Paul is not saying: "Do not wear gold or pearls, or have nice clothes, or
braid your hair." He is saying that these things are fine as long as they are
employed in moderation.
Rather, he has a much more important point to make, which is that these should not be the things that draw people's attention. Our Godly lives should be what causes people to look at us twice. We need to attract people to Jesus, not to ourselves.
Peter made much the same comment when he said in 1st Peter 3:3-6: Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. 4 Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight. 5 For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, 6 like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.
Peter and Paul were both saying the same thing, but notice Peter's manner of writing was much more poetic and full of love, while Paul came off as sounding authoritative.
Notice how Paul has made use of the words "I want", "I also want", and "I do not permit". Paul is making personal statements when he speaks this way. Does this negate the importance of his words? Not at all. The points he makes are good and valid, and are conducive to having a righteous and holy walk with the Lord.
Paul is speaking this way to let us know that these are his personal views. This is his advice to us as to how we can become mature Christians. This is also just the manner in which he writes. This is his attitude, his upbringing, and his superior education manifesting itself.
He speaks his mind in this manner on other occasions, and makes it completely clear by saying: "The following words are from the Lord and are to be obeyed to the letter." Then he says, "Now hear my own opinion on the subject - my opinion, and not the Lord's decree."
1st Corinthians 7:7-9 has Paul saying that in his opinion, all men and women should remain single, and not marry. Obviously, if everyone listened to this advice, there would be no one left to perpetuate the human species!
But his point is well taken, and that is that if you are single, you can devote yourself more fully to the work of God, since having a family means that time and consideration must be taken out of your day and devoted to them.
Paul, being single, was better able to pick up and go at a moment's notice to the outermost parts of the land, in order to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He had no family to support, and no wife or children who might have to travel with him, thus slowing him down.
He could afford to be thrown into prison, because there was no one else depending on him to provide things such as clothing, food, and shelter.
His time and his life could be fully devoted to God. This is the state that he would wish for everyone to find themselves in.
He continues, and you can see here how he separates the words of the Lord from those of his own:
1st Corinthians 7:10-13:
To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. 11 But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife.
12 To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. 13 And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him.
Here, Paul says "I give this command", and then makes sure we know that this is not just a command from him, but a command from God, by saying "not I, but the Lord".
This command is that a wife is not to leave her husband. If she does, she is not to remarry, unless it is her former husband.
Then Paul says that he gives a command, stressing that it is his own command this time, and not the Lord's ("I, not the Lord"). His command is that if a believer has a pagan wife and yet she is still willing to live with him, he is not to divorce her. The same goes for the woman believer - if her husband is a pagan, but is still willing to live with her, she is not to leave him.
In verse 15, Paul explains why he is saying these things: (But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace.)
He says that if the Pagan is unwilling to live with you, then let them go, because believers are not obligated to keep the contract of marriage with unbelievers.
2nd Corinthians 6:14-16 - Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 15 What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people."
(Notice he still doesn't say the believer has the right to divorce the pagan, rather he says that if the pagan chooses to go, then the believer is no longer bound in such circumstances.)
My point in bringing this up is not to get into the morality of remarriage, or divorce, but to show you that Paul makes a lot of statements that are his own personal opinions, and has gone to extreme lengths here in Corinthians to differentiate what the Lord is saying to His people, and what he, Paul, is saying to them.
In 1st Corinthians 11, Paul says that every man who prophecies or even prays with his head covered is dishonorable. At first glance, it sounds as if he is speaking of wearing a hat. If I pray to God while wearing a hat, in the midst of my day, or perhaps in the car, or at work, am I being dishonorable?
No. God is not concerned as much with our outward appearance, as He is with our hearts. (1st Samuel 16:7 - But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.")
Then Paul says that it should be the opposite for women. A woman who prays or prophecies without a headcovering is being dishonorable. So she should wear a hat or a veil.
I wonder, is this verse responsible for the practice of women wearing fancy hats in church, while the men are instructed to remove their hats before entering?
Paul goes on to say that if a woman wants to pray without a headcovering, it is the same as if that woman was bald, therefore she should shave her head completely bald. If this is disgraceful, (and most people would find it to be so), then she needs to cover her head.
