me in the priest’s office, even Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, Aaron’s sons

The commandment of God was that only males [sons] could be priests and the Mosaic Levitical priesthood was an instructional allegory of and for, the New Covenant priesthood of Melchizedek; and Jesus fully kept this same command of God ordaining only men.

It is clear that by God’s command only males [sons] could take part in the Mosaic priesthood; and only males can take part in the ministry of the New Covenant priesthood of Jesus Christ.

The biblical instruction for women to keep silence in the churches refers to conducting the duties of a priest or elder in overseeing or carrying out formal worship services and does NOT forbid women to speak or teach the Word of God in other situations.

Paul, in all of these verses, is focusing on order in formal services and the fact that women are forbidden to take leadership roles in the Ekklesia over men, which is very much in tune with the subject of the correct line of authority within the home and family system. Christ is the head of the man, and the man is the head of his wife, their children being subject to both their parents. It is a matter of proper roles within the Ekklesia and family as designed by God.

God intends, most certainly, that women are to worship Him along with the males at formal assemblies.

This understanding is in complete agreement with Paul’s instructions in 1 Corinthians 11; a chapter that demonstrates that women did participate in prayer and prophecy in the early church. 

We can draw obvious conclusions then from these Scriptures; that women can certainly teach and declare the works of God by exercising their gift of prophecy. In Titus the older women are specifically commanded to teach the younger women and the children; Paul even describes what they are to teach. The older women are to teach the younger women, among other things, the proper order of headship in the home and how to love their husbands and their children.

Titus 2:3 The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; 2:4 That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, 2:5 To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.

We also see from the example of Deborah the prophetess who God set as a Judge of Israel, the other prophetesses and Priscilla, that it is not wrong for a woman to teach a man in doctrinal matters either. The Scriptures plainly tell us what Priscilla and Aquila taught Apollos; “the way of God more perfectly and that Jesus is the Christ” for Apollos only knew the baptism of John when Aquila and Priscilla heard him first speak.

It is very clear that women are certainly free to teach children and other women, but they are also to teach, exhort, and encourage men as well if they do so in a respectful, tactful way without attempting to set themselves up as an authority over them.

Many women, just as many men, have knowledge, wisdom, and experience from which to draw from that can immensely help others in the Ekklesia. 

 

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