Text - I Cor. 14:26-40
Theme - The Role and Position of Men and Women in the Church Meeting
Introduction - This passage of Scripture is somewhat connected with the eleventh chapter of I Corinthians. In this passage we are dealing primarily with the meeting of the Church. Chapter 11 discusses the reason for our meeting and as we remember it was for remembrance. Now we discover what we may call the order of that meeting and what we might expect when we come together as a biblical based assembly.
Now with this chapter there are a number of controversial issues involved. However, my purpose is not to be controversial, but it is to find what the inspired Word of God teaches concerning such issues.
I have divided the passage under two main headings.
I The Ministry and Position of Men (vs. 26-33)
II The Ministry and Position of Women (vs. 34-35)
Both of these headings refer primarily to the Church meeting.
I The Ministry and Position of Men vs. 26-33
1. Our Priesthood
Before we go into the passage I would like us to consider momentarily our priesthood. This we will see is important to the application of this chapter. We briefly discussed this last time but we shall consider a few verses again.
I Peter 2:5, "you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ."
And vs. 9, "But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvellous light."
In the Church age then, we find that all Christians are unconditionally constituted a Royal Priesthood regardless of sex. We are all believer priests. The chief privilege of a priest is access to God. Under the law, the High Priest only could enter into the ‘Most Holy Place’ of the Tabernacle which was the dwelling place of God behind the veil; and this was only once a year. But we remember that when Christ died the veil in the Temple was torn from top to bottom which signifies that now all men have access to God in the Holiest, but only through the great High Priest who is Christ Himself. Thus we all have this priestly access to God by which we can offer sacrifice.
Now briefly this sacrifice can be given in a fourfold manner.
1) our own living bodies Rom. 12:1
2) our substance - that is, giving what we can and have for others Rom. 12:13
3) our service Heb. 13:16
4) our praise to God Heb. 13:15 "Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name."
Now it is this last verse which has to do with this chapter in Corinthians. It is the believers duty and privilege to offer his worship to God in the meeting of the Church and as we go into our passage we find the regulations that are given for the exercising of our priestly office. Now the public worship given in the meeting is for the men only, while the woman is to worship in silence. We shall see more of this later.
2. How the Corinthians Came Together (vs. 26)
But now we come and learn how the meeting took place in Corinth.
The apostle Paul here is stating what was normal in the meeting. When the brethren came together each one of them were prepared to give something, be a Psalm or teaching, a tongue, a revelation or an interpretation. This was not a condemnation, nor was he commending them. Paul was simply stating what was normal. And I think we should learn from this verse.
Each man should have something ready to give in each meeting and should the occasion clearly present itself then what they have prepared may readily be spoken. Though we may be prepared, however, we may find that as the meeting proceeds that what we may have may not fit in or relate in any way. In this instance the suggestion is that we hold our peace until perhaps another meeting.
Now often we may not have something prepared yet we always should leave ourselves open to the leading of the Holy Spirit during the meeting should He prompt us to say something. We don’t necessarily have to have something prepared beforehand to be able to give in the meeting.
And we read that all things are to be done for edification. This is the aim for all of the ministry given. If what we say is unedifying then we are wasting our time and the Lord’s time.
Now we have mentioned here tongues, interpretations and revelation. A revelation is simply a revealing of an expression of the mind of God for the instruction of the Church. However the tongues and interpretation of tongues I understand to be gifts which are no longer available to the Church today. Scripture teaches a number of things concerning the gift of tongues and from these teachings it appears evident that the gift isn’t applicable any-more. I shan’t go into the subject of tongues at present, but if the Lord wills we may perhaps look at it in more detail at a later date. But I do not believe tongues to be genuinely present in the Church today.
3. The Subject of Our Worship
What should be the content or subject of our ministry in the worship meeting?
