Tommy Thornhill

In the last issue we discussed that even though God created both man and woman in His image and in so doing He created them as equals in their relationship to Him and each other. But, at the same time He assigned the man and woman different roles to perform in life and with each other. God is the one who, from the beginning, made the woman subordinate to the man as we saw in 1.Tim.2:11-5; Gen.3:16. As Creator He had the right to do this. He was the Creator and the man and woman were His creation.

I want to consider one other passage in this study of a woman’s role in the church. Turn to 1.Cor.14:33b-35“… As in all the churches of the saints, let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. And if they want to learn something, let them ask their husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church.”

First consider the fact this involves things done in the assemblies of the saints (the local church) which were to done decently and in order 1.Cor.14:33a; 40. Paul was dealing with chaos and confusion in the assemblies. There were times when tongue speakers were to “keep silent” v.28; and times when prophets were to “keep silent” v.30 and also times when the women are told “keep silent” vs.34-35. While these things were being done during the time spiritual gifts were still active, that time has ended. They are no longer active since the age of miracles and spiritual gifts ended when the perfect completed revelation (the NT) was finished in the 1st century 1.Cor.13:8-13; Eph.4:13. But I believe the principles presented at that time still apply to our assemblies today. I believe the context shows Paul is referring to men praying and speaking, publically conducting the services. When they are doing this the women are to “be silent” (not speak). They are not to be involved in publically conducting the services. Why? God has forbidden it, and the law says so v.34 (see Gen.3:16; 1.Cor.11:2-3, 8-9), and that prohibition still applies today, along with anything else that causes confusion in the assemblies. That should be enough. But Paul says it is also shameful v.35.for it shows rebellion against what God has decreed.

This is only a brief summary of my thoughts on 1.Cor.14:34-35, but the main principle is that women are not to be the leaders in conducting the public services or cause disturbances when the whole church is assembled. They are in a subordinate role. I probably haven’t answered all the questions that might be raised about the passage, but I hope I have given you some food for thought.    

In our time some find it difficult to accept the prohibition God has placed on women teaching over man. They seem not to understand that even though God made it that way in the beginning, today it is different. They teach that in Christ this difference in roles has been removed and the woman can do whatever the man can do. They quote Gal..3:28 which states there is “neither Jew or Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Yes, it is true that as far as a person’s relationship to Christ, the church and salvation is concerned, all members of the body of Christ are equal in rank. Anyone, regardless of social status, sex or race can serve God on an equal footing for God shows no partiality Acts 10:34-35. But take note, Gal.3:28 is talking about relationships, not a change in gender or roles the man and woman are assigned. The scriptures we have studied show that God did not change the gender and roles by which they function as individuals.

Subordination does not mean inferiority as some think. According to passages such as Eph.5:20-21; 1.Pet.5:5 Christians are to submit or be submissive “to one another.” Does this “submitting to one another” make us inferior to one another? I think not. The word “submit,” and its variants, “submitting” and “submission” were originally military terms used to refer to troops being lined up or arranged in formation under a commanding officer. They “submitted” their wills (were subject to) to the one in command and they kept their proper place in the rank s as instructed. When Christians “submit” to each other under their commander Jesus Christ, they voluntarily turn their wills over to others and do whatever is necessary. This submitting to another doesn’t mean they are inferior to the other person. It just means they voluntarily fulfill whatever responsibility is theirs. The same is true of women in the work of the church. There is much they can do in the service of the Lord, but if they abide by the scriptures, they cannot take a lead by being a preacher, an elder, a teacher over men. There were women in the NT who were involved in working for the Lord, but we do not read of any of them doing so publically.

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