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Read Introduction to 1 Corinthians

 

 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.  

 

Paul formerly permitted women to give testimony in worship services (11:4-16). First Corinthians 11:5 refers to general praying and prophesying. This passage qualifies what he said in chapter 11.

1 Co 11:5 But every woman who prays or prophesies (context indicates that this is in the church service) with her head uncovered dishonors her head, for that is one and the same as if her head were shaved (hair is the symbol of submission). 6 For if a woman is not covered, let her also be shorn. But if it is shameful for a woman to be shorn or shaved, let her be covered (long hair indicates submission to husband).

34 Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak;

Paul indicated in chapter 11 that a woman prophesying in church was an acceptable practice. He just made the point in verse 29 that he expected men to review messages presented publicly by the prophets, so the issue here is women critiquing the prophetic message.

but they are to be submissive, as the law also says.

The reference to the law probably refers to the woman’s acceptance of her husband authority (Ge 3:16) in critiquing the prophetic message. The rational is the principle of deference of a woman to her husband. The issue is femininity. Today, many rationalizations attempt to change the bald-faced teaching of this passage, but none of them holds up to scrutiny of faithful Bible interpretation. There is no cultural escape hatch here. The issue is the principle of order in role between male and female established from an appeal to the book of Genesis and general Old Testament truth.

Ge 3:16 To the woman He said: “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you.”

1 Co 11:3 But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God (this passage clearly shows that role does not demean the person in subjection because Christ is subject to the Father).

PRINCIPLE:

There is a difference between role in the church and esteem.

APPLICATION:

Paul was no chauvinist hung up with hatred of women. His teachings in the face of a culture that degraded women elevated women to a high position. He partnered with many women in his ministry. Euodias and Syntyche were “co-laborers” with him in ministry (Ph 4). He mentioned women in long lists of appreciation (Ro 16). He spoke of these women with warmth. He defended the right of women to pray and prophesy in church services (1 Co 11).

There is a difference between role in the church and personal esteem or success. The Trinity has roles. The Son is submissive to the Father and the Holy Spirit is submissive to the Son (1 Co 11:1f). They are co-equally God but they have different roles in the Trinity. 

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