Do women have to remain silent in church?

Question: "Do women have to remain silent in church?"

1 Corinthians 14:33-35 states, "...As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church." At first glance, this seems to be a blanket command that women are not allowed to speak at all in the church. However, 1 Corinthians 11:5 mentions women praying and prophesying in the church and does not condemn it. Therefore, 1 Corinthians 14:33-35 must not be an absolute command for women to always be silent in church.

The context of this passage, and much of 1 Corinthians, is the order and structure of the church. The Corinthian church was noted for the chaos and lack of order that was rampant in that assembly (v. 33). It is interesting that no elders or pastors are mentioned, and the prophets were not even exercising control (see vv. 29, 32, 37). Everyone was participating with whatever expression they desired “whenever” they desired. This included tongues and prophesying by women who were taking the lead in the services instead of being submissive, as God’s Word makes clear (1 Tim 2:11-15). Apparently, certain women in the Corinthian church were out of order in disruptively asking questions publicly in the chaotic services. It is not coincidental that many modern churches that have tongues-speaking and claim gifts of healings and miracles also permit women to lead worship, preach, and teach. Women may be gifted teachers, but they are not permitted by God “to speak” in such a manner in His churches. In fact, for them to do so is “shameful,” meaning “disgraceful” (v. 35).

The context of 1 Corinthians 14:33-35 is talking about interpreting and understanding the gifts of tongues and prophecy (1 Corinthians 14:26-32). Therefore, 1 Corinthians 14:34 is not commanding women to be absolutely silent in the church all the time. It is only saying that women should not participate when tongues and/or prophecy is being interpreted and tested (1 Thessalonians 5:19-22; 1 John 4:1). This is in agreement with 1 Timothy 2:11-12 which says that women should not teach or have authority over men. If women were involved in deciding whether a prophecy was truly from God, they would be disobeying what the Bible says in 1 Timothy 2:11-12. Therefore, Paul tells women to be silent when tongues and prophecy are being interpreted so that they will not be disobeying God’s Word.

Recommended Resource: Women and Men In Ministry: A Complementary Perspective by Saucy & TenElshof.

Related Topics:

Women pastors / preachers? What does the Bible say about women in ministry?

Can women serve as deacons in the church?

What is the duty / role of a pastor's wife?

What does the "husband of one wife" phrase in 1 Timothy 3:2 mean?

What are the qualifications of elders and deacons?

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Do women have to remain silent in church?