This is one of the most controversial topics in today's modern church community. The sad truth is that cultural, worldly norms (which have embraced the ideals of feminism and liberal thinking) have replaced Biblical truths and
mandates as it pertains to the woman's role in the church and society in general. Again, if we are to understand clearly God's role and purpose for women in this modern age, we must go back to the original plan for women as set forth in God's
Word beginning in Genesis. We have to shed our carnal, earthly view of things which is normally shaped by the most prevalent teachings of the generation we find ourselves in. The only way we can do this is by allowing the Holy Ghost to
lead and guide us...to have the mind of Messiah (Christ)...and to look at the world around us as it were thru His eyes!
Back to Genesis
20 And Adam
gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him. 21 And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; 22 And
the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. 23 And
Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.
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.
I Timothy 2
13 For Adam was first formed, then Eve.
14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.
Woman’s Role in the Assembly
evidence is overwhelming when it comes to authority and leadership in the assembly (and in general application)…women are to take a subordinate role to men. They are not to have authority over men in any way…which in our modern assemblies
would probably include - leading worship in assembly (of men and women), preaching from the platform (which is a position of authority) , teaching men in any capacity and any administrative or governmental role that infers authority over men. On the
other hand, the scriptures also clearly show that women are no less significant in God’s plan, nor are they seen as “lesser” human beings…Gal 3:28, for “in Messiah there is neither male nor female”. The scriptures
also make it clear that women are to be respected and honored (Proverbs 31) as they honor the Lord, family and husband (or other male authority in their lives). See links at the end of this article for additional info.
The fact is men and women
simply have different roles in the Body of Messiah. This goes all the way back to the Genesis account that states that man was formed first then the woman who was taken out of man to be his helper. Also, due to the woman’s role in the fall,
Genesis 3:16 (a prophetic statement spoken by the Lord Himself) makes it very clear that she would take a subordinate role (in authority) to man in all future generations…really until the plan of God in “this” earth is complete. In
I Cor 11:7-9 Paul also refers back to the Genesis account as he was demonstrating the principle of “headship” within the Assembly and in general as it pertains to the relationship between God, men and women. Note: please see the tab
on “Head-coverings” for a detailed study on the importance of a woman demonstrating this headship principle within the assembly and specifically when engaged in spiritual activity (i.e. prayer and prophesying).
Study focus: there are
a host of articles that I believe accurately portray the God ordained role of women in relationship to God and man (see referenced links at the end of this article)…so there is no need for me to re-state what has already been thoroughly covered.
However, I would like to explore in more detail the issue of a woman speaking in the Assembly which I believe deserves closer attention. Again, remember the purpose of this entire website is to help us first identify and then “reclaim the ancient
To begin, I’d like to discuss several key scriptures that are at the root of this controversy:
See I Corinthians 11:3-13
3 But there is one thing I want you to know: The head of every man
is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.[a] 4 A man dishonors his head[b] if he covers his head while praying
or prophesying. 5 But a woman dishonors her head[c]
if she prays or prophesies without a covering on her head, for this is the same as shaving her head. 6 Yes, if she refuses to wear a head covering,
she should cut off all her hair! But since it is shameful for a woman to have her hair cut or her head shaved, she should wear a covering.[d]
7 A man should not wear anything on his head when worshiping, for man is made in God’s image and reflects God’s glory. And woman reflects man’s glory. 8 For the first man didn’t come from
woman, but the first woman came from man. 9 And man was not made for woman, but woman was made for man. 10 For this reason, and because the angels are watching, a woman should wear a covering on her head to show she is under
11 But among the Lord’s people, women are not independent
of men, and men are not independent of women. 12 For although the first woman came from man, every other man was born from a woman, and everything comes from God.
13 Judge for yourselves. Is it right
for a woman to pray to God in public without covering her head?
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance gives the following definition for the Greek words used here for prayer and prophesy:
From pros and euchomai; to pray to God, i.e. Supplicate, worship -- pray (X earnestly, for), make prayer.
From prophetes; to foretell events, exercise the prophetic office -- prophesy…also to forthtell, to speak under divine inspiration
As stated previously,
I Corinthians 11:3-13 primarily deals with the observance of the head-covering ordinance to demonstrate the headship principle within the assembly. It also shows (I believe) that a woman who is covered with a veil etc has the right to prophesy and pray
while in the assembly. We know that from the scriptures that “prophesying” (if it is genuine) always involves divinely inspired speech to foretell or forth-tell (proclaim or declare God’s will or Word…speak for God). We
also know that all the prayers included in the scripture are divinely inspired because “all scripture is given by inspiration of God”; however, the word "praying," by itself, could refer to either inspired or uninspired speech…the fact that
it is coupled with inspired "prophesying," it is in this context probably also referring to inspired speaking (speaking to God). That said, I believe what this passage is saying is that as long as a woman shows by veiling herself she is under the authority
of man, she is permitted to engage in spiritual or Holy Spirit-inspired communication in the assembly. This is an extremely important point of clarification…especially in light of what I Cor 14:34 says...which we’ll discuss in a little bit.
