1Co 14:34-36 “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. 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. What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only?”
In our society, it is difficult to deal with Paul’s instruction here without being labeled as being misogynistic (strongly prejudiced against women). However, if we consider Paul’s writings as a whole, it should be clear that Paul had a deep respect for the sisters of the church. He mentions several by name as succoring himself and others (see Phebe – Rom 16:1), being helpers (see Priscilla – Rom 16:3), and laboring (see Mary, Tryphena, Tryphosa, and Persis – Rom 16:6, 12) in the cause of Christ.
In view of the fact that Paul commends these (and others) by name to the churches, it would certainly appear that he had a great love for them. He also made recognition of their contributions in service to the church and the furtherance of the gospel. The injunction that Paul gives here should not be construed as a dislike of women or carried to the extreme view that women were to never speak among God’s people.
Women in the Bible were given some glorious testimonies to share. Mary declared the wondrous news to Elizabeth that she was carrying the Messiah. Eight days after His birth, Anna stood in the Temple and “gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem (Luk 2:38).” Mary Magdalene was the first to carry the miraculous report that Jesus was risen from the dead. There are many sisters in our churches today that have wonderful testimonies to share and much wisdom to bestow.
Paul was not saying that these women should not be heard. Paul does appear to be saying is that women are not permitted to be preachers or pastors. Remember that in the thirty-third verse Paul has told us God is the author of peace in the churches, not confusion. If we believe the Bible to be the inspired word of God, then we must believe that Paul’s instruction here was inspired by God.
Paul’s instruction that the woman should ask her husband at home rather than speaking in the church has a very definitive circumstance. He is advising that she not enter into a public debate in the church. We have a clear example of this in Apollos’ interaction with Aquila and Priscilla when the scripture tells us that they “took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly (Act 18:26).” In other words, they (both Aquila and Priscilla) talked with him privately.
It is apparent that this instruction was not being heeded in the church at Corinth by the fact that Paul saw fit to deal with it in his letter. He then challenges them with the question “Did the word of God originate with you, or did God give you something He has not given to me, the other apostles, or the other churches?” What Paul was teaching them is still true today.
God’s word comes from God. His teaching is left for us in the scripture. He has not given any of us a private revelation that is contrary to His word for the rest of His children. We need to recognize in the church that God equips us all to evangelize His word to those around us. He gives the sisters gifts that are appropriate to the edifying of the church and He gives brothers gifts appropriate to the edifying of the church. However, according to His word, He does not call sisters to preach nor does He call all brothers to preach.
May God give us thankful hearts for our various callings and may we use them to His glory and the edification of the saints!