Should women speak in church?

SHOULD WOMEN SPEAK IN CHURCH? MAY THEY ASK QUESTIONS?

by Shawn Brasseaux

These inquiries stem from 1 Corinthians chapter 14: “[34] Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law. [35] And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.” Why are Christian women instructed here to be silent? How is it “a shame” (disgraceful) for them to talk in the assembly, especially with regards to asking questions?

Firstly, this “speaking” is not normal dialog. If we look at the context (verses 1-33 especially), we see the background is the spiritual gifts of prophesying (preaching) and speaking in tongues. The gift of tongues is the supernatural (Holy Spirit) empowerment of speaking in human dialects never formally learned (see Acts 2:1-11—especially verses 6-11). It has nothing whatsoever to do with some ecstatic, “angelic” gibberish that “God alone understands.”

According to our opening verses, men only (never women!) were to exercise the gifts of prophesying and tongues. The implication is that if women ever did prophesy or “speak in tongues,” it was NOT the Holy Spirit controlling her. Friend, contrary to what you might have seen and heard in Charismatic circles, God the Holy Spirit never, ever leads a woman to exercise the gifts of prophesying and tongues. It is the working of her sinful flesh, the working of Satan, but never the working of the God of the Bible. That is what the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 14:34. While you may not like it, while you may hate it, you cannot change it! Just leave it alone and believe it! 🙂

What about verse 35? “And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.” Again, this is not normal, everyday chitchat. It is something excessive and distracting, particularly women dominating the congregation. Women serve roles in the local assembly, but not in places where they appear to be functioning as men. The order of creation and marriage is man followed by woman. That pattern carries over into the local church.

First Timothy 2:11-15 tells us God’s plan for the functioning of the local assembly: “[11] Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. [12] But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. [13] For Adam was first formed, then Eve. [14] And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. [15] Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.” This is the proper cross-reference to 1 Corinthians 14:34-35.

If a woman is usurping the authority over the man in the local assembly—or even in the marriage relationship—there is opposition to how God designed human life to operate. Satan will use this disorder to undermine those associations. If the Lord Jesus Christ is to be honored and glorified, the man leads in God’s Word (right way) while the woman follows him. First Corinthians chapter 11, verse 3, also written to the Corinthians, please note, says: “But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.” Ephesians chapter 5 adds: “[21] Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. [22] Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. [23] For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. [24] Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.”

Unfortunately, because of sin, life is greatly complicated. Two problems arise concerning the marriage relationship and the local church arrangement. Firstly, the man may not lead in God’s way (right direction), so the woman who wants to do right must go against him. Sadly, he is not operating as God planned, so she has to act independently. Secondly, the man who does lead in God’s way (right direction) may encounter a woman who refuses to follow him because she wants to do wrong. Regrettably, she is not functioning as God intended. Such clashes hinder—and if left unaddressed will eventually destroy—the marriage and the local assembly. You had better believe it, friend, you had better believe it!!

There is spiritual safety when a woman follows her husband in sound Bible doctrine. Satan’s goal (he is most wise) is to remove the woman from the follower position and place her into the leader position, thereby defeating both man and woman—and ultimately disrupting God’s work in the marriage and local church. Go back to 1 Timothy 2:11-15, which describes how Satan manipulated Eve to stop following Adam, and how Adam willfully chose not to guide his wife when she did stop following him!! This is exactly how the human race fell… how sin made its entrance into the human condition. We would be fools to dismiss the role of the sexes as trivial and fluid. Today’s “gender identity” and “sex identity” exploration fads are most dangerous. They are the Adversary’s way of upending human society, especially marriages (families) and local churches.

For sake of emphasis, we read from 1 Timothy chapter 2 again: “[11] Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. [12] But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. [13] For Adam was first formed, then Eve. [14] And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. [15] Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.”

Returning to 1 Corinthians chapter 14, there were women preachers and women tongue-speakers in Corinth. The Holy Spirit through Paul thoroughly condemned them. Once more, we read: “[34] Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law. [35] And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.” Some may not like it, but that is what the Bible says. Let God be true, but every man a liar.

Why would the Holy Spirit forbid women from asking questions? Well, remember, it is the Corinthian women specifically. “Let YOUR women keep silence in the churches….” They were notorious for being disruptive, domineering, and masculine. This is the key to understanding the “women and head coverings” issue dealt with earlier in chapter 11. Christian women in Corinth were taking away from the men’s ministry there. Therefore, the Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul admonished them to cease their wayward activities. (For more information, see our head coverings study linked at the end of this article.)