For the moment, let’s continue our discussion of I Cor 11. Another question that has come up when discussing this passage is the question of “when and where”…in other words, is Paul referring to when the church is in assembly
(which would include both men and women) or is he referring to a time and place where woman are not in a mixed assembly. This concern is mainly a result of what I Cor 14:___ says (more to come on this).
Some thoughts: since Paul’s
letter addresses the Corinthian assembly as a whole (see I Cor 1:2, “To the church of God which is at Corinth”…) and also in I Cor 11:2 addresses the passage to the “brethren” it would seem logical that Paul was probably still
referring to the assembly. The fact that Paul does not specify a particular setting I believe tells us that he is still speaking to the church as a whole…with implied emphasis toward its leaders (elders) since they would be the ones responsible
to ensure the ordinances are followed.
Secondly, (understanding the headship principle), the fact Paul was concerned that the women remained veiled during this time tells us there were men present because one of the purposes of the head-covering is
to show a woman’s subordination to man…he even says: “judge for yourselves” (only men would be in a position to make a judgment) is it proper (comely, seemly, right) for a woman to pray uncovered (unveiled)?” Lastly,
why would the possibility exist that some men would be contentious about this if they were not involved with what was happening? Finally, Paul says, we have no such custom, no not the assemblies of God… just the fact that Paul refers to the other
churches here gives us yet another clue that he is talking about a church setting here…during a time of spiritual emphasis such as when believers assembled to engage in the spiritual gifts and worship.
Conclusion: Barring any other evidence,
it would appear that based on I Cor 11 that women were allowed to participate in spiritual worship and communication within the church assembly as long as they were “covered” or wore a veil to show they were in proper relationship with God and
man…(in other words, the veil was a symbol that showed they were not in rebellion for trying to usurp man’s authority by putting their head at the same level as his…which is uncovered before God).
Now let’s look at I
Cor 14 -
I Cor 14:34-35 - Let your[d] women keep silent in
the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. 35 And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it
is shameful for women to speak in church.
As you can see, it would be very easy to conclude from just reading verse 34 that women are to be totally silent whenever they are in the assembly if you just read this scripture by itself.
Remember as we’ve said in previous teaching, when trying to properly interpret scripture, we have to look at the context of the passage and we have to interpret scripture in light of other scriptures that refer to the same subject area. In
light of this, let’s look at verse 35, notice that it seems to clarify what Paul was talking about in the previous verse. It seems obvious that verse 35 is a continuation of the same thought contained in verse 34. In other words, Paul basically
identifies what he was referring to in verse 34…a time of teaching where the women may have had questions and were openly communicating their questions/concerns within the assembly which Paul objected
to probably because of the type of communication it was…namely uninspired or “ordinary” speaking. Paul may be simply drawing the line when it comes to normal, uninspired communication on the part of women in an assembly…then
her comments, questions would be seen as coming from “her” will…not the Lord’s…and in these instances, it seems reasonable that Paul would ask the women to be silent and keep their comments and questions to themselves, deferring
this type of communication to the men who were to be in authority over “natural” church matters. Also, the fact that Paul references the law in this passage gives us another clue that the speaking he’s referring to is ordinary…and
not the prophesying and prayer mentioned in I Cor 11 which were divinely inspired.
Additional Thoughts: If I Cor 14 is saying that women can’t speak in an assembly under any circumstances then chapters 12 and 14 (spiritual
gifts, specifically the speaking gifts) don’t apply to women (while in assembly)…but what about other gifts?...can they be involved with healing, miracles or the gift of faith if they don’t openly communicate (speak in audible voice) during
the exercising of these gifts? The obvious questions that come to mind are: are they not of the body, are we not all one in Messiah, have we not been baptized with the same Spirit, does every member not support the other in Messiah? What
about I Cor 11 that says a woman can speak when involved with spiritual communication? It seems like if we start going down this road, it would get really complicated…there are just no guidelines given to differentiate between men and women
as far as the spiritual gifts are concerned...other than the necessity of women being veiled when prophesying or praying which I would assume include praying in tongues or giving a message in tongues which are also divinely inspired. It seems
like we’d be creating two separate classes of believers…one class that is free to exercise the gifts for the edification of the body and one that is not (at least not the gifts that involve speaking)…even though we are all one in Messiah.
Would it not be reasonable to assume that if women have the Holy Ghost just like men they would also have the potential to be used in anyone of the nine spiritual gifts?…after all the purpose of the gifts is for the edification of the body…that
“every” member may benefit. It would seem that to stifle women’s participation during the worship services could actually hinder the moving of the Spirit among us. Also, if women can’t speak, they can’t openly worship and
praise the Lord, they can’t sing (worship) in the assembly…does this sound like a body that is of one mind and one accord? Imagine if most of the church was made up of women…or worse yet, what if all were women except the minister
(and he was tone deaf)…eeeck!
