THhe First Epistle to the Corinthians is addressed not only to that local church but to “all that call upon the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every place” The instructions on this subject are not to be relegated to a bygone period. The teaching moreover is based upon the fact of the Divine creation and appointment of the man and the woman, and receives additional and permanent glory from the relation of Christ to the Church. To discard the teaching is derogatory to the honour of God.
The command in 14. 34 is, “Let the women keep silence in the churches; for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but let them be in subjection, as also saith the law.” This is not taken to refer to ejaculations and questions, which are regarded as likely at Corinth because of the presence of Jewish elements and the separation of men from women in a building, as in synagogues. The argument is untenable, as also is the suggestion that the verb lalein, to speak, means to chatter. That meaning is not supported by its use in this Epistle or anywhere else in the N.T. In this chapter it is used eighteen times, e.g., vv. 3, 29, and of speaking so as to instruct others (v. 19) and of messages from God (v. 21).
It is argued that the word in 1 Tim. 2, 11, “in quietness” (R.V.) is different from sigao, to keep silence, and that this latter here means to stop speaking as in Acts 12. 17 and 15. 12. The futility of this deduction is seen by the fact that the command to the women to keep silence in the churches is preceded by a similar command that without an interpreter, in the use of a gift of tongues, a man must “keep silence in the church” (v. 28). This could not apply to noisy ejaculations and chattering. It plainly meant refraining from addressing the company. So again in v. 30, “if a revelation be made to another sitting by, let the first keep silence” (R.V). Thus the word is the same in vv. 28 and 30 and in v. 34 regarding the silence of women.
It is suggested that since there were prophetesses in Israel, and since in 1 Cor. 14. 34 the Apostle refers to the Law, this affords ground for the oral ministry of women. But this runs counter to the very object of the Apostle’s reference to the Law, for he applies it to enforce the command that women are to manifest subjection by refraining from taking oral part.
Again, appeal is made to 1 Tim. 2. 9 to endorse women’s leading in prayer in a church gathering. But there is no justification for the idea that “in like manner” implies that women are to pray in like manner, and can do as the men do in this respect. But this misses the point of the passage and the gist of the teaching of the whole Epistle, which deals with holiness of life, and with conduct in the House of God (in the original in 3, 15 there is no mention of men: Timothy was to teach how “it is necessary to behave” in the House of God). The phrase in like manner” (v. 9) is not to be connected with “pray” in v. 8; it introduces an additional instruction as to conduct.
Verse 11 is also taken in another way, as if it introduced a fresh paragraph, and the command that a woman should learn m quietness refers not to a gathering of the church but to the Christian home. How grotesque, that a woman may not teach at home, where presumably her husband is, but she may do so in a church meeting, where not only her own but other women’s husbands would be. No! The reasons for the prohibition are the order of the creation of man (v. 13), and the priority of woman’s transgression (V. 14).
Further, the fact of Peter’s quotation at Pentecost of Joel’s prophecy, is taken to support women’s ministry. But there is not the slightest intimation that women spoke on the day of Pentecost. Peter “stood up with the eleven” and the combined witness was given by men only (Acts 2. 13). Peter addressed men (v. 29, cp. v. 22; so in 1 15. 16). Moreover he did not claim that all that Joel foretold was then being fulfilled. Those prophecies about the sun and moon were not, nor have they yet been. Young men did not see visions, nor did old men dream dreams. Peter’s discourse concerned “the house of Israel” (v. 36) and these details await fulfilment in Israel.
Reference is made to Philip’s daughters (Acts 21, 8; 9) and it is argued that, as women prophesied in public in Israelitic history, so these daughters spoke in church gatherings. This supposition is without foundation of fact and is contrary to the teaching of the Epistles.
To set aside the plain command “Let the women keep silence in the churches,” by adopting arguments like these is dangerous. As the Apostle declares that his teachings in this matter are “the commandments of the Lord” (14. 37), let the advocates of women’s ministry in church gatherings beware. Let those who fear God and stand in awe of His Word, resist the plea for broadmindedness which advocates the acceptance of what is contrary to the Lord’s plain command. Let those women who, in obedience to His Word, acknowledge by their silence the token of their honourable relationship of subjection, and the glory of the Headship of Christ, rejoice in the consciousness of His approval now, and the assurance of His reward hereafter.