(Paul is really not giving women a choice here. Since bald women would be disgraceful, they have no choice but to cover their heads. He says they have two options, but since option two is not acceptable, they must go with option one.)
He goes on to say in verse 11, that in the Lord, however, woman is not independent from man. He says to judge for yourselves whether it would be proper for a woman to pray without a headcovering.
Finally, he gets right to the point. He says that a woman's long hair is given to her for her covering.
While we've been worried that Paul was making up more rules about our wardrobe, he was trying to get across a different idea entirely. This isn't about whether we should wear hats on not, but it's about living as children of God.
Women need to have their heads covered, and they can fulfill this by having long hair. It was given to woman expressly to be her headcovering.
It then follows that if long hair is a headcovering, and a man is not to have a headcovering, then men should not have long hair.
Paul then says that if anyone wants to argue about this, the churches of God have no other practice. In effect, anyone who does otherwise is not a part of God's Church.
Again, my point here is not to discuss the merits of long or short hair, or how long is long and how short is short.
My point is to show you that Paul had a manner of speaking that seemed to be very opinionated, and very arrogant. However, if you study his words, you will always find that he is not actually running around making rules, but is making deeper statements.
Example 1: He said men should raise holy hands when they pray. He was not trying to enforce a practice of always raising your hands every single time you pray. He was emphasizing being holy and righteous before coming into the Lord's presence.
Example 2: He said women should not wear gold or pearls or fine clothing or braid their hair. Actually, he wasn't saying that at all, he was saying that these things should be done in moderation, and that they should not be done to the extent that people are looking at us in appreciation of the things we are wearing. Instead, women should dress in Godliness, righteousness, and modesty, so that the attention of people will be toward God and give Him glory.
Example 3: He said that people should not marry, but remain single. In reality, he said that we need to be fully devoted to the Lord. If you think about it, the spiritual state of being able to serve God to the exclusion of all else will only be able to be attained in Heaven when we are changed and there is no longer male or female. (Matthew 22:30 - At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.) Spouses are not the only thing that require our attention. Even if we had no families to "hinder" us, we would still have to take time out to provide for ourselves food, clothing, and shelter. In other words, our jobs would still lay claim to a large portion of our time.
Example 4: He says that woman should wear hats in church, and men should take theirs off. Well, hold on, now. That's not exactly what he is saying. He is really saying that women should have long hair to symbolize the authority of God over their lives, and men should have short hair, symbolizing the fact that they were made in the image and glory of God. In symbolizing Almighty God, men should have no symbol of authority on their head because God has no authority above Him.
So, when we look again at the statements Paul made in 1st Timothy and 1st Corinthians concerning women, we can do so understanding that Paul usually came across as saying one thing, when he meant something else altogether.
Let's look at them again, one at a time:
1st Cor. 14:33-40: For God is not a God of disorder but of peace.
As in all the congregations of the saints, 34 women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. 35 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.
36 Did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached? 37 If anybody thinks he is a prophet or spiritually gifted, let him acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord's command. 38 If he ignores this, he himself will be ignored.
39 Therefore, my brothers, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. 40 But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.
If you read the previous chapters, you will see that Paul is talking to the Corinthians about spiritual gifts. They have not been using them correctly, and he is instructing them in their proper use.
He says that it is wrong for all of them to be prophesying in tongues at the same time. They sound like they're babbling and if an unbeliever comes in, he will think they are all insane. Instead, he tells them that when one person prophecies, another should pray that God will use them to give the interpretation. Then there will be meaning to what they are doing, and if an unbeliever comes in and hears the prophecy along with the interpretation, he might believe in the Lord and give glory to Him.
Paul says they have been acting as babies in the Lord, and they need to be instructed in the proper way to do things, just as children are taught the proper way to behave in different social situations.
He tells them that only one to three people should prophecy at a time. If another person begins to give the interpretation, then the others need to stop and be quiet.
