Must Women Remain Silent in the Church?

Both men and woman must examine these Scriptures below with the greatest of honesty. Christian men and women must humble themselves before these Scriptures. Leadership in the New Testament church was not authoritative or hierarchical. This is why churches offend men and women today, because their concept of church leadership is hierarchical and authoritative. Each congregation in the New Testament was led by a plurality of church elders (Acts 14:23; 1 Pet 5:1–3).

What authoritative role does anyone want among these autonomous simple congregations? Is this equality that anyone speak before the congregation, preside at the Lord’s table, or resolve conflicts of the congregation? Is this what many are upset about not having in equality?

God made woman in His image (Gen 1:27), and yet God made woman in the glory of man and man in the glory of God (1 Cor 11:7). Thus, God blessed women in a different way than men. Her uniqueness is evident in God’s Creation. God saw that it was not good for man to be alone. Man needed help, so God made woman (Gen 2:18).

Christians can never disregard the authority, the authenticity and, or the guidance of Christ’s words that He gave to His Apostles and prophets recorded in the Scriptures (John 15:20; 16:12–13; 17:8). When considering the glory of women, the Christian must not compromise the God-breathed Scriptures for which the Holy Spirit guided (2 Pet 1:21). Culture is not a standard for understanding God’s Word concerning women in the church (1 Pet 1:23–25), and the followers of Christ must not reject the authority of the Scriptures (2 Tim 3:16–17). God knows His creation and the nature of both man and woman. This study will neither add to these instructions nor take them away.

Did God Create Men and Woman Differently?

Some believe that women should never speak at all in any Christian meeting or Bible study. What example do Jesus and His Apostles demonstrate? What do the Scriptures say? The apostle Paul admonished, “Or did the word of God come originally from you? Or was it you only that it reached? If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord” (1 Cor 14:36–37).

“Are the roles of men different from women?” To recognize the obvious, God made man different from women. God made man is His glory unlike woman whom God made in the glory of man (1 Cor 11:7). Biblically, God made man first and embedded the inherited qualities of God’s glory in man, so that masculinity originated from God the Father who is masculine in description. God came in the flesh as the man, Jesus of Nazareth, and Jesus selected twelve apostles who were all men. However, Jesus was not and is not a misogynist. Those who recognize the divinely given attributes of men and women will not struggle with these Scriptures, but they will see the distinct glories given to women and men. 

The Spirit of Christ states, “there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28). Man and woman are one and equal in Christ having the same inheritance of salvation together. Their equality is not egalitarian but complementary. In other words, the equality of man and woman is not exact in God-given abilities and yet their differences complement the other gender. Note that God gave woman an influence upon man. The Christian woman has the influence by her conduct so that she can subordinate herself and have a greater influence upon men than by teaching and exercising authority over men (1 Pet 3:1–6; cf. Gen 3:6–7). Woman is the glory of man, and man can see that glory demonstrated in her holy and chaste conduct.

Why Do Men Preside in the Church?

There are five reasons that God wants men to lead in the church. By “lead,” Jesus taught that the greater leads by service and not by authority or lordship (Luke 22:25–27). One of these five reasons is that God made man in His glory (1 Cor 11:7). Two others include that God made woman for man and from man (1 Cor 11:8–-9). Next, God made man first (1 Tim 2:13). Lastly, man was not deceived, but woman was deceived becoming a transgressor (1 Tim 2:14). Therefore, Christ’s Spirit revealed that God had first determined that man have the role of leading and teaching (1 Tim 2:13). Christian men must not forfeit that leadership via service.

Men must become and remain spiritual leaders and providers of the home (Eph 5:25–29). Men have been given the God-given right to lead in the home and thus in the church; for God created man first (1 Tim 2:13; cf. 1 Tim 3:1–7; Titus 1:5–9). Some secular men resent the glory of women, and many women recent the leadership of men. Both men and women should abhor the sinful behavior and abusive “leadership” of unloving men. However, both men and women must respect the glories of both genders, and in doing so, they respect and love God.

Must Women Remain Quiet in the Church?

