Women & Order in the Church

I’ve had the privilege and challenge of preaching on this topic abroad in China and Stateside in the U.S. and have come to believe that this topic needs our renewed attention, not only from the standpoint of “orthodoxy”, but also from the standpoint of “orthopraxy” – in other words, not just for the sake of doctrine, but for the sake of proper fellowship and order in the Church.

So let me encourage you all to post your comments below so we can come together as a body united in common faith to discuss this challenging subect.  And let me encourage us never to forget our love for one another when working this issue out.

THE BIBLICAL WITNESS

1st Corinthians 14:34-36 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. 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.

The two rebuttals that I’ve encountered the most regarding this scripture are:

1. This is cultural

2. This destroys women’s liberty and makes them nonparticipants

 

JUST CULTURAL?

When something is cultural we expect to see appeals to cultural justifications for its actions.  In China, for example, wearing a green hat is an insult to your spouse because it suggests that infidelity is underfoot.  So I might write to a new fellow missionary and say “Chinese will look at green hats as disgraceful because it suggests adultery”, but  I certainly would not write “it is sinful and adulterous to wear a green hat”.

In the major Biblical discourses on woman’s roles in the Church, we see no appeals to cultural contexts; instead, we see appeals to the commandments of the Lord and the Creation order.

So let’s take a wider look at this teaching and see what Paul says:

1st Corinthians 14:33-39 How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. 27 If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret. 28 But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God. 29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge. 30 But if anything is revealed to another who sits by, let the first keep silent. 31 For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged. 32 And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. 33 For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.  34 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. 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.  36 Or did the word of God come originally from you? Or was it you only that it reached? 37 If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord. 38 But if anyone is ignorant, let him be ignorant.  39 Therefore, brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak with tongues. 40 Let all things be done decently and in order.

Paul appeals centrally to the law (v 36) and in a wider context to God’s order (v33).  The emphasis here is that these things are founded in non-culturally influenced sources to establish God’s order in the Church according to the commandments of the Lord.

Now, when Paul appeals to the law for this teaching, he looks to something that was not based in culture to establish this teaching (for the Law did not come from culture, it was from God and ran counter to the culture of the day that they would have been familiar with).  But, in the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the matter is made very simple for us when he wrote “these teachings are the commandments of the Lord” (v37).

LIBERTY DIMINISHED OR ESTABLISHED?

God never diminishes our liberty in Christ, he always establish it.

God’s order allows our liberty, fellowship, and joy to be experienced as God intended.  This is about learning how God intended the body to grow and work together, not about reducing the role one member has and exalting another’s role.  Each member of the body is placed by God for a specific purpose.

One of the most frequently overlooked ministries of the Church is the one entrusted to spiritually mature women:

Titus 2:1-5 But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine: that the older men be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience; the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things—that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.

Paul begins by appealing to those things which are “proper for sound doctrine”, and instructs women in the behavior and responsibilities they have as part of the body of Christ.  Among the many ways women minister in the Church is that they are called to be “teachers of good things”.

The magnitude of this ministry cannot be overlooked:

  • The care of women in the Church has been entrusted to spiritually mature women
  • Combating the breakdown of marriages on the female side has been entrusted to spiritually mature women
  • Teaching and supporting each other in raising faithful Christian children has been entrusted to spiritually mature women
  • Teaching women how to have deep and pure spiritual lives has been enstrusted to spiritually mature women

Far from being non-participatory, these commandments are more active than most women in the Church today are.

If I were allowed to speak openly for a moment, I would plead with my sisters not to let yourselves be shamed out of taking the courageous stand in the faith that will be required of you if you are to take up ministry in the Church today!

We could go on and look at how women also are called to pray, prophesy, and evangelize; they can care for the sick, minister with hospitality, and give glory to God in worship!  None of these things are in any way hindered by the commandments of the Lord.  But a bond of vanity has been put on women that covets power to focus themselves on taking the authority of pastoring and teaching the general assembly that has been given to men as heads of the body.  And that is where the unrighteous jealousy and envy has been planted in the body today.