(Was this a bit of sarcasm, I wonder? He tells them that they're going to have to quiet down. Rather than having the entire congregation all talking at once, they need to keep it down to three people at a time. This sounds like our modern day equivalent of saying "Keep it down to a dull roar". I have to believe that Paul was incredulous as he wrote this.)
If there is no one present who can give the interpretation, then the prophet needs to keep his prophecy to himself, for what good would it do to speak in a foreign language if no one can figure out what is being said?
In this context, (if prophets are speaking and the interpretation is given, they need to be quiet; if there is no one to interpret, then the prophet should keep quiet; and they all need to quiet down in the first place - no more than three people speaking at a time), in the middle of all of this instruction to keep quiet, Paul includes the women.
This is when he says that there is a law against women speaking in public anyway, and we already have enough noise in the church without the women getting involved.
Is he therefore singling out women in this passage, and ordering them to be quiet? No, he is trying to give some spiritual instruction to this church of immature Christians. He is trying to restore some order.
His main idea is in verse 39 and 40: (Therefore, my brothers, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. 40 But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.)
In other words, he says "Don't be discouraged by your inability to use the gifts of the spirit with full maturity. Instead, learn from your mistakes, and be eager to use the gifts. Do not stop using them simply because of a few errors. Just make sure that everything is being done properly and orderly from now on."
Is Paul saying here that women have a reputation for talking too much? Yes, he is implying that.
Is he saying that women should not have the right to speak in church? Yes, he is implying that, also.
But more to the point, he is saying that women should be silent because by doing so, they will be "living examples" of the submission they show to their husbands, and a reflection of the way in which man must live in submission to God.
On a lighter side, even the bible takes note of the reputation of a woman's words, in Proverbs 7:4,5 (Say to wisdom, "You are my sister," and call understanding your kinsman; 5 they will keep you from the adulteress, from the wayward wife with her seductive words.)
1st Timothy 3:11: In the same way, their wives are to be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything.
Why is it said here that women must not be malicious talkers? Because they have a well-known reputation (whether they like to admit to it or not) for gossiping.
Scripture puts it clearest, when it says in 1st Timothy 5:13: Besides, they get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying things they ought not to.
Luke 24:11 also says: But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. Hasn't that been the attitude of men toward women throughout the ages?
Paul, I believe, can be forgiven his attitude toward women, because 1) his words appear harsher than they are intended (as usual - he is not really berating and punishing women, he just comes off that way), and 2) this was the attitude of the entire world towards women.
With the exception of the Egyptians, who allowed women full rights along with men, all other civilizations have denied women equal rights.
Our society is unique in the fact that we have progressed to a point where women have now become "equal" with men. In the past, such an attitude would not have been considered demeaning. It was simply the way things were done. It is only offensive to women now, in this day and age.
I would point out one last time, that Paul is not making any hateful statements about women here. He is simply pointing out to the church that there is too much chaos in their services, and that they need to tone it down. The women might as well observe the law and not add to the noise. If they have questions, instead of adding to the many words being spoken in their services, they should get their answers from their husbands once they get home. This will result in a quieter, more orderly service, where the Lord can work and unbelievers can be ministered to.
Paul's second statement, in 1st Timothy 2: 1-15:
A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. 15 But women will be saved through childbearing-if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.
At first glance, this looks like Paul is at it again, putting all women in their proper places. But remember the manner in which Paul communicates. It is a manner in which he seems to be arrogantly speaking his own mind, setting up rules and regulations. Upon deeper investigation, however, he is always trying to make an important point.
In this passage, it looks like he is saying that women should be quiet. They should not teach, and they should not have positions where they are in charge of men. But if you take what he is saying at face value, then you have to take the rest of the passage at face value.
We did this earlier with the scripture that seemed to indicate that women are not permitted to braid their hair. That didn't make sense, (because it wasn't what Paul meant) and the rest of this passage doesn't either, taken literally.
It says that Adam was not the one deceived, it was woman who was deceived and became the sinner.
(Paul must not realize he is insulting every man in the world here. He is saying that although woman was deceived, man entered into sin in full command of his faculties; that he did so willingly, and could not blame it on any deception. If this is the case, then who would bear the greater sin? The one who was tricked and didn't intend to sin? Or the one who sinned with full knowledge of what he was doing?)
