1 Corinthians 14.26-40
Here’s one of those passages that gets taken out of its context constantly! There are some potential landmines here, but let’s look at the context and that should help us understand things better. People in other cultures don’t seem to see the things we see here because of our cultural blinders.
26. What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. 27. If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret. 28. But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God. 29. Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. 30. If a revelation is made to another sitting there, let the first be silent. 31. For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged, 32. and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets. 33. For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints, 34. the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. 35. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church. 36. Or was it from you that the word of God originate? Or are you the only ones it has reached? 37. If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord. 38. If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized. 39. So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. 40. But all things should be done decently and in order.
On first glance, it seems like Paul is forbidding women to speak publicly in church, but just a few chapters earlier, he was mentioning that his big problem with women praying and prophesying in church had to do with head coverings. Then, if we look a little closer, we see that Paul is actually addressing the ordering of the public worship service. Things should be done decently and in order. In fact, in the beginning of this section he tells two other groups of people to be silent. What he means is . . . wait for your turn to talk. Also note. Or was it from you that the word of God originate means not women here, but the Corinthians.
Then, when mentioning women, he says they must be silent until they get home! What does that mean? Paul cannot mean to forbid women from speaking in general because he encourages them to prophesy (so long as their head is covered). Perhaps a little cultural background would be helpful. These early churches took their model for the order of worship from the Jewish synagogues. When it came time for the teaching, a man would stand up, read the scriptures and expound on them. Then, when he was finished, the (male) elders of the community would each take a turn to respond to the exposition. One might say, “Amen,” meaning “I agree. That is true. Believe him.” Or, one might say, “I like the beginning, but starting with his third point, things started going downhill. Let me correct some of what was said . . .” The elders could do this but not others. The Christians started using this form of worship, except they allowed women to prophesy, too. Many (most?) evangelical scholars would agree that in this passage, the assessment of the teaching is forbidden to women. This fits with the overall theme of orderliness of worship. After all, if there were no restrictions on who could respond to the teaching, the congregation would be there all day! Secondly, this fits with the Bible’s teaching (especially in Paul) elsewhere that spiritual responsibility and authority rests with the (male) elders of church. On the basis of this understanding, Orthodoxy and our church have decided to allow only men to become elders and the elders or episcopoi sitting together, the Holy Synod, determines what good doctrine is.
One of the most stupidly misunderstood texts in all the Scripture is here for our perusal.
25. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26. for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.
Let’s be reasonable here. Verse 28 is constantly used to say that the gospel has abolished all role distinctions. There is no male or female. There are tons of problems with this view. First, Paul also says there is no slave or free. However, in 1 Corinthians 7.21 he says that a slave should seek to be free if possible. Certainly we all still play the roles of male or female, slave or free. Looking at the context it is easy to see that he is saying that the gospel does not give preferential treatment to anyone based on economic or gender differences. God’s grace does not come specially for men nor for the rich (nor specially for women nor the poor too).