This topic is one I believe is of utmost importance for the church today; I’ve been teaching on this off and on for several years and have long desired to write about it. As there is currently almost no adherence to the scriptural teachings on this topic in the church, it has also been the single greatest source of persecution and hatred for us.
From the outset I want to mention that if this teaching is properly understood it builds and strengthens the church together in love and unity; the liberty of Christ is not diminished in His commands, rather, it is established. But, if we have set our eye on carnal liberty, to be free to do however we want irrespective of the commandments of God, then we are forsaking the liberty of Christ (which is unto righteousness) and embracing the liberty of the devil (which is unto disobedience).
Secondly I want to state that the greatest lie being circulated about this topic is the idea that this is culturally optional. Optional observances that Paul was not giving as a command of the Lord are given as optional, like Paul’s teaching in 1st Corinthians 7:6.
I recently read an article in which the author of the post took steps to suggest that the passage in 1st Corinthians 14:34, which tells women that they are “to keep silent in the churches”, is a cultural custom. I believe the post is historically inaccurate as it suggest that this was merely based on the customs of the day, however, regardless of whether or not the customs matched up or not, that has no bearing on whether or not what is written in the scriptures is true or not. Just as I would not say “well, Chinese scientists believe that too. So clearly that can’t be right”, we wouldn’t say that just because certain other ancient cultures shared some commonality with the scriptures teachings means that the scriptures teachings must be wrong or outdated. However, if you study the cultures of the time, you’ll find that women in the pagan religious realm had considerable roles, even as priestesses. So the scriptures do part ways with the cultures of the times—but that alone is not the justification for obeying the scriptures. Our justification for obeying the scriptures is our faith that Jesus Christ is the one and only begotten Son of God and that He sent the apostles to lay the foundations of the church and revealed to us “all things pertaining to life and godliness”.
Before proceeding from here I want to mention something: Titus 2:5 instructs women in proper conduct and warns them to obey this conduct “so that the word of God is not blasphemed”. If you read the comments in the aforementioned revelife blog post, you’ll notice that non-believing bloggers swarmed the blog and did, indeed, blaspheme the word of God; they mocked “Christian mental gymnastics”, and though mockery is sinful, they rightly deduced the absurdity of Christians rejecting their own doctrines for the sake of cultural convenience. Every country I’ve been in around the world has the same phenomenon whenever Christians make a public habit of this deplorable practice.
Now, what is the scriptures teaching on this subject?
I believe that the Bible plainly addresses the subject of women’s proper conduct in the household of God.
Here are the scriptures: 1st Corinthians 14:32-39, Ephesians 5:22-33, 1st Timothy 2:9-12, Titus 2:3-5, and 1st Peter 3:1-4.
In 1st Corinthians 14:32-39, God places the silence of women in the context of the exercise of spiritual gifts in the Church and speaking in the general assembly. He also places this in the greater context of order in the churches with the verse, “For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints” (v33).
Ephesians 5:22-33 places the home in order and gives husbands authority over their wives as Christ is in authority over the Church and creates a testimony of Christ to the Church in the image of husband to the wife (v32). When the order in the family becomes disordered, the order in the church is sure to follow into disorder.
1st Timothy 2:9-12 Paul addresses the conduct of godly women, giving attention to their propriety, modesty, and moderation, and states as an apostle of Christ that women are not permitted to teach or have authority over a man but must be in the position of submission and quietness. This, along with the other teachings, are placed in the context of “proper conduct in the household of God” (3:15).
Titus 2:3-5 is very similar as it addresses their purity and instructs older women to teach the younger women in all things fitting for the younger women. The emphasis here is placed on the women as “teachers of good things” to other women (v3). And it is on the context of not blaspheming the word of God through disobedience (v5).
1st Peter 3:1-6 speaks of wives being in submission to their husbands and the considerable power of a woman to even win over and instruct her husband in the absence of words by the power of her chaste conduct! This is in the context of “what is very precious in the sight of God” (v4).
One of the most disturbing things in the church to me is that women have despised the word of God by not caring wither it is blasphemed because of their disobedience to these teachings, neither do they care what is very precious in the sight of God, rather, many have valued their own carnal liberties higher than the precious things of God.
If you look at these teachings I would tell you that there is almost no other place in scripture where such a great honor is given as that of what is given to women; they prophetically demonstrate the image of the church, they have the promise of the power of their conduct (who else is given such a promise?), it is said that their chaste conduct is “very precious in the sight of God” (of who else is this honor spoken?).
And women are robbed a great wealth of many other things by their greed for public attention to teach and preach in authority over men.
I will tell you that when men and women walk into churches that properly teach and understand these practices to their fullest extent, the contrast in respect, love, dignity, and honor that is exchanged between the brothers and sisters of the church is astonishing to them. The purity of what is taught in the scriptures regarding this conduct is honoring to God and precious in His sight.
Moreover, as 1st Corinthians 14:38 says, if anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized among the church!
In closing I will say that it took me a long time to accept this teaching. Of all the teachings in the Bible, this is the one I hated the most (and I’m a man). Not only did I see it as backwards (in our supposedly enlightened society where women receive no respect or true honor, and men are degraded in their carnality towards women), but I also saw what was expected of me as a man and I was not what the scripture said I should be.
As always, this is a matter of faith. Do you trust that “Christ will keep you from stumbling and present you faultless before Him” (Jude 24)? Do you believe that God, in His infinite wisdom, knows best? And do you love what is precious in the sight of God?
If you do, the careful and patient study and submission to these scriptures as they are written in the Word and taught by the Holy Spirit is a critical must for the church today.
I hope to write further about this topic, as this is a very brief introductory address to the topic. But, I felt it necessary to at least write and address it now.