Friday, September 4, 2009

Paul And The Place Of Women In The Church Of Jesus

Those who are convinced that modern woman must have her say in the church, attempt to place Paul against Paul to prove their point. In the light of Paul's burning criticism of female practices in I Corinthians 14, they nimbly turn back a few chapters, to I Corinthians 11:4, and point out the phenomenon of the praying and prophesying woman. They say, Here! You see, women did speak out in the assembly.

It is good for us that Paul himself wrote both of these passages only chapters apart, or men would be pitting Paul against some other church leader. As it is, we need only to harmonize the thoughts of one man, convinced he did not contradict himself.

In the first place, it would be hard to prove that the woman mentioned here is praying or prophesying in a public assembly. The context is again man and woman relationship, and could easily be seen in the area of the home. Philip had 4 virgin daughters that prophesied, probably often. Prophesy was , in the Old Covenant at least, most often an individual, not a group, experience, and could appear anywhere.

It is of note in passing here that persons who come to this passage looking for relief for poor restricted women only find more restrictions on her liberty in the form of the head covering, another taboo topic for Western preachers. We can be assured that this whole matter is just as offensive to modern woman as their required silence, but supporters swoop down and grab half a verse from this head-covering chapter for the sake of a needed proof-text.

But let's suppose that a woman, in the assembly, using the gift of prophecy, is intended here. What is she doing? She is allowing her vessel to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and from there the Holy Spirit is speaking through her. In no way is she assuming authority given to a man. In no way is she striving to be seen or heard or exalted before the Body of Christ. This we must allow to explain the presence of the "prophetess" in Scripture. We will cover this matter later when speaking of Deborah.

In his letter to traveling companion and young minister Timothy, Paul gives instructions as to the set-up of the church's governmental structure. Before stating the qualifications for a man who would be a church overseer or official servant, Paul specifically spells out the role of women, or "wives" if you prefer. (I Timothy 2:9)

He mentions modesty in dress, and good works. Then, consistent with his word to Corinth and God's Word to Adam and Eve, he demands silence and submission. He goes a step further here, the step that is only implied to the Corinthians. A woman is never to (1) teach a man, or (2) have authority over a man. His reasons are not cultural, historical, or temporary. And this is not about "wicked Corinth" as some love to explain in his former words to describe the curiously evil people of that town. No, every age is wicked, including, and perhaps especially, our own, as we almost certainly have entered the great apostasy.

Be that as it may, it is Ephesus here addressed. And his reasons are theological, Scriptural, and based in the origins of all things.

1. Adam was formed first, establishing the natural order.

2. Woman sinned first, bringing that natural order under law.

These words are so painful to the modern ear. This is a "hard saying" to them. But those who embrace hard sayings should allow it to make them hardened soldiers of Christ, and not allow rebellion to spoil the perfecting work of God.

Would this apostle approve of the present set-up of our churches? Would he favor women on the ruling board of a congregation? How about women teaching in an adult Bible class? I think not.

Oh, may God give us grace to repent of anything that a Spirit-filled apostle would disapprove. is a website I put together a few months back to get the word out to believers that they need to pray for North Korea. Just about every day I'm writing a blog featuring some news, a book, or a story of North Korea. There's a live news feed on the site, lists of resources, picture essays, and ways to respond to the overwhelming need in North Korea. Let's love Chosun together!

And who am I? A man found of God over 50 years ago, called to the ministry, serving the Lord as needed in my world. Married, member of a local church in the Chicago area, with full time work in public education. Who are you? Would love to fellowship with believers who respond on my site.

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