By Vivian Bricker, Crosswalk.com
In 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, we are told by Paul, “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.”
This passage of Scripture has been under scrutiny for a long time because of the controversial statement Paul makes. This Bible passage tells us that women are to remain silent in churches and that it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.
These words can be quite distressing to many of us, especially those of us who are women. In this article, we are going to be discussing 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, its meaning, and if it applies to us today.
Understanding the Context of Women's Silence
Before we can properly understand this passage of Scripture, we have to understand the surrounding context of the verse. It is best to understand the overall context before we draw conclusions or meanings out of passages.
In the broader context of 1 Corinthians 14, we can see that Paul is talking about tongues and orderly worship.
In the verses leading up to 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, Paul says, “Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged” (1 Corinthians 14:29-31).
Paul is not saying that women should be silent in church, but rather, he is saying that women should be silent when it comes to speaking in tongues in the church.
There are many debates surrounding this passage of Scripture, but from reading the context of 1 Corinthians 14, the logical answer is that Paul is referring to women remaining silent when it comes to speaking in tongues.
Sadly, many individuals use this passage out of context to urge women to remain silent in the church. This passage is also misused to make women feel inferior to men. Men are not superior to women, and women are not superior to men.
Both are equally important and valued in God’s eyes (Galatians 3:28). Theologians should not use this Bible verse or any other Bible verse out of context in order to accommodate their own views. The Bible is not sexist, nor does it promote male superiority.
God loves all people equally, whether they are male or female. No gender is seen as superior to the other gender. Both males and females have their own unique skills and roles.
Women can serve in any church role except for being a pastor (1 Timothy 2:12). Outside of being a pastor, a woman can serve in any role in the church, including being a deaconess, a Bible school teacher, or a missionary.
Application for Us Today
Since this passage of 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 is speaking about women speaking in tongues, we are not under this command today. The gift of tongues has ceased as well as the other sign gifts, such as the gift of prophecy.
Since these sign gifts have ended, women and men can no longer speak in tongues. The tongues that are spoken in many Pentecostal churches are not the same gift of tongues the early apostles had during their lives.
The gift of tongues is simply the ability to speak in previously unlearned languages. This sign gift is no longer needed in the present day. The gift of tongues is not talking in gibberish, nor is it the “language of angels.”
Speaking in tongues, according to the Bible, is speaking in true, knowable languages that the speaker did not know before. Thus, women do not have to keep silent in the church today because this passage is referring to speaking in tongues.
In fact, it is a great thing for women to speak up in church, ask questions, and be involved with the ministry. Women should not be pushed to the sidelines, nor should they be treated as being inferior to the men in the congregation.
Women have great skills and gifts that they can contribute to the local church. Compassion, kindness, and love are a few hallmarks of the benefits of having women involved in the church.
Oftentimes, children feel more comfortable around women as compared to men because they view women as a safe place.
Similarly, concerning mission work, in countries where Islam is popular, men are not allowed to talk with women. Therefore, Christian women within the church will be the only gender to be able to speak to Muslim women in many countries.
Unfortunately, women are still looked down upon today not only in mainstream culture but also within the confines of the church. Many individuals still blame Eve for the original sin and even go to the extreme of blaming women for the fall of man.
The Bible tells us that Adam and Eve were both present when Satan tempted Eve (Genesis 3). While it may be easier to blame Eve for the Fall of Man, Adam and Eve were both equally guilty of causing the fall of man.
Adam was right beside Eve, yet he did nothing to intercede Eve from eating the forbidden fruit. Furthermore, at the end of the day, it’s not right to blame any one person or any one gender on the Fall of Man because we are all guilty of sin (Romans 3:23).
If you are a woman like I am, I urge you not to let others look down on you because you are a woman. Women are strong, brave, and courageous. We are more than capable of helping in ministry work and helping share the gospel with the lost.
Sadly, because of sin, many individuals look down on women as being “weak,” but women are actually very strong. Even though we are not allowed to be a pastor and lead a church congregation, there are many positions we can fill at our local churches and ministries.
When Paul says women are to be silent in the church in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, he is referring to women remaining silent when a woman was about to speak in tongues. Paul is not simply referring to speaking in the church.
It would contradict the positive view God places on women to say that it is disgraceful for a woman to merely speak in church. Therefore, Paul is referring to speaking in tongues — not just speaking on their own accord.
Why Does This Matter?
Thus, women’s silence in the church does not apply to us today because the gift of tongues has ceased in the modern era. Women are free to speak, ask questions, and teach other believers within the church.
The only role in the church that is biblically specified for men is pastor; however, a woman can fulfill any other position in the church. Women are great additions to the church, and they should not be seen as inferior to men.
Since many Christians use this Bible passage out of context, it is best to study and research Bible passages on our own in order for us to make sure a patriarchal or political slant has not been added to the passage.
Unfortunately, many Bible passages have been used to place a negative view of women, including 1 Corinthians 14:34-35.
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Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Viorel Kurnosov
Vivian Bricker loves Jesus, studying the Word of God, and helping others in their walk with Christ. She has earned a Bachelor of Arts and Master's degree in Christian Ministry with a deep academic emphasis in theology. Her favorite things to do are spending time with her family and friends, reading, and spending time outside. When she is not writing, she is embarking on other adventures.