Also, it seems odd to me that Paul in I Cor 12 and 14 would spend all that time talking about the oneness of the Body, and the spiritual gifts as they are given to “every” man (“man”
normally refers to both men and women as in mankind) as He wills, without really qualifying that only males could be involved with the gifts in the church, then all of a sudden at the end of chap 14 say in essence - oh by the way, women can’t speak in
church, so what I said about spiritual gifts (at least the ones that involve speaking) doesn’t apply to them.
It is understood that men and women have specific roles to play, and that the woman’s role is one of submission to the man, but
as far as our relationship with the Lord, as Paul says in I Cor 11, we are the same. Galatians 3:28 says: There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female;
for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Another thought: the fact that the Lord has given “tongues” (see Acts 2:4, 10:46 and 19:6) as evidence that someone has received the Holy Ghost, tells us that these utterances were acceptable (for
both men and women) especially in a setting when worship and prayer etc were demonstrated. Also, I Cor 14:14 reveals that people were praying "in a tongue" and "with the Spirit" (14:15). “Here the praying is equivalent to speaking in a tongue.
The point of linking prayer and prophecy may be that some inspired utterance is directed toward God (prayer) and some is directed toward man (prophecy).” So here are a few instances, if you reject I Cor 11 as referring to a church assembly, where
speaking on the part of women is most definitely allowed (who could refuse God)…even though it is by an unknown tongue.
Conclusion: It appears from the context that chap 14:34-35 is talking about normal,
uninspired speaking specifically within a church assembly…namely because the emphasis seems to be upon women not asking questions or speaking out during a church meeting that involved teaching. One could infer from this that women were disrupting
or maybe causing confusion by speaking out during times of instruction and perhaps other kinds of church business. They may have even been expressing their opinion which would definitely be seen as overstepping their subordinate role as a woman in that
setting. If we cross reference this passage with I Tim 2, the other scripture that discusses women keeping silent…we find that it also seems to be referring to women keeping silent in the context of teaching or learning something in church…let’s
take a look:
I Tim 2 – 11 Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. 12 And I do not permit a woman to teach
or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence…)
Again, the context seems to infer a time of teaching and learning…there is no mention of spiritual worship or use of spiritual gifts here. Given that this says
a woman is to learn in silence and is not to teach or have authority over man: one probably should take this to mean that a woman should be silent (she should not ask questions or provide comments) during times of teaching; it also says she cannot teach
or have authority over man…which, as stated above, most certainly means (based on Genesis 3:16) she cannot exercise any type of leadership authority within an assembly consisting of both men and women.
4 that they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not
blasphemed. 6 Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded
According to Titus 2:4-6 –the older women should teach the younger women…this is an example of female leadership that is acceptable. This
also may apply to small children (i.e. Sunday School), however this is not specifically stated in the scripture. As stated, a women’s authority would primarily be related to the home…tending to household affairs…showing that her primary
focus would be to her own household and children etc. The husband, however, would still be the head of the household per the Genesis account as well as other scriptures –
I Peter 3:1-2, 5-6
ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; 2 while they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.
after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: 6 even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.
I Timothy 3 and Titus 1
These scriptures give the qualifications required to be a
Pastor or Bishop as well as a deacon. It clearly states that both a Bishop (overseer/elder) and a deacon (responsible assembly servant) must be the “husband” of one wife…not the other way around! A Pastor (Shepherd/teacher/elder)
is similar to a Bishop in that they both have definite leadership responsibilities. That said it seems quite clear that a woman also certainly could not be a Pastor.
Based on the above, it seems clear
the Bible teaches that women are not to speak openly while in the assembly unless they are involved with the spiritual gifts or prayer (divinely inspired communication – see I Cor 11 and 14:14-15). Note: it also could be inferred
here that women may worship or sing along with the men in assembly based on the extended Strong’s Definition of the Greek word for prayer “proseuchomai”
which is used in I Cor 11. Secondly, the scripture clearly states that a woman should not have authority over a man. In other words, a woman should not be allowed to lead in any capacity in a mixed (male and female) assembly. This is an “Apostolic”
instruction that is based on the created order as established back in Genesis. Any attempt to conform these clear Apostolic teachings to reflect today’s radical, liberal, feminist values is a direct violation of the Word of God and a confusion
of male and female roles as ordained by our Creator. The fact that modern society (for the most part) does not adhere to the biblical teaching regarding the women’s role in the assembly is normally due either to a lack of understanding of God’s
Word or a refusal to accept its applicability to the church today. The truth is the Word of God is as relevant today as it was in the 1st Century…for “God is the same yesterday, today and forever”. It is man’s
doctrines and views that are often changed to conform to the prevailing cultural, social, economic environment that currently exits…like trying to build a house on shifting sand and clay.
Additional links regarding the woman’s role in the
Please see link below for additional information on “feminism”.