Recently, a question often heard was presented unto me from a lady of another congregation.  That question was in reference to the Apostle Paul’s statement at First Corinthians 14:34-35, “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.”  My response is as follows: 

     Common sense should be used in approaching the matter of women involved in the assembly of the saints.  Of course, God's Word must always be our guide.  The principle of women being silence in the assembly is a qualified silence.  In the first place, we do not have such an assembly today as the one taken into consideration in First Corinthians 14.  That assembly pertained to the proper use of miraculous gifts such as speaking in tongues (languages not known by the speaker before he was endowed with the power to speak in those languages); also, the power to interpret foreign languages not previously known by the interpreter. 

     I mentioned that the silence discussed in First Corinthians 14:34 was a qualified silence.  By that I mean that it had limited application.  Otherwise if it meant total silence then a woman could not utter a sound.  Actually that is precisely what it means in that passage.  But its limitation had to do with the exercise of miraculous gifts in the assembly and the conduct of those assembled.  Even men in the assembly of First Corinthians 14 were instructed to keep silence under specific circumstances (First Corinthians 14:28).  If it applied to all assemblies then a female couldn't sing or make the good and noble confession that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God (in obeying the gospel).  Also, penitent females could not orally acknowledge or confess their sins in the assembly of the saints. 

     The qualifying statement concerning a female's limitation of silence is found at First Timothy 2:11-12.  That passage states:  "Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.  But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence."   The phrase:  "usurp authority over the man" is the key to understanding this matter.  In other words, she is not to dominate or to rule over men in the assembly.  Thus, we have men to take the lead in the assembly of the saints.  This would involve such things as directing the singing, waiting on the table, leading in prayer, preaching, teaching a Bible class including both men and women, presiding over a business meeting, and such like.  The exception to this would be when only women are assembled.  There have been assemblies of small congregations when no male Christian was present.  Again, the key is that women are not to usurp authority over men.  Even in the home the husband is to be head of that household (Eph. 5:23; Eph. 6:1-4).   

     Some have taken the extreme position that a woman cannot teach a man the scriptures under any circumstances.  This would mean that a wife could not answer a Bible question presented to her by her husband in the privacy of their home.  This is going beyond what is taught in the New Testament.  For example:  a woman can teach her husband by example when he refuses to hear her explain the scriptures unto him (First Peter 3:1-4).  We do have an example of a woman being involved in teaching a preacher the Word of God more perfectly (Acts 18:24-28).  Some had thought that Aquila and Priscilla were both women in that their names sound feminine.  But Aquila was definitely a man (Acts 18:1-2).  Nevertheless, his wife was involved in correcting a preacher of his error concerning baptism. 

     Some ladies of the church may be married to a man who is not a Christian.  He certainly would not be qualified to answer Biblical questions.  Nor would he readily have access to judgmental matters made by the church.  Other women may be married to men who are weak in the faith and may never attend the business meetings of the church.  These men could not adequately answer such questions.  Some women may possess more knowledge of the scriptures          ` than their husbands.  But they might not have ready access to business and judgmental matters pertaining to their congregation.  

     Now let’s deal with what a woman is to do in such matters if she does not have a husband.  This supposed dilemma is often brought up as though she is in an impossible situation.  Obviously, if she does not have a husband then other consideration must take precedence.  If the congregation in which she has membership has elders then she should feel free to go to them privately and ask her questions.  After all, they are the spiritual leaders of the local church.  Or, she might inquire of their preacher.  Some other well grounded brother in the congregation should be able to answer her question.  Some times a lady can ask a knowledgeable brother outside the congregation about Biblical matters.  Men outside the congregation in which she has membership may not be able to answer questions that pertain to judgmental matters peculiar to the congregation in consideration.  But they should be able to answer Biblical questions on spiritual matters or seek additional help in obtaining the correct answer. 

     The problem of women being uninformed about the Biblical issues affecting the local congregation can be avoided.  If the local church has elders then it is their responsibility to take the lead in guarding those they oversee against false teachers and doctrines (Acts 20:26-31).  The evangelist who preaches for their congregation has the responsibility to proclaim the true doctrine and expose false teaching (I Tim. 4:16; II Tim. 4:1-5).  If a congregation does not have elders then it is the responsibility of both the preacher and faithful men of the local church to expose error and warn the brethren to avoid it.   

     In the New Testament there are letters written to specific congregations warning them of false doctrine and what they must do to avoid it. 

     The question about who women should ask about things pertaining to the local church usually has reference to judgmental matters, not matters of faith.  Elders or the men of a congregation can eliminate this potential problem by keeping the entire congregation informed of their decisions.  As a preacher, I encourage the elders or the men of a local church without elders to keep the brethren informed of decisions made in business meetings.  This can be done by having a handout of the business minutes distributed to the entire congregation.  Or, such pertinent decisions could be included in the announcements made to the assembly of the saints.  Certainly the entire congregation should be informed about such plans as constructing a new meeting house. Otherwise, the entire congregation could not be motivated to support such an ambitious project.   Also, a monthly financial statement distributed to the membership would aid in keeping the brethren informed. 

     Some misguided brethren contend that the females within a congregation do not have the right to be informed about business affairs or judgmental decisions made by the elders or men of the church.   

     There is a small church of Christ in Texas taken over by a faction split off from another congregation.  Those gaining control dismissed the preacher who had been preaching for those brethren.  The man leading the faction commenced to preach for the church and his son lead the singing.  Both men began drawing a salary.  Some of the women inquired about the financial affairs of the church.  The man doing the preaching told those women that such matters were none of their business. 

     Brethren, this is a gross misconception of the passages of scripture in consideration.  Even their interpretation of First Corinthians 14:34-35 provides an avenue for women to receive answers to their questions. 

- Dub Mowery 

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