CONCLUSION

I wasn’t even able to broach the vast revelation given to us in the Scriptures about the prophetic vision of Christ and the Church that married men and women have been entrusted with, or the unconditional love that is experienced when marriages embrace the order that God has established.  I wasn’t able to look into the great power to win over a man who is disobedient without even uttering a single word that women have been promised by God when they walk in proper conduct before God.  But I hope that we have been able to glimpse the urgency of this situation in which the Church finds itself in willing disobedience to God and how extensive the ministry women have been given truly is, a ministry which many women simply are not taking up!

I reiterate my encouragement that you may leave your comments below; I welcome the opportunity to talk these things out with you.  I know there are certainly plenty of questions that I might not be able to answer off the top of my head, but, I also know that the joy of walking in obedience to God is worth the challenge of sifting through the confusion and chaos that has been thrust upon the Church today by generations of willing disobedience.

May the grace and peace of Christ truly abound towards you all, amen!

9 Replies to “Women & Order in the Church”

    1. Thank you, Mary! I am thankful both for your encouragement to me in person as my wife, and here online! May the Lord continue to pour out His grace on you as He guides you as His precious daughter, amen!

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    1. Thank you so much, Sion, for your encouragement! I am always filled with thanksgiving every time I talk to a sister in Christ that is unashamed of the “apparel” God has chosen to adorn His daughters with!

      I didn’t used to believe in these things when I first came to the faith. I actually really didn’t like the Corinthian letters at first, but, several years ago God brought these teachings to light and I had to wrestle with them and look to the Holy Spirit to guide me into the truth (because I surely was not in a place that I could’ve “discovered” the truth on my own). Once I began to understand these things, I was very convicted by the realization that we (both men and women) were living in willful disobedience to God’s order and disobeying our beloved Savior’s commandments.

      Were these things something that you were blessed to grow up with, or was this something that took a while for you to see as well?

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      1. Dear brother, sorry about my English, my mother tongue is Spanish. I certainly didn’t grow up with these things. I was raised in an atheist home. My father was a leftist union leader, my mother one of the founders of the feminist movement in my country. Anyway, the majority of my country is Catholic, so I decided to be baptized as a Catholic at 8 years old. When I was 20 years old my beliefs were a mix of Catholicism, New Age and Socialism. I was not a good prospect for a future Christian, but for God anything is possible. He called me at 21 years old, and now I am one of his children. I have passed many trials in different areas, too complicated to be written here but God has been faithful. I’m in need of prayer and I have an unconverted cousin who need much prayer too, she’s dying from cancer (I think these are her last days) but she doesn’t want to hear from Jesus. If you can pray for her conversion and for me, I will be very grateful. I will pray for you too. God bless you and your family abundantly.

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    2. I think your English is quite good, especially for a second language. I teach English as a Second Language when we work abroad as missionaries, so I know how much effort it takes to talk to me in English, and I thank you for making that effort!

      Thank you so much for your prayers, encouragement, and sharing your experiences with me here! I really am encouraged by them!

      Heavenly Father, I give thanks to you for the faith of Jesus Christ that you have given to my sister, Sion, and give you glory for the great mercy by which you have redeemed her! What wonderful love You have that You have saved us and let us become inheritors of Your Kingdom! I pray to you on behalf of Sion’s sister, and beseech you to pour out Your grace on her heart, touch her by the conviction of the Holy Spirit, and provide to her the Word of the Gospel by which saving faith comes! I ask this to You, Father, in the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, amen!

      Sion, do not be afraid, if the Lord gives to you the word of the gospel to share with your sister, remember, it is God who makes you a sufficient minister of the gospel! Trust in Him.

      Grace, mercy, and peace be to you, sister, in Jesus Christ!

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    3. Hi Sion7 – I wanted to invite you to come back and check out our site as we have re-launched dedicatedfaith.org as Bibleexposition.blog. Our new design is going to focus more heavily on Biblical exposition.

      Blessings to you and yours!

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    1. Hello Lindsey, thank you for commenting. May I ask what is condescending about the article? I felt no condescension in writing the article, so if I have miscommunicated something here, I would love for you to let me know.

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