Let us remember - the whole basis and purpose of meeting together is to remember and worship our Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, the words which we speak should focus upon the Person and Work of Christ. Our time in worship is not a care and share time. It is not necessarily a time when we tell others what the Lord has done for me in the past week. We are not to draw attention to ourselves. On the contrary, we are to leave self out of it and place the Lord Jesus in the forefront. There is so much to learn about our Saviour, and glory is given to Him when we talk of Who He is and what He has done, especially His redeeming work on Calvary.
"Do this in remembrance of Me."
Let us not just remember the Lord Jesus in the cup alone, but let us remember Him and acknowledge Him throughout the meeting in every word that is spoken.
4. Corinthian Order (vs. 27-29)
How was it then that the Corinthians ordered or structured their meeting.
1) We see that if there were those who spoke in tongues then only two or at the most three were to speak in any one meeting. If there was no interpreter then the tongue speaker was to keep silent. That is, not to speak a word.
2) In the same manner only two or three prophets were to speak.
The prophets spoke forth the mind of God for edification, exhortation and comfort of saints. And we read that the others were to judge what the prophets spoke. This in a sense is to discern what was spoken. They were to weigh all carefully before God and compare it with the Word. The prophet was to speak, the people were to listen, and then compare what they hear with the Word of God. We are to search the Scriptures to see if these things be so.
Now how do these verses have relevance to ourselves? We can’t obey these verses to the letter as things such as tongues are questionable. However, I believe we ought to take the principles that were used in these verses and apply them to our meetings. Interestingly we note that in any one meeting there would be 4-6 words of ministry spoken. That is, 2-3 tongues plus 2-3 prophesies.
5. Regulations of the Ministry Given. (vs. 30-32)
In verses 30-32 we have the regulations and further principles given.
1) vs. 30
This doesn’t mean that we are to stop halfway through our message for another brother who may be led to give something. It would indicate I think that no-one is to prolong his speaking so to extend what he is saying to an undue length. We also ought not to outdo each other. We need not rush to the front and try and be first. We should always give way to our other brethren, that they may go before us.
2) vs. 31
This verse follows on from the previous. The messages can be given one by one.
There would be time for each one, and there would be no interference on the part of one with the liberty of another. Now it says that "you can all prophesy". This doesn’t mean everyone of course. We have seen previously that only a certain number could give at any one meeting. But this does imply that all have the ability and it is possible that any one of the brethren can give.
And remember to prophesy is to speak forth the mind and counsel of God. And we are to prophesy for the learning and comfort of all. We will find this to be the result if the meeting is guided by the Holy Spirit. Often with such a Spirit led meeting we would notice that each of the brethren who participate will compliment what each other says, and the topic of ministry will follow on from one to another.
3) vs. 32
This speaks of self control.
In certain places we see of people who are under the control of false spirits. They speak in a mere ecstasy, unable to control their words or emotions or actions. This is not so with the man who is led by the Holy Spirit. Though he speaks in the power of the Spirit, he is not carried away by a supernatural influence. Part of the fruit of the Spirit as Galatians tells us is self-control.
This is one way of telling the falseness of supposed tongues and revelations or the so-called slaying of the spirit in connection with the Toronto Blessing. If there is no self control then it is not of the Spirit of God.
4) vs. 33
These rules and regulations are given that there be no confusion in the meeting.
It would appear that the Corinthian meeting prior to Paul’s instruction was a complete mess. Judging by what Paul says it seems that the brethren were all getting up as they chose, often at the same time. Tongues were given without an interpretation and any amount of prophecies were given at once. All this would have resulted in sad confusion and understandably the whole Body would remain unedified.
And we see here that the regulations are for all the churches of the saints. So then regarding the regulations; men alone are to speak, each in his turn as the Spirit leads, exercising self control, that all may learn and the Lords name be glorified.
This primarily is the man's role in the worship meeting, taking the public position assigned to him.
II The Ministry and Position of Women vs. 34,35
Now we see here clearly stated that women are to be silent in the Church.
The plain teaching of this verse is that women are to refrain from taking oral part in a meeting of the Church, either in leading the gathering or in ministering the Word and teaching. There are some who disregard this teaching and they suggest that the word silence means only that women should refrain from interrupting the meetings with questions and chattering. This theory is completely against Scripture teaching. There is no suggestion in the Greek text for this line of thought, as some like to think.