“Why do the Christian Scriptures teach that women are to quietly learn in the Christian gathering?” In 1 Timothy 2:11–12, women are not to teach or exercise authority over men. This passage clearly teaches women to remain at peace in quietness. Some versions misinterpret “quiet” to mean “silent.” Looking closer at this Scripture, “quiet” is an important word here. In 1 Timothy 2, the word sometimes translated “silence.” However, the Greek word is hesuchia, which the ESV translates as “quiet” rather than “silent.” There is a difference. The word hesuchia does not mean complete silence and the uses of this word in other scriptures show this as consistently true. Consider that translators render this word as “peaceable” in 1 Timothy 2:2 where the Spirit instructs all men to live “peaceable” lives. However, this does not mean that all people must remain completely silent for the rest of their lives.

Notice some other scriptures about the quiet and peaceable meaning of the word. In Acts 22:2, the scripture uses this word for “quietness” to describe Paul’s audience who became “quieter” showing this cannot mean complete silence. Acts 11:18 and 21:14 shows that someone can speak while also being “quiet” (hesuchia). Luke 23:56 uses the word to mean rest, peace, and tranquility on the Sabbath. First Thessalonians 4:11 and 2 Thessalonians 3:12 teach Christians to be “quiet” in life, but this certainly does not mean remain silent throughout life, but that they are to maintain a peaceable disposition. In fact, God instructs wives to have a “quiet” spirit using this same word (1 Pet 3:4). Therefore, this does not mean that wives can never speak to their husbands, since scripture says that they are to ask their men questions (1 Cor 14:35). The New Testament teaches women to remain quiet in assemblies where men pray. Women are neither to teach over Christian men nor to rule over a man. This is the quiet peacefulness described throughout Scripture..

Observe closely the teaching of 1 Timothy 2:11–12. The passage instructs, “In quietness, a woman must learn in all subordination. And I [an inspired Apostle] permit not a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man, but to remain in quietness.” Recognize that the learning in quietness is in subordination to learning the teachings of Christ, and that women are not to teach “over a man” or “to exercise authority over a man.” Looking at these points, there is nothing that shows that a woman cannot ask a question and comment in a meeting among Christian men outside of an assembly where men are not leading in prayer. Apparently, woman should neither rule over man nor should she teach him in the spiritual gathering where men lead in prayer (1 Tim 2:8).

Consider 1 Corinthians 14 where the silence is command where God instructs women to not speak. The context reveals that this speaking is not all speaking, but that this speaking is public speaking before a congregation. The word for silence here is another Greek word sigao. This chapter teaches that everyone is to remain silent when another is speaking. The silence here does not mean “peaceable”, but it means silence by not speaking publicly in the assembly. Yet, all are to sing (Eph 5:19; Col 3:16). All men are to remain silent to respect God in the assembly by not speaking while another is speaking (1 Cor 14:27–33). According to 1 Corinthians 14, women and men are not to speak when another is speaking in the assembly (14:34–35).

Women must sing and therefore teach within the congregation by singing, and yet she is not “speaking,” teaching, or exercising authority over a man by singing. In this sense, women and men as the whole congregation are to teach women and men in song. In assembly, women are “silent” in speaking, but teach in song “speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” (Eph 5:19).

What Role Do Women Have in the Church?

“Can women teach Bible studies outside the home?” As previously noted, God told women not to teach over a man, but to remain quiet. That setting was in the presence of Christian men leading prayer. Yet, the Scriptures reveal that women are still to teach and to evangelize. Though women may not speak openly by leading a prayer or teaching before the whole the congregation, they must still pray and teach. First Corinthians 11:5a affirmed, “But every woman who prays or prophesies…” Yet, these women who pray or prophesy outside of the presence of men are to demonstrate subordination while not teaching men and exercising authority over men.

Who were the women to teach? Look at Acts 21:8–9, which says, “On the next day we who were Paul’s companions departed and came to Caesarea, and entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him. Now this man had four virgin daughters who prophesied.” These daughters were not teaching over men, but they were teaching other women and children in the church. The Apostle taught the older women to teach the younger. Titus 2:3–4 explains, “the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things — that they admonish the young women […].”

When was all this teaching to take place? Did they meet daily for Bible studies? Did they meet once a week? Did they spend a whole day teaching where women taught women? Women certainly took time to teach and instruct one another and children (2 Tim 1:5). This is not complete silence, but this is also not teaching men and exercising authority over men.

