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Difficult Texts

"Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church."

Two principles seem to be involved in this counsel of Paul to the Corinthian church. First, there was definitely a violation of the principle of propriety and decency. In verse 33, Paul said, "God is not the author of confusion, but of peace." Again he admonished, "Let all things be done decently and in order." Verse 40.

It is not hard to visualise the situation which brought the rather stem rebuke from Paul in verses 34 and 35. In that early church, the men and women sat in segregated groups on opposite sides of the room. Apparently some of the women were creating considerable disorder by calling across to their husbands, asking for clarification of certain points in the sermon. Paul commanded them to stop bringing in this confusion and to wait and ask their husbands at home about anything that wasn't clear.

Eastern culture dictated that a modest woman be veiled and remain in the background. There was danger that the women in the Christian church might be linked with the shamelessly bold women whose conduct stigmatised the city of Corinth.

The second principle involved in Paul's counsel had to do with the headship of men in both home and church affairs. The man was primarily responsible for leading out in worship. In 1 Timothy 2:12, Paul warned that women were not "to usurp authority over the man." Therefore they should assume no position in the church that would frustrate that divine order of things.

Within these two principles of proper decorum and vested authority, women have served most effectively in the work of the church. They have been called by God into prophetic office (Luke 2:36, 37; Judges 4:4; Acts 21:9) and were given recognition by Paul in public and private witnessing roles (1 Corinthians 11:5). The principles of Paul's counsel apply just as strongly today, even though the absence of a Christian woman's veil does not bring reproach on her church, nor is she stereotyped as a clamorous confuser in the congregation.

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