Earlier in this article, we examined what Jesus thought about women in general, and His view toward women in ministry. It is obvious that He was as loving and accepting of women as He was of men – He even entrusted a woman with the message of His resurrection.
Jesus gave His Spirit and gifts to men and women equally on the Day of Pentecost – in fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy.
Christ accomplished a work of redemption on the Cross for BOTH men and women. Because of sin, neither one had been living in the place of spiritual authority or proper relationship that God had intended from the beginning. And part of why Jesus came was to provide a way to restore mankind to proper relationship – first with God, and then with one another.
Yet there are some scriptures in the New Testament about women in the Church that can seem confusing. These verses must be properly examined in the light of ALL of Scripture, and in the spirit and context in which they were written.
For example, Paul states in 1 Corinthians 14:34,35: “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.”
How could Paul write such a thing? And what did he actually mean? Does he seem to contradict himself at other places in Scripture, when he instructs women how to speak, pray and prophecy in the church? Let us examine this more closely.
TO WHOM WAS PAUL WRITING, AND WHY?
First, we must consider why Paul was writing the letter to the Corinthian church in the first place. He had established a church there in about A.D. 50-51, on his second missionary journey (Acts 18:1-8). Paul cared for and kept in touch with the church after he left (1Cor 5:9, 2Cor 12:14).
He had received some disturbing reports about moral and spiritual problems among the believers in Corinth. They were struggling with such things as divisions, spiritual immaturity, the role of men and women, immorality, and the improper use of spiritual gifts.
In the city of Corinth, there existed many of the same problems found in other Greek cities in Paul’s day. Corinth was a city known for gross immorality, idolatry, a spirit of division, and pagan temple prostitutes. These attitudes and moral confusion were affecting the church in Corinth.
1 Corinthians 14:40 tells us why Paul wrote this letter: “Let all things be done decently and in order.” There was confusion and disorder in the church in Corinth. Paul wrote to encourage the believers as to what was appropriate behavior for Christians. He wrote to teach them about order in the church.
In 1 Corinthians 14:34, Paul says, “Let your women keep silent in the churches…” If Paul meant women were never to open their mouths in any church at any time, then why did he also say, “But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, for that is one and the same as if her head were shaved” (1Cor 11:5)?