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What should be the role of women in church? (Part 1)

“Women should remain silent in the churches.”

A second text related especially to the question of women in ministry leadership:

“As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church” (1 Corinthians 14:33-36, NIV).

As with the passage previously studied, if this text is to be applied without qualifications, it must forbid all speech by women in church. They are not to teach anyone, even children or members of their own gender. They are not to sing in the choir, serve on a committee, or engage in any ministry which requires speech. But again, consideration of the context makes this text clear and relevant to our discussion.

Here’s the setting: “women” and “husbands” are present in public worship. The “women” (v. 34) are clearly married to the “husbands” of verse 35. These wives, who typically had received less biblical instruction, were apparently disrupting the public worship services by “inquiring” (v. 35a) or asking questions about what was being said. They are not to voice these questions during worship, but “ask their own husbands at home” (v. 35b).

Earle Ellis, one of Baptists’ foremost biblical interpreters, believes that Paul here refers to the wives of husbands who are speaking in public. Asking questions of her husband’s message in public would shame him and disrupt the entire worship service. [29] D. A. Carson adds that Paul may be referring to the need for the church to “weigh carefully” what prophets say (1 Cor. 14:29). Perhaps wives are participating in this function in disruptive ways, or are even questioning the prophetic messages their own husbands are delivering. [30]

My position: wives are not to disrupt the worship service they attend. They are to be “in submission” to the message being preached, whether by their husbands or by other church leaders. Given the inequality of education in Paul’s day, he directed his instruction to women. His principle would apply equally to wives and husbands today — neither should disrupt worship with their questions about the message. This text does not subjugate women to men, or forbid them from serving as deacons or in other leadership roles.

Adapted from Dr. Jim Denison’s daily cultural commentary at Jim Denison, Ph.D., is a cultural apologist, building a bridge between faith and culture by engaging contemporary issues with biblical truth. He founded the Denison Forum on Truth and Culture in February 2009 and is the author of seven books, including “Radical Islam: What You Need to Know.” For more information on the Denison Forum, visit To connect with Dr. Denison in social media, visit or Original source:

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