Home Christian News Should Women ‘Be Silent’ in Church? J.D. Greear Tackles 1 Corinthians 14:34

Should Women ‘Be Silent’ in Church? J.D. Greear Tackles 1 Corinthians 14:34

For example, in 1 Corinthian 11, Paul says that women are to pray with their heads covered, which, Greear explained, “in their day, communicated that they weren’t elders or they weren’t in authority. And that raises its own question,” he acknowledged, “but the point is, Paul’s not going to give an instruction about how women should speak in church and then turn around and give a verse that means they should never speak in church.” That would not make any sense.

Why then is Paul telling women to be silent? “Well,” said Greear, “you can see from this chapter that there was a particular problem that Paul was addressing.” Chapters 11-14 of 1 Corinthians reveal that there were different factions of people in Corinth who were being disruptive during worship services. “The whole thing was like a dumpster fire, honestly,” said Greear.

In Chapter 14, Paul specifically calls out three groups: people speaking in tongues, people offering prophecies, and women. Greear believes that Paul’s words to women in Chapter 14 are instructions for them not to evaluate the legitimacy of a prophecy in public, a responsibility that belongs to church elders. Essentially, Paul is addressing the “official evaluation and disputation of prophecy,” said Greear. 

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Greear also said that in Verse 35, when Paul tells women to “ask” their husbands about a prophecy at home, the word carries the force of the verb, “interrogate.” It goes beyond “asking for a clarification,” said Greear. “It means you’re disputing, you’re critiquing.”

Furthermore, Greear said that the command for women to “be silent” does not “primarily mean, ‘stop talking.’” Most of the time that this verb is used in the New Testament it means to “hold one’s peace.”

“In other words,” said Greear, “he’s urging these women to have a submissive spirit and not presume the role of an elder.” Greear believes Paul is “really consistent” throughout his writings in communicating that women can speak and teach in the church, but not in the capacity of an elder.

Some believe that Paul’s instructions in the passage only applied to the women of Corinth at the time and not to all women in the church. Greear disagrees with this interpretation, however, because Verse 33 refers to “all the congregations of the Lord’s people.” 

“Let me be very, very clear to our listeners,” said Greear. “We want more women speaking in church. We want more women using their spiritual gifts in church, which often involves speaking. We can encourage that and bless that, while respecting the order that God established since God’s church is a reflection of his image.”