Summary: Should women remain silent in church? What is this passage really saying?

Gifts of the Spirit 13 “Women should remain silent?!”.

1Cor 14:33-40 WBC 28/11/04 am

Well- guess who drew the short straw this week?

- but it got you all here, eh?

- What a way to finish a series on the Gifts of the Spirit!

Actually- it IS a good way to finish, as I hope, this morning, you will learn some of the tools of handling the Word of God, well

- rather than jumping to conclusions

- or letting our prejudices speak

- Illustr: just awful in the way this becames a text for a) not speaking b)not speaking against the leadership (“witchcraft!”)

- Almost oppressive, ‘abusive’!

Of course, I come with my prejudices! So you must test what I have to say

- and handle the Bible rightly

- not everything is clear at first glance! There is a place for study!

SO- is this passage about the role of women? And is it telling women that they shouldn’t speak in church?


Aha! Here’s a revelation!

- this passage isn’t talking about the role of women

- Paul isn’t suddenly changing the theme and thinking ‘right- let’s give the women a hard time for a while!’

What is the context about? (ask) (the conTEXT)

- it’s about corporate worship

- it’s about order in that worship

- it’s about doing things in a way that builds up others and is for the common good

So- that’s the main point of this whole passage and this bit

- anything we may learn about the role of women (IF we do) is by inference and secondary

In fact- this bit, v33 -40 has ‘brackets’ around it to clarify exactly what IT is clarifying. To give you the biggest clue to the context

- v33 “for God is not a God of disorder but peace”

- v 40 “everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way”

The context of the TEXT is that

- stacks of people had been converted from the Jewish and Corinthian, Greek mystery religion culture

o for them it had been an absolute liberation

 (particularly the women. More in a min)

o they were going a bit wild. Not least those who were from the mystery religion background

 noisy gongs and clanging cymbals and all that!

And it’s into that: order. Wellbeing of all…. That Paul is speaking


Those who know the Bible well also feel, when they approach this passage, that Paul can’t be telling the women to ‘simply keep stuhm’ because

- it would seem out of kilter with the rest of the Bible

o and God doesn’t contradict Himself!

In fact- you don’t have to look far to be saying

- surely Paul isn’t contradicting what he said only 7 verses earlier:

o v26 “when you all come together everyone has a word, hymn etc”

- why doesn’t he just add, there “except for the women!”

And a few chapters earlier, 11:5, he has just said women can pray and prophesy.

- And every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head--it is just as though her head were shaved

- Now, there is the issue of headcoverings, there. And we can so easily misunderstand them, as people do this passage

… but stick to the dominant theme: there is no way this can mean ‘keep silent’ in that absolute sense.

- we have to dig and find out what it DOES MEAN

- John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, encouraged his preachers to take the meaning of the Bible at face value except where you find what seems to be a contradiction. When there appears to be an inconsistency then it’s time to start digging deeper. (Joel Smith on

Another thing you have to do in trying to find out what is being said, if it’s not immediately clear is


You’ll be aware that the NT was written in Greek- and so what we have is a translation of that

- sometimes their words convey a richness we can’t quite capture in English

Ie- v34 ‘women should remain silent’

It’s not really ‘shut up’ it’s ‘quieten themselves down’

- the emphasis is on the individual voluntarily calming themselves down

o in the way you might ask a boisterous crowd to do so so they can hear your sermon

- it’s the kind of thing you might ask for to bring order out of clamour

Perhaps a truer picture of what was really going on is developing, now?

And then there’s the command ‘not to speak ’ in v34

- this word has many meanings- but it can mean ‘chatter’, ‘natter’

- it’s certainly not the word for preach, teach, prophesy, proclaim etc

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