Paul makes it sound as if woman is the greater sinner, but as I have just explained, that is not the case. What is he really saying then?
Paul is saying that woman is the weaker vessel, not only physically, but also emotionally. In the Garden of Eden, Eve was weaker than Adam in both body and spirit, and therefore easier to trick. She was more vulnerable to the wiles of the devil.
Seeing then, that this is the case, Paul says that women should not be the spiritual leaders of the family. They should not be the ones to try to figure out how God wants them to live, because as the Garden of Eden episode illustrated, women can more easily be tricked by the enemy into believing the wrong thing.
Instead, they should listen first, and ask questions later. Her weakness must be taken into account, and rather than lead men, who are stronger in this area, they should follow.
Again, this is not said to be hateful, but to be helpful; so that everyone will end up better off. Paul is making provision for the weaker vessel. He is trying to take care of her, not hurt her.
Finally, in verse 15, Paul says that women will be saved through the act of having children. Does this make sense? Can it be true that as long as a woman has children she will be saved, and she does not need to follow the plan of salvation?
Of course not. This word "saved" in this passage is "saos", which means "safe", "preserved", or "protected".
This makes perfect sense with woman being the weaker vessel. She is not to lead men; she might be tricked. She is not to do a lot of talking, she must listen and gather information before doing anything rash, because she is prone to being deceived.
In this way, (being led of men, and asking questions of their husbands only after first listening) women will be protected from deception. Childbearing is speaking of the wifely role that women are to have, as opposed to taking on the role of the man. As long as she continues in the role God has given her, she is safe.
Man is to be her protector, and she can help herself by submitting to him and allowing him to be the head, the leader, the clear-thinking one. When she steps out of her role and takes on the role of a man, she loses the protection that she had and is no longer safe.
(I can hear women everywhere right now taking a large, collective snort)
These kinds of statements are sure to anger those women who subscribe to the idea that the weaker vessel is superior to any man, but the fact of the matter is, the woman is weaker. God made her that way, and it is not something to despise.
God is the one who has put us in our roles. Satan is the one who is trying to reverse them. How much more sad is it then, when a woman not only finds herself taking on the role of a man, but prefers to be in that situation! Not only is she not where God has placed her, but she wants to be where she is. Coincidentally, so does Satan. Without her male protector, she is easier to deceive.
Man is told to take special care of her. 1st Peter 3:7 says that if man does not fulfill this obligation, the Lord will not answer his prayers! (Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.)
1st Corinthians 12:21-26 (as you read this, keep in mind that woman is the weaker vessel) The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!" 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
Women are indispensable, they are not useless or unnecessary. She is treated with special honor, and special modesty, and God has given her greater honor than the man.
It is true that this passage is speaking of the body of Christ and our places in it, but when the bible speaks of the treatment of those parts that are weaker or seem to be unimportant, it is also speaking of women.
Are women to be quiet, then, in our gatherings? Not necessarily. It may be beneficial to them to listen rather than lead, but there are times when they may be the ones prophesying, or have the word of interpretation. As long as their participation does not introduce a spirit of chaos into the service, then by all means, they should be eager to use their spiritual gifts along with the men, keeping in mind that all things must be done in a proper and orderly manner.
Remember, Paul made his statement about women being silent in the church, while he was trying to calm down a babbling, noisy, chaotic congregation. If the church group you are meeting with does not have this spirit of discord, then you are not even facing the same situation that the Corinthians were when Paul addressed them. Just remember not to end up that way.
Are women not to be allowed to teach? Or to be in charge of men? I believe that the same rule applies to these questions, as well. As long as things are being orderly, there would be no reason in this day and age to prohibit women from participating in the encouragement of the Body, which is what gathering together is supposed to be all about.
One caveat: I would be remiss if I did not suggest (Paul would have commanded and ordered) that a woman should always be under a Pastor, and should probably not be a Pastor herself. She may be able to teach some things to men, but woman is the one who is always supposed to have that symbolic headcovering. She is supposed to be in submission to man, for her own protection. She needs to have a Pastor protecting her so that if she is led astray, even though she be a teacher, she can be led back into the fold. Women, by their very nature, need to be protected and guided. It is not their function to lead, but to follow.
