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From my last post dated March 23rd, 2017, I established that when studying the epistles, you must pay close attention to the specific audience of the writer; the prevailing circumstance at the time of writing, and the spiritual state of the writer’s audience at the time of writing.
For the purpose of illustration, I cited two of the Pauline Epistles: the 34th to 38th verses of the 14th chapter of his first epistle to the churches in Corinth, and the 11th to 15th verses of the second chapter of his first personal epistle to Timothy, in which Paul addressed the issue of women keeping silent in the church during services.
The reason for such a command was different for both settings – Corinth and Ephesus. For the Christians in Corinth, Paul’s intention was to maintain ORDERLINESS in the churches during meetings; while for the church in Ephesus, he anticipated to use that as a means to fight against false doctrine which had become rampant in the city of Ephesus, and was already creeping into the church. As the leader of the church in Ephesus, that was going to Timothy’s responsibility.
My question is this: What was Paul’s spiritual prescription to Timothy for dealing with false doctrine? The first thing Timothy was expected to do was to pray for those in authority in the City of Ephesus [1 Timothy 2:1-3]. This was what he needed to do in order to deal with the issue outside the church.
The next instruction was addressed to believers in the church. How was he to do that? He was instructed to pray, lifting up holy hands. The implication of this is that they had to pray with the understanding that in Christ all their sins had been forgiven, and were made holy [1Timothy 2:8].
The last part of Paul’s instruction – still related to how to deal with false doctrines – was directed to the Christian women in the church, who were admonished to be more Spirit–conscious than material–conscious. In addition to this, they were also expected to listen and learn in church quietly and humbly.
I’d like you to remember that the prevailing circumstance that prompted the writing of this letter was the issue of false doctrine, which had become rampant in the City of Ephesus, and was gradually creeping into the church.
To this effect, the men were instructed to couple their learning in church with consistent prayer everywhere; while the women were instructed to learn quietly and humbly. They were to be silent during church meetings.
I believe the reason for such instructions was because Paul felt that Satan could easily spread his falsehood through the women folk. The reason why I say so is because Paul referred to what happened in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve [1 Timothy 2:11-13].
Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthian Christians
The issue of women keeping silent during church meetings was something Paul didn’t fail to address in his first epistle to the Christians in the city of Corinth [1 Corinthians 14:34-38].
In this case, Paul used the word “churches” instead of ‘church’ as he did when he wrote to the church in Ephesus in his first epistle to Timothy. As a matter of fact, God’s Word teaches us clearly that the city of Ephesus had only one large Christian church [Revelation 2:1].
So in Paul’s letter to the Christians in Corinth, he chose to use “churches”. What this supposes is that unlike the city of Ephesus, which had only one church, the city of Corinth had several churches.
In this letter, the reason for Paul’s instruction regarding women’s silence in the churches in Corinth was different from the reason he told Timothy for the silence of women in the church in Ephesus [1 Corinthians 14:34-35].
In the case of Corinth, he makes reference to the Law, implying it was even part of the Law for women to be silent in gatherings of God’s people [1 Corinthians 14:34].
It’s important to point out that what prompted Paul to state such an instruction in his letter to Timothy for the Christians in Ephesus was different from what prompted him to state the same instruction in his letter to the Christians in Corinth.
As I stated earlier, here we see that Paul finds himself saying the same thing to two different audiences for different reasons. I have already explained that in Paul’s letter to Timothy, the reason why he instructed the latter to ask the women to learn quietly and silently was in order to set up a platform that would ensure a successful fight against false doctrine, which had become rampant in the city of Ephesus, and was almost creeping into the church. I strongly believe that Paul was speaking based on the leading he had received from the Holy Spirit, given that he was Spirit-filled and led.
Now in the case of the Christians in Corinth, Paul’s reason for commanding women to keep silent in the churches wasn’t to deal with false doctrine; rather, it was to promote orderliness in the churches during worship. This isn’t clearly stated in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, but in order to justify that, we’d need to back-up and start reading from verse 20 of 1 Corinthians 14 [Please make sure you do that].
Having done that, you’ll find out that this segment [1 Corinthians 14:20 -33] deals with setting order in the church during meetings with respect to the operation of the gifts of the Spirit.
To add to this, you’ll notice that before chapter 14, in chapters 12 and 13, he had been talking about the gifts of the Spirit. As soon as he got to chapter 14:26-35, he deemed it fit to explain how the Christians were expected to comport themselves in church during service, especially during the operation of the gifts of the Spirit.
It was on this note that Paul instructed the women to keep silent. One thing I must spell out here is that, Paul didn’t mean that women wouldn’t or couldn’t be used by the Holy Spirit to manifest these spiritual gifts. No! I say so because he tells us by the Holy Spirit that “But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to EVERY MAN to profit withal” [1 Corinthians 12:7 KJV].
