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Granbury, Texas, United States
I love God and His people; starting with Yvette, my wife of 35 years, our family, community, state, nation, and continuing around the world.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

WHAT IS THE BIBLICAL RESPONSE TO WOMEN IN MINISTRY ?

 
It is my hope to encourage those persons - of both genders - who are aware that they are called for more than the status quo.  May you be 
empowered to fully function in your God-given ministries.
  •      As we begin to read our Bibles more seriously for ourselves, there are a couple passages of Scripture about women that we need to study more thorougly than normal, lest some of us fall back into legalism and others into contempt for the New Testament.
Before attempting to address this important question, let me say right from the start that I believe and totally agree with 2 TIM. 3:16 which reads, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine,for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,….” while also wholeheartedly agreeing with 2 PETER 1:20-21 which reads, “…..no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.”

  • Another New Testament passage that we should all keep in our hearts when approaching the Holy Bible and learning from its inspired contents is found in 2 TIMOTHY 2:15 which says “Be diligent (or study) to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

With this instruction in mind let us dive in and look the root issue of the women in ministry debate, "Can women speak in church?"
Here is a verse that is often misunderstood.


1 CORINTHIANS 14:34-38
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.
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? 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. But if anyone is ignorant, let him be ignorant.

ARE THESE VERSES TO BE TAKEN LITERALLY OR DO WE NEED TO LOOK BEYOND THEIR SURFACE?

Because of those who interpret these scriptures literally, Anne Graham Lotz, after being introduced as a speaker at one of her denomination’s conferences - in the 80’s - had the unfortunate experience of witnessing a number of rude men noisily turn their chairs around with their backs facing her when she began to speak.
Who was in the wrong there? Should those men’s theology be corrected or should Billy Graham’s daughter not be doing any public speaking?
In the following is my attempt to answer questions like this.
Any time we interpret and apply a passage of Scripture in a way that contradicts other verses, our interpretation and/or our application must be wrong. Further down this page are some reasons why I believe those men were wrong and why a literal interpretation of this passage in 1 CORINTHIANS 14:34-38 is contradictory with other things the Bible has to say.
While interpreting 1 CORINTHIANS 14:34-38 literally may appear to be loyal on the surface, if one will study this passage in context with the whole of New Testament Scripture, this approach can easily be seen to be more of a misunderstanding than that of loyalty.
Here is a true example of how taking things literally can lead to a failure to understand.
Last year I went to a Texas Rangers Game with 3 friends. After the 5th inning, one of my friends gave a twenty dollar bill to a younger friend and said, “Go buy us some pretzels.”
A few minutes later, to our dismay, the younger friend returned with $20 worth of pretzels, which was way more than the four of us could handle. He had taken the request literally - as he understood it - creating a potentially thirsty situation for us all and leaving our generous friend without any change.
While there is a time and place for taking things literally in life - and from the Bible - this is not always the case. If one should literally apply the first phrase in 1 TIMOTHY 5:23 which says to “Drink no longer water……” it would be misunderstood and then misused to say that the Bible tells us not to drink water, which would contradict the lifestyle of Jesus Christ who asked a Samaritan woman for a drink of water.
As promised above, here are some Biblical contradictions I see coming from a literal interpretation of 1 CORINTHIANS 14:34-38.


8 POSSIBLE CONTRADICTIONS TO A LITERAL INTERPRETATION OF 1 COR. 14:34-38

1)    Prophesying is a promise to both genders.

ACTS 2:17-18 (JOEL 2:28-29)
'AND IT SHALL COME TO PASS IN THE LAST DAYS, SAYS GOD, THAT I WILL POUR OUT OF MY SPIRIT ON ALL FLESH; YOUR SONS AND YOUR DAUGHTERS SHALL PROPHESY, YOUR YOUNG MEN SHALL SEE VISIONS, YOUR OLD MEN SHALL DREAM DREAMS. AND ON MY MENSERVANTS AND ON MY MAIDSERVANTS I WILL POUR OUT MY SPIRIT IN THOSE DAYS; AND THEY SHALL PROPHESY.

ACTS 21:8-9
On the next day we who were Paul's companions departed and came to Caesarea, and entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him. Now this man had four virgin daughters who prophesied.

 2)    Paul wrote instructions for prophesying to men and women.

1 CORINTHIANS 11:4-5a
Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonors his head. But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head,….

1 CORINTHIANS 14:31
For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged.


3)    Prophesying cannot be done silently.

1 CORINTHIANS 14:3
  
(NLT) But one who prophesies strengthens others, encourages them, and comforts them.

(CJB) But someone prophesying is speaking to people, edifying, encouraging and comforting them.

(GNB) But those who proclaim God's message speak to people and give them help, encouragement, and comfort.


4)    Applying these verses literally would mean total silence.

1 CORINTHIANS 14:34-35
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.

Most of those who claim to take this passage literally, do not do so consistently, thus making their application somewhat self-contradictory and disobedient to their own beliefs.


5)     The Law never said that women should be silent.

1 CORINTHIANS 14:34
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.

FACT:  Get your best concordance out and start digging throughout the Old Testament.
You will find plenty of talking women but absolutely no commands for them to be silent.

QUESTION:  So what is Paul talking about here?  How can he contradict himself like this in the same chapter?
 It can easily be understood as having something to do with husbands and wives but first let's look at another contradiction; if the passage in question is to be taken literally.. 


6)     It would be impossible for those women - whose names are mentioned below - whom Paul recognized as ministers, to minister without speaking and without him having heard and seen them minister.

ROMANS 16:1-5a I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant* of the church in Cenchrea, that you may receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and assist her in whatever business she has need of you; for indeed she has been a helper of many and of myself also.   Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their own necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles.
Likewise greet the church that is in their house…..
*diakanos, servant, minister.
  