Also the same word ‘silence’ is used in verse 30 in regards to one speaking in tongues. There it is clear that silence means exactly that. Do not speak.
We should note here also that many say these teachings, along with the head coverings of chapter 11 were only for the Corinthian believers. This is not at all the case. Chapter 1 verse 2 makes this clearly evident. "To the Church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours." Here we see that the letter is not addressed to Corinth alone, but to "all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ". This then includes each of us.
Now generally we don’t have a problem in the assemblies as to women speaking in the meeting. Sadly enough, on the contrary, so many men prefer the place of the women and they remain silent week after week.
These commands of the Lord should strictly be held onto, regardless of how some may dislike them. They are the words of God we must remember, not just the apostle Paul's’. We have seen problems in the past that have arisen from disobedience to this teaching. The originators and leaders of the most damnable heresies have been none other than women. Such heresies as Christian Science, Theosophy and Spiritism.
We see also the evidence in our present churches. The third largest denomination have now ordained women as ministers. This is an outright affront to the Lord's authority. We see that in disobeying clear simple commands such as this that other commands become easier to disobey. Now that denomination are all about accepting the filth of homosexuality. When will it end? If we can’t obey God on the simple matters, how can we obey Him on more important issues?
We then read that women are not only to be silent but also submissive.
1) What is Submission?
To submit is to yield in compliance or obedience to someone. It is to surrender to them and allow them complete authority over you. Now we find that we are all subject to someone.
a) ALL are subject to God’s authority James 4:7
b) CITIZENS are subject to civil authority Romans 13:1-5
c) SERVANTS are subject to their masters I Peter 2:18
d) CHILDREN are subject to their parents Colossians 3:20
e) CHURCH MEMBERS are subject to the elders I Peter 5:5
f) WIVES are subject to their husbands Colossians 2:18
g) WOMEN in the Church are subject to the men I Timothy 2:11
Submission or subjection is required in every area of our life. It is necessary for the maintenance of civil, Church and home life.
It is obvious that in all these spheres there must be someone in authority to guide and rule wisely. Those in positions of authority have a solemn responsibility to use and not abuse their position. It is their duty always to act for the good of those committed to their care and for the glory of God.
So the women are to be submissive.
2) Why is the woman to be submissive? READ I Tim. 2:11-14
a) Firstly, it is because woman was made in the beginning FOR the man.
Gen. 2:18 God says, "it is not good for man to be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him" and I Cor. 11:8,9, "For man is not from woman, but woman from man. Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man." Thus woman was created FOR the man to be a help to him.
b) Secondly, it should be noted that in creation Adam was formed first then Eve. This is clear in verse 13 of I Timothy 2 as we’ve read, "For Adam was formed first, then Eve." This is God's order in Creation.
c) and thirdly, it is seen that Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. This here is the reference that verse 34 of our passage gives of the law where it says "but they are to be submissive, as the law also says."
That reference is in Genesis 3:16 which is the curse upon the woman, "Your desire shall be to your husband, and he shall rule over you." The submission of the woman is further discussed in Ephesians 5 and I Peter 3, both of which speak more of the relationship between husbands and wives in the family, rather than men and women in the Church, but the same principles apply.
Verse 35 goes on to say that if the woman wants to ask questions and learn, then they are to ask their husbands at home. In mentioning married women the apostle is only making a general statement. The unmarried women could simply ask any other menfolk at home, or if she is single, anyone else that may be appropriate.
So women are not to speak in the Church and they are to be submissive.
I Corinthians 11 discusses also the head covering, the purpose of which is to show as a symbol the woman's submission to the man. This head covering is worn not only as a witness to the people but to the angels as well who are observing the Church and learning the manifold wisdom of God thereby. And the head covering is not only worn as a symbol of subjection but also as a covering of glory; but this becomes another subject in itself.