Reading 1 Corinthians 12:7 from the New Living Translation [NLT] makes the point I want to drive clearer: “A spiritual gift is given to EACH OF US [women are inclusive – emphasis is mind] so we can help each other”. Did you see that? So women can also be used by the Holy Spirit to demonstrate spiritual gifts.
Further, in 1 Corinthians 14:27 Paul says “If any MAN speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret”. The word “man” is from the Greek “tis”, which means “any person”. So when he made this statement he wasn’t talking just to the male folk, with the exclusion of the women folk.
As a matter of fact, unlike the Christians in Ephesus, Paul’s instruction regarding the silence of women during service in the churches in Corinth was geared towards spreading orderliness.
Besides, women weren’t the only persons asked to be silent. In a situation where someone had a message in tongues, and there was no interpreter, s/he was equally asked to be silent, yet speaking to self and God.
I’m sure you’ll agree with me that a person who claims to be silent, yet speaking to self isn’t really silent as the word implies.
I believe these Christian women in the churches in Corinth equally had the right to speak in tongues to themselves and to God like every other believer in Corinth. By saying that women should be silent in church during service, Paul didn’t imply that women shouldn’t preach or teach in church as some people claim, because doing so will mean interpreting that divine instruction out of context.
Besides, the Greek word for “silence” in 1 Corinthians 14:34 is “sigaō”, which means “hold peace”, and it’s synonymous with calmness, stillness, quietness, tranquility, etc.
Within the context of the Corinthian churches, what Paul wanted to convey was that Christian women [all other worshipers inclusive] weren’t expected to talk to their husbands or someone else; by asking about things they didn’t understand while the service was going on. In fact, the service in question described in 1 Corinthians 14:26-35 was a believers’ service, where every worshiper was born again, with no single sinner present.
Talking during service to their husbands would create a noisy environment that will distract others around them, and eventually grieve the Holy Spirit. So in a situation where they didn’t understand something, they were expected to talk about that with their husband later on, say at home.
This, however, didn’t mean that the men were allowed to talk while service was on going. Well, I don’t want you to forget the fact that the reason why Paul sent this instruction to the churches in Corinth was to spread orderliness in their services, which to an extent were becoming disruptive.
With these two instances before us [1 Timothy 2:11-15 and 1 Corinthians 14:34-38], it would be absolutely unscriptural to establish a doctrine forbidding women from preaching, teaching or mounting the pulpit, with the assertion that Paul said that women should be silent in church. The two Greek words for “silence” in both instances [1 Corinthians 14:34 and 1 Timothy 2:11-12] don’t depict that in any way.
Another reason why it’d be unscriptural is because out of all the other churches to which Paul wrote, beside the churches in Corinth and that in Ephesus, the Bible doesn’t allude to any other church that received that specific instruction.
So, you can’t apply what he said to one church, to another, because he said different things to different churches based on the audience, the prevailing circumstances that prompted the writing, and the spiritual state of his audience. Until you put these three factors together when studying the Epistles, it will be extremely difficult to comprehend the thoughts the Holy Spirit wants to convey either about you or a given situation.
One thing I want to say at this point is that all of us are commanded to be silent during church services in the sense of not talking to one another or moving in and out of church to answer phone calls.
I also believe that it’s just a normal and sensible thing for each of us to ask questions about a message when we’re at home, or after service, instead of doing that while the service is going on, because we’ll end up distracting ourselves and the person we’re talking to, and probably grieving the Holy Spirit.
When people don’t understand certain things about the operation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit during a service, I think the best time to ask questions will be at the end of the service, not during the service.
We all need to learn to conduct ourselves properly during a church service, so that the Holy Spirit can freely move in our midst and do what He’s meant to do in our lives by divine ordination.
My admonition to you is to cultivate the habit of spending time to consistently pray like David: “Open my eyes to see wonderful things in your Word” [Psalm 119:18 TLB]. And in no time you’ll begin to understand God’s Word differently. I do this often, and it has helped me so much in my Christian life.
I’m certain that you have been blessed by this piece. Please, don’t hesitate to leave your comment and recommend this site [http://www.ncrealities.wordpress.com] to someone you love and care for. Remember, I’m only an email away and will gladly receive a direct mail from you through firstname.lastname@example.org in order to share some spiritual issues that are bothering you, bearing in mind that your spiritual welfare is my utmost concern. Follow me on twitter @prosperanang. I love you and I’m praying for you.
You’re deeply loved, highly favoured and greatly blessed.
Jesus Is Lord!