ROMANS 16:6,12-13,15
Greet Mary, who labored much for us.
12) Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, who have labored in the Lord. Greet the beloved Persis, who labored much in the Lord. Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine.
15) Greet Philologus and Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them.

2 TIMOTHY 4:19,21b
Greet Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus.

21) Eubulus greets you, as well as Pudens, Linus, Claudia, and all the brethren.

7)      Aquila’s wife Priscilla is recorded as having ministered vervally to a man.

1 CORINTHIANS 16:19b
….Aquila and Priscilla greet you heartily in the Lord, with the church that is in their house.

ACTS 18:24,26
Now a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus..........26)   So he began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.

8)    Paul’s writing of 1st CORINTHIANS was due in part to the family of a woman named Chloe.
1 CORINTHIANS 1:11
For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe's household, that there are contentions among you.

The listed contradictions are further compounded when we try to define what it means to be “in church” - which is where women are told to be silent – that is, if the words of 1 COR. 14:34-38 are to be taken literally.
Since we know that – according to the Bible - God does not dwell in temples made with hands and we know that Jesus said, “Where 2 or 3 are gathered in His name” He would be in their midst; it would appear to quite easy to be “in church” anytime and anywhere.
So, when can a woman speak outside of her home, with other believers?
In MATTHEW 16, when Peter verbally recognized Who He was, Jesus said, “Upon this rock I will build My church…..” Why should a woman not be able to verbally recognize Who Jesus is, just like Peter did, while being “in church”?
In ROMANS 10, Paul wrote that “with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Why should a woman not be able to fulfill this salvation promise while being “in church” with her own mouth?
We could go on, but I think we have made the point that a literal interpretation of 1 CORINTHIANS 14:34-38 has plenty of reasons to do some thinking twice about what these verses might really be saying.
Hopefully the following will help you in your own personal study.

4 POSSIBLE EXPLANATIONS

1.     This congregation’s divisive issues along with their disorderly meetings may have resulted in Paul bringing this strong word of correction to straighten out some of their church messes that were unique to them at the time of his writing.

2.     Because the Greek word for woman also means wife and the word for man means husband, maybe Paul was actually calling Christian husbands to step up their spiritual leadership at home, especially if the women, i. e. their wives were uneducated.

3.     Perhaps the words, “Let your women keep silent’ did not mean all forms of speaking but rather that which would be disruptive to public meetings.; especially if men and women did not sit together, as could have been their custom. 

4.     Verses 34 & 35 might actually be a quotation of something - that Paul did not agree with - from an earlier letter that he had received from them.

· This is possible because these two verses seem to contradict his previous words.

· This is possible because this letter was written in response to what they had been writing to him. (Remember Chloe’s household).

1 CORINTHIANS 7:1a
Now concerning the things of which you wrote to me: …. NKJV

(AMP) Now as to the matters of which you wrote me…….

(BBE) Now, as to the things in your letter to me:….

(CEV) Now I will answer the questions that you asked in your letter……

(CJB) Now to deal with the questions you wrote about:…..

(GNB) Now, to deal with the matters you wrote about……

(MSG) Now, getting down to the questions you asked in your letter to me….

(NLT) Now regarding the questions you asked in your letter…..

• This possibility could clear up the difficult discrepancy with “the law” (that does not exist ).

• Reading verses 36-38 from this view-point possibly gives some credence to it because Paul strongly questions them about something, that could be what he had just been quoted in 34 and 35.

1 CORINTHIANS 14:36
Or did the word of God come originally from you? Or was it you only that it reached?

(KJV) What? Came the word of God out from you? Or came it unto you only?

(AMP) What! Did the word of the Lord originate with you [Corinthians], or has it reached only you?

(BBE) What? was it from you that the word of God went out? or did it only come in to you?
While you may not agree with everything written so far, I hope you can at least see the need for further study in this matter. Please be encouraged to do so.
With all this being said, I would hope that the reader can at least keep an open mind in these matters and be able to hear from God, should thee Lord choose to use a woman to speak to him "in church".

CONCLUSION: What about 1 TIMOTHY 2:11-15 ?

1 TIMOTHY 2:11-15
Let a woman learn in silence with all submission.
And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man,
but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, then Eve.
And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived,
fell into transgression.  Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing
if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.
I do not know everything about this passage but here are some thoughts I have about it.

Remembering that the Greek word for woman also means wife - and the word for man also means husband - serves to help us see that Paul may have actually been instructing Timothy to tell wives to let their husbands teach them and for wives to not try to dominate their husbands.
The story of Adam and Eve is one where where the husband did not lead like he should have, harming them both; driving home the above point.
This story may have also been brought up because of a Gnostic heresy in that day which had it reversed and misapplied.
Taking this passage literally would also lead to a serious ‘salvation by works’ heresy with women bearing children to save their own souls. If this is true, then barren and single women cannot be saved.   Literally, this is so nonsensical that it is must be interpreted.
A look at some modern paraphrased versions of the New Testament may help bring us better understanding as to what was actually meant by these strange words about “childbearing”.

(MSG) On the other hand, her childbearing brought about salvation, reversing Eve. But this salvation only comes to those who continue in faith, love, and holiness, gathering it all into maturity. You can depend on this.

POINT:  In other words the position of women - being condemned for the first woman’s transgression - has been redeemed by Jesus Christ, the child of an obedient woman, who was in God’s plan for reversing the curse of Adam’s fall; thus fulfilling GENESIS 3:15.
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While you may not agree with everything I have written here,
I do hope you can at least see the need for further study in this matter.

Please be encouraged to do so.