Concerning evangelism, Acts 18:26 shows Apollos learning, “So he began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.” Priscilla accurately explained doctrine to a man, Apollos, with her husband. Did Priscilla teach over or rule over her husband, Aquilla? She certainly did not. Priscilla did teach a man, Apollos, who was not a baptized disciple of Christ yet, and the instruction for women not to teach or exercise authority over a man did not apply to these men who were not Christians yet and who were outside the church. The setting of private evangelism does allow for a woman to help teach a men; although, observe that her husband was with her.

Christians are to grow into teachers (2 Tim 2:24). Second Timothy 2:2 teaches, “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful people [anthropoi] who will be able to teach others also.” Hebrews 5:12 says, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food.”

Women can teach and should in spiritual maturity. There is no instruction that teaches that women cannot and must not ask questions and comment in Bible studies in the presence of men. However, women must not become prideful or resentful of men or God for their God-given glory. Women must see that their chaste conduct has a great influence upon men. Therefore, having such influence, women can understand that if they taught and exercised authority over men, then they would assume too much taking the glory of God from man and yet retaining her influence as a woman. That combination brought disaster in the Garden of Eden, and such will bring spiritual devastation today. Therefore, women must humbly remain silent in the assembly and peaceable in all meeting.

Exhortation

Christian women observe that God knows best about His Creation and the glories of men and women. Women must look to the example of Jesus Christ who is God come in the flesh as a man. Christians women must recognize Jesus’s example of using men as His apostles. God instructed men to observe their authority in Creation because God created men first (1 Tim 2:11–13). Support the men to lift holy hands in prayer. God established men as the spiritual leaders of the home (Eph 5:25–29). May God bless all faithful women to see that God commands women to respect the headship of their men (Eph 5:33).

About Scott J Shifferd

Minister, church of Christ in Jacksonville, FL. Husband and father of four. Email: ScottJon82[at]yahoo.com
This entry was posted in Christianity, Church, Church of Christ and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Must Women Remain Silent in the Church?

  1. thevoiceofonecryingblog says:

    I think that this seems to be a balanced “comparing scripture with scripture” view. Not popular in our society but we represent something much higher than ourselves in our God given roles; the woman is called to symbolize the Church and man is to symbolize Christ. Satan know that in distorting these roles he can mock God’s image. Praise God, for when the enemy comes in like a flood, God will raise up a standard against Him! Bible believing, Spirit filled, Christ centered, God fearing followers of the Lamb.

    Thanks Mr. Shifferd for allowing “freedom of speech” on your blog!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Scriptural Qualifications to be a Pastor | Seeing God's Breath

  3. Michael R. Baggett says:

    I understand it to be women in general too.

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  4. Very well said, Scott. I really like the point you made about Philip’s daughters; I’m going to use that if I have time this Sunday night. To me the question of women teaching/having authority over men in the church comes down to who are we going to let answer the question: the Spirit through the scriptures or the individual who wants to do want they want to do.

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  5. Lisa says:

    I had this same discussion with someone last week. He claimed that Paul was referring to women who were teaching false doctrine and were being too loud or bossy during the meetings. He said that Paul didn’t mean it for it everyone, but only for that group or group of churches. He also said that if I knew the original Greek text and the meaning of the word authority, I would see that it’s incorrect to say a woman cannot teach or preach to an assembly of men/women. I would like to know your thoughts and scripture to support it.

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    • Hey Lisa,

      I don’t know where he is getting his info from, but it is just not from the Bible. It sounds like he is just speculating, which is not a good thing to do with the Bible, because we can stray and speculate things out of the Scriptures and conjecture things in and against God’s will.

      Evidently in 1 Corinthians, women were teaching and were not suppose to do that. It seems strange to say that this is only for certain churches when Paul instructs Timothy concerning all churches in 1 Tim. 2:11-12. Also Paul said right after this instruction in 1 Corinthians, “If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord.” Also if speaking out was the problem, then Paul have already addressed that for everyone in verses 27-33 and there would be no reason to address any others.

      The Greek word for authority is “authenteo”, which is defined in all the Greek dictionaries as not having authority over or dominating. The word only appears that one time in all the NT. He needs to be more specific about what word he is talking about especially if the translators have deceived millions of Christians.

