Summary: What is meant by Paul’s inspired words in 1 Cor about women being silent in church? Why is this so and how is it important for all of us to understand? What, if anything, is cultural or unique to Corinth and what are the universal principles?
SERIES: PRESCRIPTIONS FOR A HEALTHY & HOLY CHURCH:
A Study in 1 Corinthians Applied To The Church Today
III. MAINTAINING PROPER DIET & EXERCISE
D.) ROLES & EQUIPMENT (Offices & Gifts)
“Order In The Gym II: BATTLE OF THE SEXES?”
(1 Cor. 14:33-40)
Rev. Todd G. Leupold, Perth Bible Church, July 19, 2009 AM
The title of the message this morning is “Battle of The Sexes.” However, there is a little ’secret’ that goes with it. You see, while many are quick to interpret these verses as an issue of men vs. women, that is not really what it is about. True, it does refer to men and women in different functional ways and it even repeats that most hated of words: “submissive.” Combined, this is more than enough for most to prick our ears, charge our emotions and demand that the walls be raised and armor assembled.
In reality, however, such reaction is both unnecessary and prohibitive. These are not words of men against women. These are words concerning one element of what is necessary for God’s church to be powerfully edified and built up through the preaching of His Word and the responsibilities of both men and women, husbands and wives to do their part in achieving this for God’s glory!
I.) THE NATURE OF THE ARENA (v. 33)
What is the proposed ’battlefield’ and what is to be protected or gained there?
A.) The Desired Result
read v. 33
The battleground is the local church in assembly.
The dispute is over the area of prophecy (inspired teaching of God’s Word).
The desired result is that it may remain always an area of peace and never confusion.
This result is a normative expectation of ALL assemblies of God’s people in ALL places and times.
B.) The Existing Situation
We have already seen repeatedly that the Corinthian Christians mistakenly saw themselves as being super-spiritual to the point of being beyond human. Instead, they saw themselves as on a level with the angels and therefore extrapolated that there should no longer be any gender distinctions (even physical) and that they may each speak the infallible Word of God according to their own spirits and superseding the Scriptures and Apostles.
This, in turn, produced constant friction, frustration, dispute and division. ALL of which, Scripture tells us, is contrary to the character of God, His purpose and desire for the church!
II.) THE NATURE OF THE BATTLE (vv. 34-35)
In the last few verses of this chapter, Scripture addresses one more factor that has contributed to these problems and that is not acceptable.
But, wait a minute, didn’t Paul just say in 11:5 that woman did (and could) pray and prophesy in church? Yes, but remember the qualification: “so long as her head is covered.” That is, so long as she respects the God-ordained roles and functions of men and women, specifically husbands and wives, in relation to one another: so long as she does not somehow dishonor , undermine, or disrespect her husband.
So what is going on here? To answer this, we need to more closely examine the specific context and vocabulary.
Context: (1) Across the bay from Corinth was the famed Delphic oracle, a shrine where a priestess would speak in incoherent sounds of prophecy and prediction to the seeker. Another would then interpret these sounds, always in a manner that was quite broad yet obscure and often left the seeker as mystified as before. Much like today’s fortune cookies and astrology readings. Examples. People attending the Corinthian Church, upon hearing women in the congregation speak in their mysterious Corinthian ’tongue’ must have naturally connected these practices as being generally synonymous. (2) While nobody knows for certain what the arrangement was in the Corinthian Church, the still-common practice in first century synagogues and thusly the early Christian Churches were for men and women to sit in different sections according to gender. (3) In any case, what is clear is that there was a very real problem in the Corinthian Church of too many people trying to speak (whether aloud or to their ’neighbor’), teach and even question during the course of the service. At least a significant element in this was identified as women.
(1) “Women.” The Greek word Paul uses is “gunaikes”, which can mean either women in general or specifically wives. The context here, particularly in light of the use of “andras” in v. 35 to speak of “husbands” supports that the intention here is to refer, at least primarily, to “wives” and not “all women.” Further, often left out in our English translations, is the article that indicates these “gunaikes” as “belonging or specially attached to” the “husbands.”
It is not a command prohibiting women from speaking in church simply because they are female. The issue, as Paul will greater enunciate in a moment, is how our marital relationship is to be represented in this setting.