Now in regards to this subjection I will make this important point. The woman being subject to man is only God's order in His creation. Spiritually before the Lord man and woman are on an equal standing. Galatians 3:28 says, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus."
3. The Ministry of Sisters.
It has not pleased God to ordain that the female sex be used for public ministry in the Church. Yet her sphere of ministry is on its own and is as important as the other. Though she does not speak in the assembly, she does not close her lips everywhere else. She is not to teach or usurp authority over a man yet she is to teach and have authority in her own sphere as in the house, in the family and amongst her own sex.
Clearly the Scriptures teach of the vast ministry that women have. If the Lord has restricted her so that she is not to take public ministry, it is not to assume that her gifts are of less importance, nor to ignore the value of her services elsewhere.
The woman is more adapted to work among children. This begins in the home with her own. Could there be a greater reward than that of seeing the results of their service in the lives of such godly people as Moses, Joshua, John the Baptist and Timothy? II Timothy 3:15 says, "and from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures....." Any Godly mother would teach her child from the earliest age those things which pertain to God. Her service also in the Sunday School is invaluable. Because of the more gentle nature of women they are more suited to teaching children than perhaps men would be.
Women are also given the place amongst their own sex. Titus 2:2-3 read, "the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behaviour, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things - that they admonish the younger women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the Word of God may not be blasphemed." These older women, not necessarily old as in age but perhaps also in spiritual maturity and wisdom; These women are instructed to teach younger women to:
1) Love their husbands; and to be obedient to them. The God-fearing wife can be a help and influence to their husbands. She is there to support and encourage him in his own ministry.
2) They are to love their children - and as we have seen, they take strong part in bringing them up in the "nurture and admonition of the Lord."
3) And the older women are to teach the younger to be discreet, chaste, good and to be homemakers. She is to manage a Godly home. Though the man is the authority in the home, he cannot manage the home without the valued input and support of his wife. And the homemaking may even suggest the ministry of hospitality. The qualifications of elders includes being hospitable. This is where the wife supports and helps the husband fulfil his leadership role.
As we read through the gospels and other epistles we see of the many examples of women who serve and labour for the Lord in their own special way. We see of the women in Luke chapter 8 who served the Lord Jesus and His disciples by being hospitable. We read of the Samaritan woman who evangelised the people of her own city - many women we note are out in the mission field today, apparently more than men. We see also of the great list of women in Romans 16 who laboured tirelessly for the Lord. Just because the service of sisters is not public such as men does not mean they are less important or less needed. Without the private working of women in the Church we would indeed be lost.
And to finish we read a few statements in the remaining verses from vs. 36-40.
1. vs. 36
Paul here challenges the spiritual conceit and pride of the Corinthians.
He literally asks, "did the gospel have its starting point from you? Or were you the sole recipients of the message?" The answer to both questions is negative. The Word came not from Corinth and it does not belong to them only. The Word of God belongs to none other than the Lord Himself and these are His instructions and commandments.
2. vs. 37
All teaching comes with the divine authority of Christ of which Paul is but the mouthpiece. These things written are but the commandments of the Lord. And remember, these commands were not for Corinth alone but for everyone in every place who call on the name of Jesus Christ. Sadly we find chapters 23-14 persistently ignored throughout the systems of Christendom because it runs against their ecclesiastical arrangements. Let us not ignore the commandments of the Lord.
3. vs. 38
If what is written in this epistle is rejected, then let that person continue in his ignorance. I a person is unwilling to submit then there is no possibility of him being instructed.
4. vs. 39
The "desire earnestly to prophesy" recalls the preference of prophecy over the gift of tongues.
5. vs. 40.
Anything we do for the Lord should carry this instruction upon it.
Especially when we conduct our meetings of worship. The meetings are to take place by divine arrangement only, that is, with the guidance of the holy Spirit and the Word of God; not by any arrangement or structure that we may decide. Sometimes people think that they have better ideas than God but let us be sure, His ways are best and as we read and meditate upon his Word, and as we submit to His leading, then all will be done decently and in order, that Christ may be glorified.
by J Ayoub 3/8/97