555 Difficult Bible Questions Answered

498. Why Were Women Commended to Keep Silence in the Churches?




In I Corinthians 14:34 Paul was dealing specifically with the case of a church which he himself had founded. He had received intelligence from the household of Chloe, a pious member (see 1 :11), that serious schisms had arisen and that advice was sorely needed. From other sources he had learned that the church had sunk into corruption and error. Apparently four distinct factions had sprung up, all quarreling over their respective teachers. There was much bitterness in the situation, and, besides, he had learned that immorality and disorderly practices had crept in; also that their meetings were brought into disrepute by the women appearing in them unveiled (in defiance of the common usage among decent women of that time) and that the feasts of the church were often scenes of gluttony and excess. His epistle was written to correct these disgraceful conditions, to set matters right, to rebuke the offenders and to set before them all anew the essentials of the Gospel. We can only infer, from the general contents of the entire epistle, that certain women who had been active in fomenting the trouble had merited a share of his chastening message, which doubtless produced the desired effect. Elsewhere in the Epistles we find full recognition of the character and abilities of Christian women, although it is unquestioned that they did not in those days take as prominent a part in religious affairs as they did later. Thus, for instance, there is no mention of women in Acts 2:16-18, but this does not necessarily imply their exclusion. There are many passages in the New Testament which show that godly women had a good share in the activities of the early church, but it .was not customary for them to teach or preach (see Acts 16140, 17 :i2,17134, etc.). Paul's injunction was not intended as a message to all the churches, but to the one particular church at Corinth, and it is a mistake and a grievous injustice to apply it to women in general. They have borne too noble and useful a part in the progress of the Christian religion to be subjected to any needless criticism that could only be based on a misunderstanding as to the actual conditions in the Corinthian church which rendered such a message necessary. There are many instances of godly women in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. The ministry of Jesus was to both men and women equally. Many of his most devoted followers were women. They were the last to comfort him on the way to Golgotha, the first to visit his tomb and the first to whom he appeared at his resurrection. So why should good women today be excluded from taking part in any Christian activity?