When I approached 1 Corinthians 12-14 I knew it tackled Spiritual Gifts, I'd forgotten that it also raises issues about the role of women in the church. This post does not going to attempt to deal with everything in the area of women's ministry. 1 Corinthians 14 doesn't deal with whether women can teach, but rather with women's role in testing prophecy....
1 Corinthians 14v33a-35
1. Some say remove it from the Bible as non-biblical. This is because it appears not to fit. But it's there in the early manuscripts... and we can't just go editing the Bible just because it jars with us!
2. Some say its about gossiping women. But Paul says that the reason is submission because of law. Probably this means the creation order of male and female in Genesis 2v24 – fitting with God's order... and God being a God of order is the big reason for our orderliness. Submission is a dirty word in the 21st Century but Biblically its not. This is difficult for us to overcome, but as always Christians must take their lead from the Bible not from the culture.
3. Total silence then? No. 1 Cor 11v5 says women can pray and prophecy. Paul is not contradicting himself within a few chapters. The silence required is not total silence
4. What's the difference between teaching and prophecy? Prophecy is described as sponateous revelation. Teaching is explaining the Bible. Prophecy has no authority whereas teaching appears to have some. Doesn't prophecy instruct? Yes, but it is till distinct from teaching. Be aware of the tangent issue of whether women can teach in the church. Its important but its not what this chapter is about. On authority – note that leading a Bible study appears to carry almost no authority since the group tests everything. And particularly a CU group which is a peer group, and unlikely to include married couples.
5. The context here is testing prophecy. If women are not permitted to test prophecy in public then we have an issue of authority in view. The particular case appears to be an issue of a wife testing her husband's prophecy in public... and maintaining divine order in the public meeting of the church.
7. This is the second reference to silence here. The first is v28 - there for the sake of order uninterpreted tongues are to be silent. The tongue speaker then goes to speak to himself and God, rather than to the congregation. Likewise women are instructed to be silent rather than raise questions in testing prophecy. The argument is authority and above all divine order, since God is a God of order.
My conviction is that this is about the testing of prophecy. And whilst men and women can both prophesy. Women are not permitted to test prophecy in public, in the church. This only occurs at all if we've taken 14v1 seriously and are eagerly desiring prophecy. The responsibility is with men to test what it said, in an orderly way for the glory of God and the growth of the church.
Last year I blogged on: Should our CU have women speakers?
But that's church – what about CU?
It's not the local church, but general principles probably still apply in Christian fellowship. We must submit to scripture, keep our focus on the Spirit's word about the gospel – Christ and him Crucified. United in him, seeking to grow and love one another... and work to see Christ proclaimed on campus.
In a public meeting order is important. If there is prophecy it's testing must be careful. In a small group the Bible study is tested by everyone, so too any prophecy would presumably be tested by the whole group.
Women are clearly allowed to enquire in 1 Cor 14, but at home rather than in the church. The issue there seems to be wives testing their husbands prophecy in public. Any CU meeting is peer group community rather than the formality and breadth of the local church so everyone largely stands as equal so probably testing together is fine....
This of course begs the question of whether prophecy is happening in the first place... and how to you stand united when some people think women can test prophecy and others don't even think anyone can prophesy! However you do it, do it in love for the advance of the gospel.