The Women of Corinthians 14

By Dan Waiters

Brother Bruce Edwards, Jr., has presented some excellent material in his series of articles on spiritual gifts. I would like to take issue with him on one point only. This concerns the women of 1 Cor. 14:34. First let us notice certain truths which Brother Edwards has emphasized. He says, “We need not wrest the term `silence’ here to mean `behave with quietness or tranquility’ or `partake of a reserved and submissive demeanor’! Quite literally, Paul means to `Shut up!’ ” No one could have put it plainer. Brother Edwards also points out that praying and prophesying in 1 Cor. 11 both involved the use of spiritual gifts and that these gifts were not used by women in the assembly. Such teaching is sorely needed. Many brethren say that 1 Cor. 11:1-16 does apply to public worship or the assembly of the church. If so, we have an example of inspired women preachers and a direct contradiction of 1 Cor. 14:34. Brother Edwards sees the fallacy of this and points it out.

But then Brother Edwards falls into the old trap of limiting the women whom Paul referred to in 1 Cor. 14:34, 35. For years debaters have limited the meaning to “wives of the prophets” in order to score points against no-class brethren. They have never offered any proof for this assumption. Then they have said that since the entire chapter deals with spiritual gifts, then nothing in it is relevant to us anyway. Thus they have rejected God’s statement: “It is a shame for women to speak in the church,” as presumptuously as any Baptist preacher ever rejected Mark 16:16. Brother Edwards does not take this position, but rather limits the women in verse 34 to women exercising spiritual gifts. He quotes from Ron Halbrook who apparently labors under the same misconception. (This can not be established from the quotation, but at least this is how Brother Edwards interprets Brother Halbrook.) This is evidently a brand new outlook on this question. Hopefully it will not survive long enough to become standard Brotherhood Tradition. 1 Cor. 14:35 totally demolishes it. Paul here says, “And if they will learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.” Here were women who wanted to ask questions concerning the teaching. They were not women prophets wishing to impart knowledge (though this would also be forbidden). They were women wishing to obtain knowledge by asking questions or entering into public discussion regarding the teaching being done. And Paul forbids this by making as plain a statement as -ever flowed from the pen of an inspired writer. He says, “It is a shame for women to speak in the church.” This is absolute and universal. Every adult human being who is not a man is a woman. All women are included in Paul’s statement. One would almost need professional help to misunderstand Paul!

The truth on this matter is of more importance than most of us seem to realize. Brethren have either limited or nullified both 1 Tim. 2:11, 12 and 1 Cor. 14:34, 35 so that most preachers dare not use either scripture authoritatively to teach anything definite. Yet these two passages, in their original power and simplicity, are the only definitive verses that stand between us and women preachers. The principle of women not exercising authority over men is not enough. Whether a woman is under subjection to the elders and to the other men of the church at the time she is delivering a public address or engaged in teaching a public class of men and women is a matter of judgment and interpretation. We could argue endlessly about it, without really convincing anyone. But if these two scriptures mean what they say, there can be no real misunderstanding or argument. There can be only rebellion if men and women decide not to be ruled by the law of God.

Truth Magazine XIX: 23, p. 364
April 17, 1975