      I don’t believe that Paul is discriminating here, but that the Spirit of Christ is instructing men and women regarding their ideal roles, which God would know best since he made us. First Timothy shows men’s “birth rite” or as the Spirit says, “For Adam was formed first, then Eve”. This is not that women are not capable, but that we all must subject to someone.

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  6. Actually, Scott, I am convinced that the whole chapter 11 is about the assembly. THe reasons for this are as follows:

    1) Paul clearly ends his thoughts in Verse 34: “And the rest will I set in order whensoever I come.” After that he changes the subject. This clearly shows the end of the passage.

    2) Paul begins this passage with a praise in verse 2: “Now I praise you that ye remember me in all things, and hold fast the traditions, even as I delivered them to you.” Note the plural of “tradition”. We can go throught the whole chapter and count the traditions that are to be held fast: it the the covering/uncovering of heads to confess headship and it is the Lord’s Supper.

    3) Both traditions are linked in verse 17: “But in giving you this charge, I praise you not, that ye come together not for the better but for the worse.” This “not praising you” links back to the praise in verse two and leads on to the schisms mentioned afterwards. But, even more interesting, ans mistranslated very often, is the first part: ” in giving you this charge,” (Greek: touto de paraggello). This “this” (touto) is normally backwards oriented (tode would mean: the following). So Pauls enforces the headcoveruing by calliong it a “charge” (a command), but it is tied to the assemblies in this verse.

    So 1Cor 11 is one paragraph about two traditions that are to be held fast in the assemblies: The headcovering and te Lord’s Supper.

    This means: 1 Cor 14:34 (sigao) cannot rule out prophesy and prayer for women; but it also cannot allow teaching or having authority over men either (which would contradict the other verses).

    Now, prayer is directed to God and not to men. The setting of our assemblies however blur this. AS soon as one person stands in front ogf the whole congregation, the person becomes a representative on the congregation and is thus leading. In a setting, where men and women are praying together, sitting or kneeling in acircle or around a table, this is not the case – no one is “leading” prayer, but all are praying.

    The same is true for prophesying (= words of comfort, encouragement and edification 1Cor 14:3). In a setting, where someone stands in front of a church, this would be unfitting for women. But in asetting of m,utual edification and spiritual conversation it would be natural.

    In the times of the Apostles the normal setting was the latter one, as they all met in houses and the athmosphere was influenced by the common meal (Agape).

    If we take our Mega-churches and try to act like in 1 Cor 14:26 that would not work.

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    • I agree with you on everything except I don’t understand your last statement. I see clearly that the subject of authority and the Assembly are certainly linked especially in the 1 Cor. 14, but that does not mean the women were supposed to be speaking, prophesying, in the Assembly.

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  7. Hi Jimmy,

    First Corinthians 11 does have much to do with this in authority, but this is not necessarily talking about “wives”. Also, assemblies are not mentioned until verse 17.

    You bring a popular perspective that I cannot except without further support, which I can’t find any in great study. Some have excluded these words all together, because they say it was a local issue with wives speaking over their husbands. I am no where close to be convinced of this. Now, the perspective being that 1 Cor. 14 and 1 Tim. 2 are talking about wives, but the word for “woman” has no possessive pronoun before it to indicate that. Also, asking their “husband” may better be translated ask “your man”, which may include their father or other leading man. Maybe you can enlighten me. I just don’t want to jump to any conclusion like that 1 Cor. 14 is speaking of just “wives”.

    I do believe that women can speak, but still not “to teach or to have authority over a man”.

    Thanks for the comment and discussion. May God bless you.

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  8. Jimmy says:

    Scott I believe that women specifically wifes are to be silent or quiet in assemblies for no other reason that that given in 1 Corinthians 11. This speakes of headship and states that the head of the woman or wife is the husband. Any question in a bible study or an assembly she has is to be answered by her husband. When she ask someone else it implies that she has no confidence in her own husband and that in its own way defames him. Though I do believe that women or wives specifically that are following the God given order are instructed by Him to teach this order to the young wifes and virgins of each assembly. I wonder though if virgins who never marry or place their authority under the care of a husband would be infact able to speak in instances like Philips 4 virgin daughters. And only until they marry would they be disqualified in speaking. This latter part I am not sure of but the first I am.

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