It has been said, more than once, that the modern Charismatic Movement would die out in a day if the women were removed from their roles. The same could be said of the Corinthian assembly—and that is exactly why the Holy Spirit wrote what He did through Paul. That mockery of Jesus Christ’s ministry was not to be ignored as “petty immaturity.” It was to be shut down entirely and immediately. Such words of rebuke thunder throughout unruly Christendom even now. “Let YOUR women keep silence in the churches….” Women (usurping the authority of the men) and men (failing to lead) are such a scourge in so many assemblies. Dear friends, the Church the Body of Christ has done such a pitiful job in learning these lessons from Corinth. After 2,000 years, even with the completed Word of God in our hands, professing Christians are struggling to get down even the basics in local church operations. No wonder they are so riddled with error!

Sometimes, even now, women will dominate question-and-answer sessions in local church settings or Bible conferences. Whether inadvertently or deliberately, it is still awkward, not conducive to learning, and contrary to Christian behavior. If one lady persists, or a group of ladies persist, in inquiry after inquiry after inquiry, it puts the authority and attention on them (when it should be on the [male] preachers and teachers—they have the task of teaching the Word of God). The (male) leaders should have the group’s attention, for God has given the teaching ministry over the whole group. (Go back to 1 Timothy 2:11-15—“[11] Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. [12] But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.”)

This author can just hear the objections, the critical remarks, to the study thus far. He will be swift to address them. This has nothing to do with men being more special or better than women. This is not misogyny. God the Holy Spirit does not hate women, and neither does this author. Again, the idea is headship. Someone has to take the lead and, because of creation, that is the man. Our sisters in Christ need to be very careful here, and not repeat the mistakes of the Corinthian women in Christ.

In all fairness, we are not going to leave out our Christian brothers. Friends, this is going to be offensive as well, but it must be said. If a lady in the assembly has an abundance of Bible questions, it is highly likely that her husband is at fault. The more she asks, the worse he appears. Why does this author say that? The Bible commands in verse 35 of 1 Corinthians chapter 14: “And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.” As noted earlier, God Almighty has given the husband the job of being his wife’s Bible teacher. If the wife knows little to nothing about Scripture, it is not the preacher’s fault! While she is responsible for her own decisions, the blame is (to a large degree) on her husband! Her husband is to be her spiritual guardian, and how he has failed miserably!! This was Adam’s fault—and, again, remember how the human race fell thereafter! It is a very serious matter, a grave issue indeed. Do not brush it off. He should take her home, and, in love, instruct her in their God’s words. At home, she can learn quietly without disturbing everyone in public. This is what Paul was urging the Corinthian men to do with their wives.

CONCLUSION

First Corinthians chapter 14 is controversial, a most “hot-button” issue: “[34] Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law. [35] And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.”

Surveying the entire First Epistle to Corinth, we could use several descriptors for their assembly. Two of the obvious ones are “chaotic” and “confused.” There were great disruptions, and Satan absolutely reveled in their Biblical ignorance, spiritual immaturity, and complete foolishness. Saints (yes, saints!) were abusing spiritual gifts, drawing attention to themselves. In our study here, we saw that women were not playing the submissive role. Rather, they were boisterous, overassertive, and unruly. Men were refusing to take the leadership roles and/or they were being outright rejected in leadership roles. Saints (yes, saints—women!) were drawing attention to themselves by preaching, speaking in tongues, and asking too many questions in public. The men in Corinth were failing to function as leaders and the women were overbearing instead of following.

As to be expected when God’s design is ignored, the Corinthian group suffered greatly from spiritual madness and mayhem. Hence, the Holy Spirit through Paul told the Corinthian women to keep silent and ask their husbands at home. There were simply too many disruptions, distractions, spectacles, and commotions—all dragging down the Lord’s ministry in Corinth. It is “a shame for women to speak in the church” (GOD says that Christian women who are not submissive in the local church and marriage relationship are disgraceful!!). It does not mean that women are forbidden to converse at all within the church building. It means they are not to exercise the gifts of prophesying and tongues. They are not to lead the entire congregation. The men in the assembly were to stop being wimps and set things in order.

Yes, women can speak in church. Indeed, they can ask questions. However, as we saw with the Corinthians, they can get carried away and draw the whole assembly into Satan’s trap. When women assume leadership positions—namely, teaching men—this is extremely threatening to all involved. We all (women and men) need to guard against this and see that it does not occur in our local churches!

Also see:
» Should Christian women wear head coverings?
» Should a woman lead a group in prayer?
» Should women serve in the ministry?

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