I will conclude this study by giving you some biblical examples, showing that women can speak in church; and that they can hold positions of authority.
Miriam, the sister of Moses:
(Exodus 15:20,21) She is called a prophetess, which means she is used of God to speak His words to His people. She led the women in singing, playing an instrument, dancing, and praising the Lord. Although it does not say she led any of the men, she clearly led the women, therefore exercising a position of leadership. In any event, as a prophetess, the words she spoke from God were not just to the women, but to the men, as well.
Deborah, the Judge of Israel:
(Judges 4:4-10) Deborah was a Judge. She settled the disputes of the people (men and women). She had a position of high authority over men. The scriptures say that she sent for Barak, and ordered him to take a force of men and enter into battle. Barak refused to go unless she went with him, and so she did, commanding 10,000 soldiers.
Huldah, the Prophetess:
(2nd Kings 22:14-16) She, too, was a prophetess, and the bible records not only men coming to consult with her, but also a priest! In the scripture, you find her telling the men what the Lord has to say.
Anna, the Prophetess
(Luke 2:36) An instance of a prophetess in the New Testament! It is said of her that she never left the temple. She worshipped there night and day, and prayed and fasted. In order to do these things, she must have spoken out loud, right? Was she wrong to be doing so, especially in the temple? No one seemed to have a problem with this. No one told her she was doing wrong. In fact, when Joseph and Mary came into the temple, she went to them and praised God, speaking to all who were gathered there about how this baby Jesus would be used to redeem Israel.
The Four Daughters of Philip the Evangelist
(Acts 21:8) While the Apostles stayed with Philip, his four daughters prophesied to them.
And finally, we have Esther, the Queen.
(Esther 4:11-16) Mordecai told her that she must approach the King about the planned execution of all the Jews. Esther responded that the King had a law that no one was permitted to approach him unless first having been sent for. Anyone coming to the King uninvited would be put to death. She concluded by saying that it had been 30 days since she had last been called for, and it might be who knows how long before she was summoned again.
Mordecai told her that it may be that God had given her the position she held as Queen for just this purpose: to save the Jews from destruction.
Esther answered by saying that she would go to the king, regardless of the law, and if she perished, then she perished.
This law seems similar to the one where women must keep silent, except it carried a much greater penalty for disobedience: death.
Nevertheless, even though there was a law against it, Esther approached the King, because there was a chance God was in the approaching.
In just the same manner, even though there be a rule against women speaking, or teaching, or leading, sometimes a woman may have to engage in those activities anyway so that God's Will may be done. She may have to take on the attitude of Esther, who said, I will do what is necessary. "And if I perish, I perish".
Of course, God's Will is not that any should perish, but that all would come to an understanding of the Truth. (2nd Peter 3:9 - The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.)
The answers we were looking for, then, are these:
Women are welcome to participate in the gathering of believers as freely as are the men. They just need to keep in mind that they are the weaker vessel, and their role is not to become the spiritual leader. They need protected, and shepherded. They are more easily distracted and deceived, and as such, it is important that even the female teachers and leaders have a man over them, as their head.
It is important for men to understand this as well, in order to fully realize their role as spiritual leaders, guides, and protectors. They need to realize that failure to take this special care of the weaker vessel will result in the Lord not hearing their prayers.
Ladies, your place is not one of silence, but one of educated and cautious participation. Eagerly use your spiritual gifts! Witness! Prophecy! Give Interpretation! Lead in music, dance, and praise! Speak boldly the Word of the Lord!
And don't think yourselves of little worth, for the bible has said that those parts which seem unnecessary are in fact the most needed!
With all God created for Adam, with all there was for Adam to do, even with God Almighty there to walk with him in the cool of the day, he was incomplete, and no helper was found.
Genesis 1:22, 23: Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. 23 The man said, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman,'…
For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh…
For this reason…
For this woman.
Chad J. McCoy
Dark Savant Ministries
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